Riverside Boat Club's 1909 N.E.A.R.A. Banners

Riverside Boat Club 150th Anniversary History Series

By: Dick Garver

The New England Amateur Rowing Association banners hanging on the boathouse’s second floor attest to Riverside Boat Club’s long and accomplished history. Their embroidered silk and fringe evoke an era when rowing had a more prominent place in the sporting universe than it does today.  To some extent, however, they are wall paper, classy but part of the background.  When you learn the story behind the two hanging to the left of the porch door, awarded to the winners of the association’s July 4, 1909 regatta singles and eights events, those banners may take on a more vivid place in your consciousness.

Boston in 1909 was an industrial city of 670,000 and growing.  A municipality of working class neighborhoods, scarcely more than 10 percent of its population was native to it for multiple generations. The North End’s “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald, maternal grandfather of John F. Kennedy, was about to be returned to office as Mayor. The July 5, 1909 Boston Post’s front page displays the itinerary for newly elected President William Howard Taft’s visit.  Its sports section’s first two pages have extensive coverage of the Red Sox, who are in 3rd place in the American League, and the Nationals (later the Braves), who are in 8th and last place in the National League.  It reports that Harvard and Yale split their athletic competition during the past year, each winning two of their four events: Harvard had just won the boat race by six lengths and had won the football game the previous fall, while Yale won the track and baseball competitions.  It also projects the makeup of the Yale eight in the Harvard-Yale boat race of 1910, almost a year away.  The third sports page contains the headline “Big Regatta Today on Charles River.”  It is to be the N.E.A.R.A.’s twenty-third annual July 4 weekend regatta.  The story says that “The senior singles is the event that is causing the most talk, as the work of Carey Faulkner (of Riverside Boat Club) and Howard Murphy of the Boston Athletic Association has been watched for some time.” 

Carey (James) Faulkner On The Charles River

Carey (James) Faulkner On The Charles River

With that build-up, I eagerly turned to the July 6 paper to read the race results. Its front page headline, accompanied by vivid pictures, announces, “Many spilled, one drowned in Charles River Regatta.”  The sub-head reads, “All competing Eight-oared Shells Are Swamped” and “Life Savers Kept Busy Rescuing Oarsmen”.  The story begins, “Fifty-four men all struggling madly for their lives in the waters of the Charles River Basin was the climax that marked the regatta of the New England Rowing Association held yesterday afternoon. All were thrown into the river within a few seconds of each other when their eight-oared shells sank under them as a result of the high waves that had been constantly filling the boats.  In the rush of rescue one man was drowned. He was Edward Norley of (Parker Street in Lower) Roxbury, who pulled oar No. 3 in the St. Alphonsus boat.”  It goes on to say that, “Boat after boat had swamped in nearly every one of the previous events….While the confusion was at its height one of the eight-oared shells drifted down the stream in two pieces. It had been cut in two by the prow of a (police) launch.”

Boston Post front page, July 6, 1909

Boston Post front page, July 6, 1909

The day’s racing had been delayed by a strong northwest wind.  The last event, the race in question, was for junior eights.  At 4:00 PM six boats, including one from Riverside, left the line.  The Boston Medical Examiner, who happened to be the race referee, said that the St. Alphonsus boat clashed with another boat under the Harvard (Mass. Ave.) Bridge and sustained damage.  Three boats, led by the Jeffries Point R.A. from East Boston, with Riverside a length behind, crossed the finish line and promptly sank.  The other three boats, including the one from Roxbury’s St. Alphonsus Association, did not make it that far.  Its Edward Norley was reported to be a strong young man, a steam fitter who planned to attend Fordham University in the fall.  He couldn’t swim.  Although a rope was thrown to him, he failed to hold on to it.  The body had not been recovered.

