"The Boys in the Boat" is making waves beyond the Northwest. It's
been on the New York Times best seller list for 12 weeks, the L.A.
times bestseller list for 9 weeks, and according to the Weinstein
Company, it will soon be in theaters everywhere -
But what ever happened to the boats? Where are those wafer-thin varnished racing shells built by George Pocock, the Zen master of the book?
"There are fewer and fewer wood shells remaining in existence each year - especially those built by George or (son) Stan Pocock. It was a special time in Northwest and American rowing which we most likely won't see matched again." -Pocock Rowing Foundation.
Enter The Rat Island Rowing and Sculling Club in Port Townsend, situated halfway between Joe Rantz's living room where the story was born ...and the Lake Union shop where Pocock built his racing dynasty.
Over the past 20 years, the Rats have taken in and restored championship wooden shells, Some were medal winners, some weren't, but all were destined for the ceilings of sports bars.
One of those shells was the Hoh 1960 Olympic Gold medal winner - built by Stan Pocock who also coached the winning crew. By now it was just a battered old boat looking for a home - and it found one when Rat Island's Ted Shoulberg made a trade with Sue Kinne of Lake Washington Rowing - The Hoh (and another historic eight-oared shell, the Husky Challenger) for 6 chocolate eclairs with chocolate oars. That was in 2000.
Five years later, when Stan saw how beautifully the Hoh had been restored, he wanted - and got - his shell back.
"I have not been able to get out of my mind's eye the picture of that beautifully-restored 'four' up there at Port Townsend - along with all the other excellent rejuvenating of old wooden shells"
The Hoh was hung in the George Pocock Rowing Center when the Husky Clipper (Boys in the Boat) was moved to the Conibear shellhouse.
Stan Pocock (on dock) with the restored Hoh, winner of the 1960 Olympics.
Stan built the boat and coached the winning crew.
Seated in the Hoh are four of the men's 8 Gold medal winners from 2004 Olympics
Along with the Pocock Foundation, Lake Washington Rowing, and
Ancient Mariner Guy Harper, the Rats have continued to champion
the legacy of classic cedar shells. In 2007 the entire Pocock wooden
singles factory -jigs, steam forms, materials, "the whole shebang" -
were donated by owner Bill Tytus to the Rats' master craftsman,
Steve Chapin who still builds them "better than we ever did"
according to Stan.
Even The Boys In The Boat author Dan Brown has gotten behind the Rats, telling his readers about "the great work the Rat Island Rowing and Sculling Club is doing to restore old Pocock shells to their former glory."
Whatever boats are taken in and restored by the club are taken out at 7am every morning and rowed at least 5 miles. Many of the Rats are as old as the boats they restore - great grandmothers and grandfathers who have plenty of excuses for not wading into Port Townsend bay in mid October carrying a 400-pound boat on their shoulders. The boats may be rescued and restored. but they're also raced - and win!
*Tuff as Nails with the Husky Challenger
On November 2nd, the Rats and their Pocock woodies will be back
"home" in Lake Washington for the largest fall regatta on the West
Coast, the Head of the Lake race.
How will an old wood Stradivarius do against the newer composite Stratocasters?..... Stay tuned!
More pictures and information at Rat Island Rowing
*Daniel James Brown (Author Boys in the Boat) lends a hand taking out the Riverside
*Varnished shells gleaming in the sun
outside the Rats' shell house at Port Townsend's Northwest Maritime Center
Three of the founding Rats Former Husky crew John Collins (back),
who rowed under Boys in the Boat's
coach, Al Ulbrickson; former Ancient Mariner, Jim Buckley (center); and Ted Shoulberg (left)
who's been instrumental in many of the club's rescue efforts - Restoring The Triple in Steve Chapin's shop.
The Octuplet, the newest addition, thanks to Guy Harper, the Pocock Foundation and the Ancient Mariners
- an unusual 8-man sculling shell took first overall in September's Ross Island Regatta in Portland
*Dan Brown with the winning crew of the Frank C. - one of the boats Stan Pocock traded to get the Hoh back.
Steve Chapin and Dick Schneider (Dick and Anne Schneider were the first contributors)
in Steve's shop where new Pocock cedar singles are made.
*Dan Brown (stroke) in the Quinault with Judy (Rantz) Willman behind him in her father Joe Rantz's position - seat 7
*Historic seaport Port Townsend was a natural home for the Pococks! Dan with John's 1957 Husky crew sweater outside shellhouse
*The next generation ...
*Starred photos courtesy Joel Rogers
CONTACT: Ted Shoulberg
Pocock Classic Cedar Single Racing Shells
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