Welcome to Rat Island Rowing & Sculling Club
The mission of the Rat Island Rowing and Sculling Club is to provide opportunity to youth and adults in the Greater Port Townsend community to learn and improve sweep and scull rowing skills through recreational and competitive rowing programs, and to preserve and celebrate the legacy of traditional wooden racing shells.
What this boils down to in practice is a bunch of seasoned enthusiasts and new rowers get together on a regular basis, early in the morning, in the evening and on weekends to row. Rows are supported by a club launch; coxed by club members; coached by experienced rowers and professional coaches.
(Courtesy of Jim Costello)
RIRSC LEGACY OF WOODEN BOATS by Marsha Wiener
The first wooden boat races occurred in 17th century England, where the Thames River was used to transport goods and services. It wasn’t long before one waterman challenged another to a race. Speed became important, and over the next two centuries the boats were modified to become the wooden racing shells that were widely used until the advent of fiber-reinforced plastic shells in 1972. These were stiffer, stronger, more durable, more easily repaired and required less maintenance than wooden shells, which often fell into disuse. This proved to be a boon for rowers in Port Townsend, as we were able to acquire several wooden boats at little or no cost, many of which came with
impressive histories. Here are the stories of some:
* The Small Wonder, the first eight-oared shell made for ordinary sized women, consisted of two fours cobbled together by Stan Pocock and Frank Cunningham because of their concern that shells were built for 6’4” 200-pound men. Frank observed that women rowing these large boats looked like “chipmunks on a log.” The Small Wonder and its oars are 10% smaller in every dimension than a standard shell. “Frank’s Little Women” rowed the Small Wonder in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The passage of Title 9, which equalized opportunities for women participating in sports, resulted in many boats being built for women, and the Small Wonder was donated to the Wooden Boat Foundation. It has been rowed by the Tuf as Nails crew on occasion.
*The Hoh, a four, was built by Stan Pocock, and the Lake Washington crew he coached rowed it to win the gold medal in the 1960 Olympics. Years later it was donated to the Port Townsend club, where it was restored by a group of rowers that included Ted Shoulberg, Stephanie Ingram, Ole Kanestrom, Steve Chapin and Jim Buckley. After it was later damaged when a crew bashed it on rocks in a high wind, Steve Chapin did such a masterful job of patching a hole in the hull that Stan asked that the boat be returned to Seattle, where it has been on display in the George Pocock Rowing Center since 2005.
* The Husky Challenger, an eight, was built by Stan Pocockin 1956 and was transported to Syracuse, New York, where it was left for several years for the use of University of Washington crews who were by that time traveling to and from regattas via planes, not trains. It eventually came to Port Townsend and was used by our rowers, who repaired innumerable splits in the hull until they realized the value of removing all the varnish and varnishing a layer of cloth onto the hull. The Tuf as Nails crew, who have spent the last two years restoring the boat, rowed it in the 2004 San Diego Crew Classic. It now resides in our boathouse.
*The Quinault, another Pocock eight, came to the Wooden Boat Foundation in 1999 and is rowed today by our Club on occasions such as the Wooden Boat Festival race.
*The Ristretto, a Pocock double, built in 1979 for lightweight men or women, was acquired by a consortium of local rowers a few years ago. A “ristretto” is barista lingo for a coffee brew that is strong but not bitter and means “to pull short,” which Jim Buckley and Roger McPherson agreed would be a fitting name for the boat, since it described their rowing technique.
*The “Triple” was a Stampfli bow coxed pair that has been converted into a three-person shell. It was purchased in Canada and is jointly owned by a few of our guys.
*The Riverside, a four now usually rowed as a quad, was purchased by Ed Kirkpatrick in Long Beach, CA, for $500. It might have been used as a practice boat for the 1984 Olympics. A couple of years ago Ed generously donated it to our Club, where it is appreciated and rowed with much pleasure... and as a result frequently needs various repairs, which are overseen by Jim Mason.
*The Oho is a Pocock quad which is very similar to the Hoh and was given to us by Stan Pocock in partial exchange for the Hoh. It is currently undergoing extensive renovation and will likely be renamed the Frank C. in honor of the late Frank Cunningham.