The race results were reported in the sports section.  The headline, apparently without intentional double meanings, states that, “Upsets Are the Order of the Day in the Regatta on the Charles.”  The story begins, “The Metropolitan Boat Club of New York was represented in almost every event and the individuals performed well, but they were beaten in a match race with the Riverside eight-oared crew”—as is attested to by one of the banners.  As for the other, the paper reports that, “Carey Faulkner lived up to expectations and played with the field in the senior singles, winning in easy fashion….the light craft could hardly live in the rough sea. It was a case of the men that could keep their boat afloat in most races rather than the speedier oarsmen.” Riverside’s winning time in the mile and one half eights race was 8 minutes 35 seconds.  Faulkner’s winning time was 12 minutes 17 seconds, with Murphy of B.A.A second and Blackman of St. Alphonsus third.  The story is accompanied with a photomontage including the Riverside eight at the dock and Faulkner sitting in his boat, and another picture of the lead three boats in the junior eights event in heavy waves silhouetted against the Cambridge gas works.

So when you glance at the turn of the 20th Century banners awarded to Riverside for victories in N.E.A.R.A. regattas, if you spot the two from July, 1909 you might pause a moment to reflect on the story behind them.

The 1985 Head of the Charles Regatta

Riverside Boat Club 150th Anniversary History Series

By Dick Garver

The results Riverside rowers produced in the 1985 Head of the Charles Regatta confirmed the club’s transformation from a moribund neighborhood sculling club into an ambitious, growing organization dedicated to high quality rowing, both sculling and sweeps, at all levels of the sport.

Having decided not to replace Northeastern University, which rented two-thirds of the boathouse, when the college moved into its own building, in 1983 President Jim Hanley, Will Melcher, Ted Van Dusen and likeminded members embarked on an ambitious program to attract enough rowers to Riverside to make it self-sustaining.

Jim Hanley (stroke) Will Melcher (bow)

Jim Hanley (stroke) Will Melcher (bow)

Although it was not entirely recognized at the time, their decision coincided with a rising level of participation in the sport across the country.  The founding of Community Rowing Inc. in 1985 was a local manifestation. Within this context, the decision that perhaps contributed most to Riverside’s turnaround was to employ a coach.  In an era in which coaching at Boston rowing clubs was volunteer, it would make Riverside the only one on the Charles River to offer professional training.  In the face of old-guard resistance, Hanley hired Doug Clark, a former Canadian national team coach then residing in Boston, who embarked on an ambitious program to make the club a racing powerhouse and the home base of U.S. internationals.  Announcing his expectation that Riverside rowers would be the most technically accomplished on the river, club or college, Clark focused his rowers on the two-thirds of the stroke when their oars are out of the water.  In his words, “Moving the boat involves more than power.  It requires deep awareness on how the hull is moving in the water.”

Doug Clark

Doug Clark

Fortuitously, Clark’s ambitions coincided with renewed efforts by United States Rowing and the United States Olympic Committee to raise the level of the country’s international competitors.  The organizations funded two training centers. One was in Seattle.  The other was the former Boston Rowing Club located in Weld Boathouse, which, with both formal and informal support from Harvard University, became the Boston Rowing Center.  Rowers hoping to make the national team were drawn here. Clark’s coaching attracted a number of them to Riverside, including future national team rower Molly (Hoyle) Haskell, who in 1985 was the fourth person to enroll in his summer program.  Having come to Boston to compete for a national team boat but increasingly discouraged at BRC, she received encouragement from Clark, Hanley, Van Dusen and other members and, in her words, “found a home at Riverside.”

Morning Practice Through Weeks Bridge.  From left to right: John Marden (1985 Nationals Medalist), Vaclav Stejskal (former Czech National Team), Susan Gwen-Timothy (later on Canadian National team) and Maria Lane in the double, and Ted van Dusen.

Morning Practice Through Weeks Bridge.
From left to right: John Marden (1985 Nationals Medalist), Vaclav Stejskal (former Czech National Team), Susan Gwen-Timothy (later on Canadian National team) and Maria Lane in the double, and Ted van Dusen.

