Battle of (Aging) Titans

Inner Toobin

Billy Hobbs, '71, heavyweight rowing silver medalist at the 1972 Munich Olympics, slaps his significant girth, smiles and says, "This is a change in strategy."

There have been several such changes in strategy--though none quite so dramatic--since 1972, when Harry Parker coached a heavyweight beat with six of nine oarsmen from Harvard to second place in Germany. Every year since, almost all of the nine have reassembled in Cambridge for another shot at rowing glory in the Head of the Charles Regatta.

"We hadn't trained for this one, but I supposed we'll start now," says Steve Carr '74, a member of the celebrated "Rude and Smooth" crews of the middle seventies who made national titles in every division near-private property in Newell Boat House. It's been five years since most of the R&S gang graduated, and they planned a reunion in the Championship Eights race in the 1979 Head of the Charles Regatta.

So these two increasingly venerable and vulnerable units met in semi-serious liquid combat yesterday on the Charles to determine bragging rights for the Harvard crews of old.

In the awesome complexity of the Head starting procedures and scoring systems, the two boats never saw each other on the river. Staggered starts had the Olympic boat starting in 21st position, and Rude& Smooth, racing under the singularly undistinguished name of the Composite Crew, begginning 37th.


The Olympians race under the appelation of the Alte Achter Rowing Club, (Old Eight in German, site of their proudest moments) a name the six Harvard graduates gave to the organization they hoped would bring them together every year. The "club"--it has no permanent home--now fields entries in several events and, as a group, finished 26th in overall points. And Parker races under the A.A. credo in his single sculling.

The R & S have no formal ties and in their creaky post-race state, admitted that the five years have sapped much of the muscle tone and some of the competitive spirit. Stroke Peter Lowe '74 says one advantage remained however: "With Billy Hobbs'stomach the way it was, it wasn't that difficult."

Both crews rowed graceful, if unspectacular, races, moved swiftly to the numerous Heinekens, and waited for the computer to spit out the result. Verdict: The Rude and Smooth finished 32nd; Alte Achter 33rd, 2.9 seconds behind. Youth, relatively speaking of course, had triumphed.