Pocock Classic Cedar Single Racing Shells
Ted Frost on
The Demise of the Pocock Stroke



From: tfrost@seanet.com [mailto:tfrost@seanet.com]
Sent: Thursday, March 30, 2017 12:48 PM
To: Guy Harper ; Jim Buckley
Cc: Dave Pratt ; Duvall Hecht ; Art Wright ; John Ford


Frost, here. Since you’re on the subject of changes in rowing styles, you guys might be interested in the experience Bob Rogers and I had in the 1960 Olympics in our pair WO event. Up until the 1960 Olympics, Bob and I had never lost a race. National champs for three years in that event, and a gold medal in the 1959 Pan Am Games. Then in the 1960 Olympics, Bob and I screwed up, in my learned opinion, by not training properly. We practiced in accordance with our UW rowing experience, which as you may recall, always involved a three mile race. So we’d paddle mile-after-weary-mile up and down Lake Washington at a 24 or 25. Dutifully practicing Stan’s flip catch rowing style. If it had been a three mile race, I’m sure Bob and I would have been unbeatable.

But no one back then in our coterie of advisers, nor us, ever considered, from either a scientific or practical point of view, the physiological cardiovascular demands of what actually happens in a balls-out, high stroking, 2,000 meter race. At least at the international level. And that that’s what, in your training routine, you’d better concentrate on. Practicing what you’re actually going to be doing later on when it is that you are for real actually going to be out there doing it.

When we got to Rome and saw the Germans and their interval training techniques, and how everybody else was practicing, it hit me that we had been going at it all wrong! And it was too late to make up for it. We had been practicing and training analogous to a track guy training for a sprint as though it was going to be in a long distance race.

So we lost our preliminary race by rowing our normal racing routine of plodding along at our tried and true, good old 28-29, while expertly executing the magic Pocock flip catch blade work, slow recovery, and let the boat run thing. Which was a shock, because it was the first time Bob and I had ever lost a race. But we won the repechage, so we qualified for the semi’s, which was a six boat race including Russia and Austria, the gold and silver medalists.

By this time I was pretty pissed at how things were turning out, so I put my head down, took a few deep snorting breaths, and decided to quit worrying about may-the-force-be-with-you Pocock rowing technique. I shortened up the stroke and jacked it up to a 36-37+ attack mode, and we took off like the proverbial raped ape. And we led the whole way! The whole damn way, mind you! And I kept thinking: “My God! (huff, puff, pant) We’re actually beating these guys!”

Until the last twenty strokes, that is! Then I noticed that Bob had cranked the rudder all the way over to the port, but I was too pooped to say anything. It was a photo finish between the three leading boats. One-blip, two-blip, three-blip. We sat for a while, as the judges studied the finish line photo. We came in third by a fraction of a second, but that qualified us for the finals.

But, when I turned around, I saw bowman Bob laying back prone in the boat. And he was groaning: “Oh, Ted . . . oh, Ted!” That’s all he could say. He had run completely out of gas and had cranked the rudder all the way over to compensate for it. So I, essentially, had been rowing the boat all by myself for the last twenty or thirty strokes. Which is why Russia and Austria caught up to us and nipped us at the end.

My heart sank when I saw what condition he was in. And then we had to turn around and row all the way back to the shell house. Bob would row a few strokes, and then he’d collapse. I’d splash some water on him, he’d revive, the crowd would applaud, he’d row a few more strokes, and then collapse again. Until I splashed more water on him.

It may have been great sports drama, but the finals were the next day, so I knew it was pretty darned hopeless that poor Bob could ever recover enough to, by then, physically be in top racing form. I was actually crying (sob) when we got back to the shell house, knowing that our chances, for practical purposes, were nil.

Of course, there are those who would try to console us woebegone losers by saying: “Well, it’s part of the equation and losing probably makes you a better person.” Yeah, right! Sit on it, fellah. Bob and I for a time considered making a come-back for the 1964 Olympics, but by then we both had young families and work careers to worry about.



So very good to hear from you. I talked with Sue Pocock recently and she advised that the new Bainbridge Island rowing club building will be called the STAN POCOCK ROWING CENTER! That is such great news. I assume you saw the YouTube video of the dedication. It was great seeing you once again.

Thank you so much for your recollection of the exact time that the German Windmill stroke came in to being. I remember Stan commenting on that style when we had a lunch with Emmett Watson in our effort to start a Men’s Master Rowing Program at the SYC. Our friend, Francine Rose, will be most interested in your on-sight recollection of this event as she is following this change of rowing style closely...historically speaking. She and many others continue using the Pocock (Waterman) Stroke...even in competition...as that is still the basis of fine oarsmanship!


Pocock Classic Cedar Single Racing Shells
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