On the strength of Clark’s coaching and the arrival of rowers like Molly, 1985 proved to be Riversides’ breakthrough year.  It medaled at the Bay State Games, its own Riverside Sprints and Cromwell Cup, and regional races from New England to Philadelphia, and finished third in the National Championships team points trophy behind Vesper and NYAC, with wins in the senior lightweight double (Ted Marks and Rick Gales), senior heavyweight double (John Marden and Bill Randall), intermediate lightweight single (Ted Marks), and placed a club member in the winning mixed double.  Clark took a large contingent to the Canadian Henley Regatta, where Riversidewon nine women’s events, including six junior sculling titles.   Each women sculler placed in the top three in her event.  Among them, Carey Beth (C. B.) Sands, a future United States Rowing Hall of Fame member, won the junior and senior lightweight women’s single; she and Ruth Kennedy won in the junior and senior lightweight double and quad; while Izzie Gordon, Deb Fine, Maria Lane, and Mary Anczarski placed second in the quad.  On the men’s side, Dan Chernoff and Jeff Parks won not only the junior but the senior lightweight double event.  With these results, the club began its history of continuous success in Canada.

Let her run: Maria Lane, Susan Gwen-Timothy, Will Melcher and Ned Cooke

Let her run: Maria Lane, Susan Gwen-Timothy, Will Melcher and Ned Cooke

Riverside’s re-emergence as a rowing force culminated in the Head of the Charles that fall.  Although regatta records do not identify the 1985 points winner, Clark clearly remembers Harvard coach Harry Parker pulling alongside the dock to congratulate him and the club on winning the trophy, the first club ever to do so.   Riverside rowers having internalized the mindset espoused by Clark that they would dominate the river, they confirmed the club’s ascendancy in 1986.  Led by Sands’ first place in the lightweight women’s single, it finished second in the points trophy behind Harvard and ahead of Yale.  Four Riverside rowers placed in top three, including Maria Lane’s third in the women’s club single event. 

Building Riverside’s Facilities Present and Future – A Phased Approach


Riverside’s aspirations for renovating and expanding our boathouse entail design, financing and permitting challenges that will take multiple years to realize. As we work on those plans, the aging of our 1912 boathouse continues and there are safety and operational concerns to be addressed now. Our current approach does not conflict with investment in our existing facility, which is expected to remain and be honored by what comes next.

Riverside Development

In 2012, the Riverside Board created the Development Committee, led by Lynn Osborn and Dick Garver. The Development team conducted a club wide survey and 95% of our membership indicated that facilities improvement was a high priority. Over the next six years, the development committee has created and revised conceptual priorities and drawings of possible plans and has begun sharing these ideas and seeking feedback from the Cambridgeport Neighborhood Association, Cambridge Historic Commission, State Senators and Representatives, the Magazine Beach Partners, our college and high school collaborators and DCR. Key priorities include minimizing disruption of the park, expanding boat storage, improving spaces for community activities, providing public bathrooms and becoming ADA accessible.

In 2015, ice storms had pulled the porch and ramps away from the building. The solution was to support the ramps independently with their own pilings and to anchor the dock to pilings, so that dock movement is independent of the ramps. New pilings were also placed under the porch for stability.

In 2016, the Development Committee formed an Engineering Sub-Committee led by Board Member Neil Harrigan and Building and Grounds Committee chair Carson Burrington to define renovation projects and oversee their execution.

Replacing the Original (1912) Slab

In 2016, we began exploration of replacing the boathouse’s original slab floors, which were poured “on grade” with no foundational support. The river bank has subsided and the floors in the two upstream bays had collapsed to the point that they presented operational and safety concerns. Northeastern University had addressed the subsidence in the log bay in the ‘70s by raising the floor with asphalt, which added weight and caused further distortion.

Under the Engineering Committee’s direction, contractors carried out soil borings to identify the type of slab support system that would be required. Based on that information, we obtained design and cost estimates from multiple vendors.

In December 2017, the board signed a contract with Siena Construction and began the permitting process. Demolition started in February, 2018. Construction was delayed until March, due to delayed approvals. At that point, the entire Boathouse was emptied of boats, oars, racks and associated rowing equipment and 50 helical piles were set in place 40 feet down, followed by two feet of concrete. The slab was completed in April and celebrated with the fabulous slab party on April 21. After many iterations of rack configurations to preserve as many racks as possible and a significant upgrade of lighting, the boathouse reopened on May 4, just in time for Crusher Casey on May 6, 2018.

While the engineering team chaperoned this project, Neil marshaled its inception, bids and completion. It is remarkable to stand on level solid ground. The bunnies seem to have found alternate accommodations.

Breakdown of cost:

  • Demolition: $59,034

  • Earthwork: $45,152

  • Concrete: $67,585

  • Helical: $98,036

  • Carpentry: $25,000

  • Plumbing: $39,122

  • Electrical: $23,286

  • General Conditions, Project, Pre-construction,

  • Requirements: $67,785

  • Racks: $45,241

  • Permits: $1,534

  • Engineering: $21,688

Riverside Dock Replacement

Caro, Carson, Paul Martin, the Engineering Committee and the Board have been working for several years to investigate and design plans for the next-generation of docks for Riverside. Many hours of research (facilities visits, internet searches and word-of-mouth), photos, drawings, changes to drawings, teleconference calls, and prototyping occurred before the team settled on final designs and vendors. Caro led many of these efforts on the ground level, and approved final production plans, from concept to reality.

Renee Lanza headed up RBC’s permitting/regulatory efforts along with creating an RFP which captured our specs for the new dock, a scorecard for evaluating vendors, and set up a timeline. In April 2017, Renee and the Engineering team settled on a handful of reputable vendors to invite to respond to our RFP with proposals.

In January 2018, after conversations with vendors, review of existing prototypes and installations and subsequent deliberation, the Engineering Committee recommended that RBC pursue an aluminum-framed dock with composite surface decking. Through RBC member referrals (thanks Jim McGaffigan!), research, and the RFP proposal, they found an able partner in Row America and its manufacturing partner, Poralu Marine out of Montreal Canada. This program allowed RBC to utilize existing relationships with Eastern Seaboard Concrete Construction and GEI Consultants.

A partnership was struck between the three vendors and RBC to remove, demolish and replace our docks with Poralu’s state of the art system tailored to the sport of rowing. The deliverables were divided as follows:

Poralu Marine & Row America – Construction & replacement of dock and swing dock

Eastern Seaboard – Crane-removal, demolition, and disposal of existing docks, and complete environmental remediation of the site

GEI Consultants – Review of vendor proposals, preparation of project materials for conservation commission, onsite representation of RBC to the conservation commission

RBC received tentative project approval from the Cambridge Conservation Commission and DCR in February 2018. Final approval from the Conservation Commission and the DCR came on May 21st and the Conservation Commission inspection was completed on June 12th, 2018.

Carson, Caro, Neil and Evan developed logistics for readying the site for the 70-ton crane and dock sections that arrived from Canada. Our club members chipped in and spent several Saturdays clearing out, cleaning up, and improving the downstream construction site. The sequencing of events for demolition, removal and installation was a coordinated effort. Carson, Caro, Evan and program coaches worked earnestly together to modify rowing programs as needed to accommodate modified schedules that week.

Our communications plan for the membership included three town-hall style presentations and daily email updates for the membership. The old dock was closed for operation on Sunday evening, June 17 and the new dock opened for launching on Saturday, June 23. On time, on spec, and on budget.

We have asked a lot from our members this spring in terms of flexibility and disruptions to schedules. The timing of both dock and slab replacements in the same year was indeed a huge undertaking. However, the sheer momentum carried us to the finish line with few regrets, and RBC is all the better for it!

The geese were the first to arrive of course, but we have plans for them!

Breakdown of costs:

  • Demolition & removal of old dock: $35,250.00

  • New docks manufacturing and installation: $150,000.00

  • GEI engineering consultation & planning: $3,200.00

  • Permits: $400.00

The Riverside slab and dock replacement were paid for from operating expenses ($50k) the capital reserve ($200k) and from our capital campaign ($450k) which was started in 2012 and primarily funded by our Leadership Donors to whom we are overwhelmingly grateful listed below.

Riverside Leadership Donors 2012 – 2017

  • Kate Ackerman

  • Igor Belakovskiy

  • Patricia Belden and Kevin Kelly

  • George Conrades

  • Ernest Cook

  • Tina Vandersteel Cressotti and Matt Cressotti

  • Chris Daly

  • Mike Farry

  • Dick Garver

  • Lisa Kunze and Jeff Schafer

  • Thomas Lowe

  • Kevin and Satinder McDonnell

  • Todd and Jill C. Milne

  • Frank and Barbara O’Leary

  • Lynn Osborn

  • Jon J. Skillman

  • Sharon Sloan

  • Sarah and Robert White

Head of the Charles Preview

On October 20-21, 98 Riverside athletes will compete across 22 events at the 2018 Head of the Charles Regatta. Notable appearances include:

Catherine Widgery will race in the Women’s Veteran I/II Single. Widgery will be competing in the Women’s G Eight and Women’s G Single at Masters Worlds in Sarasota, FL September 27-30. (Update: She won!)

J. McGaffigan will be returning in the Men’s Grand Masters Single (3rd Place 2017).

The Men’s and Women’s Masters Doubles each have two repeat entries from 2017, with the Wolf-Morelli (1st Plase 2017) and Kiester-Belakovskiy (5th Place 2017) doubles on the men’s side and the Lanfer-White (2nd Place 2017) and Belakovskiy-Vandersteel (3rd Place 2017) doubles on the women’s side.

The Men’s Sweeps Team will field two entries each in the Club Four (1st and 15th Place 2017) and Club 8 (3rd Place 2017 (1st in Club)) events.

Jillian and Hillary

Jillian and Hillary

In the Women’s Championship Double, the crew of Zieff and Sager will return after placing 3rd in the 2017 regatta.

In the Men’s Lightweight Single, S. Haussmann will return (3rd Place 2017).

In the Women’s Lightweight Single, L. Ayers will return (5th Place 2017).

Riverside Athletes Represent The US At Worlds: Results

On September 9-16, five current members of the Riverside High Performance Group competed at the 2018 World Rowing Championships in Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

  • Kevin Meador raced in the Open Men’s Single, placing 2nd in the D Final.

  • The US Lightweight Women’s Pair was comprised of Riverside athletes Jillian Zieff and Jen Sager, coached by Andrew Hashway and placed 2nd in the A Final.

  • Hillary Saeger raced in the Lightweight Women’s Quadruple Sculls and placed 4th in the A Final.

  • Sam Hausmann raced in the Lightweight Men’s Quadruple Sculls and placed 4th in the B Final.

Five High Performance Group Alumni also competed.

  • Emily Huelskamp, Elizabeth Sonshine, and Mo McAuliffe accounted for three of the members of the Open Women’s Quadruple Sculls crew and placed 6th in the A Final.

  • Peter Schmidt raced in the Lightweight Men’s Double and came in 1st in the E Final.

  • David Smith raced in the Lightweight Men’s Pair and came in 3rd in the A Final.

Q&A with the HPG coach: Evans Liolin

Coach Evans Liolin

Coach Evans Liolin

In early September, the coaches committee announced that Evans Liolin would be joining the Riverside coaching staff, and taking up the reins of the HPG program. Evans brings an abundance of knowledge and experience to Riverside with him, having served as a coach for multiple collegiate programs which have seen successes on the IRA and Eastern Sprints stages. Evans also has significant experience leading multiple tiers of national team athletes, from junior to senior. He has even spent a few years here at Riverside too.

Annalise Routenberg: First, welcome back! What was your previous role at Riverside?

Evans Liolin: When I began coaching at Northeastern, Joe Wilhelm, who was coaching the lightweight development group here, invited me to come on as an assistant. So, in the beginning of my collegiate career, Riverside became a proving ground and coaching grad school. I got to work with some driven, skillful, fun guys and we raced a lot. A year or so later we had another fierce group of lights and then some very strong heavyweight men who went on to row in some really fast crews. The women here were firing on all cylinders, too. Around that time, I began coaching the Junior National Team along with the BB&N boys and lower boats at Belmont Hill. Buzz Congram, Joe, Chris Richards and Charley Butt were all early influences and mentors for me.

AR: Where did you learn to row?

EL: I learned to row at Nobles, in Dedham. Best thing that ever happened to me. Coincidentally, the ’36 Olympic Four, the “other” boys in the boat, were all Nobles grads, racing for Riverside.

AR: Did you go on to row in college?

EL: I raced for the University of New Hampshire, and then transferred to UChicago, which had a small club and no coach. I was training on my own, and some friends tricked me into coaching them. We had an ‘us against the world never say die’ mentality and had a lot of fun doing the hardest workouts we could create.

AR: So you are in a similar role now to your previous experiences here at Riverside?

EL: It’s a more focused role, with unambiguous goals. Women and men, open and light. Smaller group, higher aspirations.

AR: What are some goals you have for the HPG squad this coming season, year, and for the future?

EL: The immediate goal is to improve durability. We’ll train toward high performance, and then we’ll go as fast as we can. No limits. The Speed Order this fall will be a step along the way, a great opportunity for them to race some fast competition in another great environment. Frequently in our sport, you can find a diamond in the rough, and Riverside is a place where someone like that can thrive, take some risks alongside more seasoned athletes. My job is to clear a pathway so the entire group can pursue this with abandon, to guide an exhaustive effort that ultimately they own. The team culture helps to propel and support them. The long term HPG goals are very clear: to make National and Olympic Teams, and to produce medals for the U.S. We’ve opened the doors to see who’s out there, but we’ll raise the bar soon. The level of their work will determine whether the group size grows.

AR: Tell me about why you’re excited to be back at Riverside.

EL: Riverside is a really energetic place and the athletes here want to crank. Rowing hard is a common denominator in this club, but it’s the stories behind the people that are equally fascinating. When I was building the junior national team here in Boston, I was rigging for the club and remember some great conversations down in the shop with fantastic coaches, eventual national teamers and Olympians. Over the years, I’ve brought all of my collegiate coxswains here to learn the Head of the Charles course and to show off my old stomping grounds. I’ve wanted them to feel a part of the fabric of American rowing, and Riverside has played a significant role in that. These floorboards are drenched in champion sweat, and this group is going to add a lot more.

Riverside sculler Catherine Widgery wins her race at Masters Worlds!

Catherine Widgery

Catherine Widgery

Riverside sculler Catherine Widgery competed at Masters Worlds in Sarasota, FL in the Women’s G-Single event. On Thursday, September 27, Widgery raced in the finals and won her race by open water with a time of 4:32.397. Congratulations Catherine!

Catherine will be racing at Head of the Charles Regatta on October 20 in the Women’s Veteran I/II and Senior Veteran I/II Singles.

The Legacy of George Faulkner

Riverside Boat Club 150th Anniversary History Series

By: Richard Garver and Susan Waldman

In 1919, Riverside Boat Club celebrated its 50th anniversary with a banquet attended by over two hundred at the boathouse. Dinner was followed by music and a speech by Harvard crew coach Bill Haines, after which Cambridge Mayor Quinn made a presentation to George Faulkner, former professional sculler, Harvard coach and talismanic Riverside figure.

Faulkner’s great great-granddaughter Susan Waldman and her husband Dennis recently visited Riverside hoping to swap information about him. The Faulkner family, with six year old George, left Ireland in 1847, the worst year of the “Great Hunger.” They came to Boston by way of St. John New Brunswick, Canada where they had been quarantined during a typhus epidemic, finally settling in East Boston.

Rowing soon became part of both George’s leisure and professional life. In 1856, at the age of fifteen, George took part in his first race, an impromptu affair between stevedore boats for a side bet of $10. Two years later he participated in his first regatta on the Charles River in the six-oared Shamrock. At the age sixteen or seventeen, George began rowing for a Commercial Street company that offloaded cargo from incoming ships. It was his job to race other companies’ rowers out to ships arriving in Boston harbor to secure the job of unloading them for his company. Faulkner might row upwards of 40 miles a day securing contracts for his employer. He would eventually purchase the company and run it well into his 80s.

George Faulkner (right) with his father Cary (left), circa 1857.

George Faulkner (right) with his father Cary (left), circa 1857.

Popular interest in rowing boomed following the Civil War. The region of the country that was most enthusiastic about professional rowing, and the wagering associated with it, was New England. Under the protocols of the day, Faulkner was considered a “professional” because he earned his living on the water. He was one of the most successful rowers in both sweep boats and singles. In 1876, the city of Philadelphia scheduled a regatta on the Schuylkill River as one of three sporting events (the other two being riflery and yachting) as part of the nation’s Centennial celebration. Faulkner entered the pairs competition with Charlestown’s Patsy Reagan, with whom he had been racing since 1868. Rowing out of South Boston at the time, he and Reagan defeated the vaunted Ward brothers and a celebrated pair from England to win the competition, collecting $1,000 and the title of world champions.

The popularity of rowing was so high in this era that Faulkner’s 1877 match race with Michael Davis, an Irish immigrant sculler and rowing innovator from Portland, Maine, attracted 30,000 spectators to the Charles. Faulkner was strong but Davis was a rowing innovator. He shocked Boston by defeating Faulkner. Buoyed by his victory, the following year Davis challenged any Boston sculler to race him over a four-mile course with a turn for $1,000 and the New England championship. Patsy Reagan, Faulkner’s 1876 Centennial Regatta pairs partner, was undefeated as a sculler that season and a hometown hero. He accepted Davis’ challenge. A longshoreman of few means, Reagan hoped to profit not only from winning the purse, but from betting what little money his family had and every penny he could borrow on the race.

Sponsored by the Old Colony Railroad, their race and three others that season were re-located from the Charles River to Silver Lake in Kingston, south of the city. The railroad had invested in recreational property on the lake and was hoping to promote sales as well as boost weekend ticket purchases. Anticipating unprecedented interest in the October 8, 1878 race, it scheduled a dedicated excursion train with several extra cars to transport competitors, spectators, and gamblers to the venue.

George Faulkner (standing) and Patsey Reagan, circa 1876.

George Faulkner (standing) and
Patsey Reagan, circa 1876.

Reagan started strongly. He had a solid lead past the viewing stands. As the boats came back into sight following the turn, which was beyond the spectators’ viewing range, however, they were dumbfounded. Davis had a clear lead. Reagan lost. The crowd rushed the ticket booths, suspecting that there was collusion or tampering of some type. Shots were fired as officials tried to control the angry mob. By the time a distraught Reagan had been safely escorted to a passenger car and the outraged spectators had boarded the excursion train back to Boston, it was quite late. In the falling darkness, the train ran into a freight car, throwing its cars off the track. Gaslights ignited a conflagration that killed nineteen people and injured nearly 200. Among the dead were Reagan and George Faulkner’s young wife, Margaret L. Brennan, mother of his two children. Reagan left a devastated young family. Six thousand people took off work to attend his funeral.

After retiring from racing, Faulkner became one of the most respected coaches of his day, including controversial stints coaching Harvard crews. During the 19th century, college rowing, like the other principal football, baseball and track, was organized on a club basis. Each club elected a captain, who was responsible for team selection and arranged for coaching, usually by a graduate with financial support and direction coming from alumni. Coaching by professionals was generally eschewed, but as college rowing grew in popularity, the pressure to win mounted. Despite Harvard’s reminder that, “it had been once agreed by Yale and Harvard that professional coaches or trainers would not be employed,”(New York Times, March 17, 1880) Yale, having lost to Harvard in fifteen of their last nineteen dual races, hired sculler Michael Davis, to Harvard’s condemnation. His crews were victorious in 1881 and 1882 but Yale reverted to amateur coaching after it lost to Harvard in 1883. The direction of condemnation reversed in 1885 when Harvard captain James Storrow, to maintain a veneer of amateurism, arranged for George Faulkner to be retained in a vague capacity other than as coach, in which he would observe his crew and give him advice, which Storrow passed on to his rowers. The ’85 crew, its stroke revised by Faulkner, beat Yale but lost badly in 1886. Faulkner continued to appear in Harvard coaching launches into the 90s. Nevertheless, from 1886 to 1905 Yale beat Harvard in eighteen of twenty dual races. In 1894, after being thrashed by Yale, Harvard rowers gave up control over their program to the college athletic department.

As the 20thCentury arrived, Riverside Boat Club was at its competitive peak. The Boston Globe’s rowing reporter proclaimed it “the first racing club in America.” Coached by Faulkner, its 1903 senior eight, repeating as New England champion, was considered the best the club had put on the water to-date. The Club’s J. Peterson, also coached by Faulkner, was a force in the senior singles.

Cary (bow) and William Faulkner (stroke).

Cary (bow) and William Faulkner (stroke).

Faulkner’s sons continued his Riverside legacy. To select the club’s intermediate singles entry for the 1908 nationals, it held a much publicized race among four members—reported to be the first time in Boston rowing history that there were four men in one club that were so competitive in their class. Up-and-coming Carey Faulkner, George’s son, defeated another second generation oarsman, Joe Ryan, prominent Cambridge boat builder William Davey’s son Frank, and J. Brassil to represent the club. Carey Faulkner won his event at Nationals. To celebrate, Riverside presented him with a gold watch and made him a life member. In 1909 he was the New England senior champion. Over the balance of the decade Riverside scullers were ascendant. Frank Davey won the New England singles championship in 1912. CareyFaulkner, his brother William, Davey, and Yale oarsman Henry Livingston formed a quad that won the U.S. National Championship in 1913. They repeated as champions the next year.

As Riverside’s 1919 50th anniversary testimonial to George Faulkner attests, he and his sons distinguished themselves during the fifty years period in which Boston rowing evolved from rough-and-tumble workingman’s competitions dominated by professionals into an amateur sport conducted by well-organized clubs and embraced by elite colleges.

All the medals!

Catherine Widgery

Catherine Widgery

RBC Sculler Catherine Widgery had a fantastic week out in California at US Masters Nationals. She medaled in all five of her events.

“I was proud to be there representing Riverside,” she says. “So many people who spotted the famous striped jersey came up to talk to me about what a great club Riverside is, and how they loved being a member or launching from there.”

Widgery took 3rd in the women’s open F double; 2nd in the mixed G-K quad; and won the open F quad and women’s open G single with a time of 4:49:194.

She is excited to continue her training for Masters Worlds in September, and hopes to become the fastest female rower in the world aged 65+.

Summer 2018 Racing Round up


Summer 2018 saw a flurry of RBC Stripes streaking down race courses and collecting hardware along the way. Here’s a quick roundup of where your fellow Stripes have been and how they’ve proudly represented our club on the water:

US Rowing Club Nationals Regatta

RBC fielded 34 entries across 25 events at the US Rowing Club Nationals Regatta. 14 crews progressed to finals. Some highlights:

  • Men’s intermediate lightweight 2- (3rd and 5th)

  • Men’s senior lightweight 2- (4th)

  • Women’s senior 4- (4th and 6th)

  • Women’s senior 4+ (4th and 6th)

  • Men’s senior 4x (4th)

  • Men’s senior lightweight 8+ (4th)

The men’s intermediate lightweight 8+ came less than 0.2 seconds behind Vesper in a nail-biting finish for second place.

Royal Canadian Henley Regatta (Masters)

RBC fielded 25 entries across 20 events at Masters Royal Canadian Henley Regatta. 19 crews progressed to finals and 10 of these placed in the top three, including:

  • Women’s AA-D 2x (2nd)

  • Women’s AA-B 4+ (3rd)

  • Men’s AA-C 2- (2nd)

  • Men’s 4+ (2nd)

  • Women’s AA-C 2- (3rd)Women’s D double (2nd)

  • Mixed masters eight (D-I 2nd)

First place finishes included the men’s E-I 4+ with Elizabeth Bayne, Rudy Schreiber, Nikolay Kurmakov, Ed Frankenberry and Ernest Cook; the men’s D-I 2- with Ernest Cook and John Yasaitis; and the mixed masters 8+ AA-C.

Royal Canadian Henley Regatta

Following the Masters regatta, RBC fielded 53 entries at the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta. 11 crews progressed to finals and 4 of these placed in their events, including:

  • Men’s U-23 8+ (6:16.74)

  • Women’s U-23 8+ (7:12.04)

  • Women’s 1x dash

The women’s U-23 4+ with Hannah Knight, Kate Maistrenko, Tal Gilad and Maya Hartleben (coached by Nikolay Kurmakov) won their event with a time of 7:20.84.