2022 Dad Vail Program

Rowing Program & Coach - In 1970, Fred Emerson (Coach of the Blood Street Sculls and a philanthropist in Old Lyme CT near the academy) talked to Bill Stowe about starting a program at CGA with his support. William Arthur "Bill" Stowe was an American rower who won gold at the 1964 Olympics and the 1967 Pan American Games and bronze at the 1965 European Championships. He coached Columbia University (1967 to 1971), was color commentator for ABC during the 1968 and 1972 Olympic Games and wrote a book of his eight's experience in the 1964 Summer Olympics “All Together” (2005). In 2011 he received the Jack Kelly Award which recognizes superior achievements in rowing and service to amateur athletics. Otto Graham, former NFL QB for the Cleveland Browns, then the CGA Athletic Director, agreed to try the sport and hired Stowe in 1971 to create a rowing program. The first challenge - find cadets who wanted to row and turn them into a championship rowing team. With limited equipment and funding, Stowe felt this made the crew tougher and hungry for victory. Team - Stowe recruited 40 cadets who were willing to give it a try. To quote Stowe: ``I have found it is often easier to teach a new man to row than it is to break in those with rowing experience using a method other than what I teach.” Coach installed stationary rowing machines in the gym and secured time at the Yale indoor rowing tanks for training. When the ice on the Thames River broke up, they used a 16-oared barge. Later used loaner shells from other New England schools including Fred Emerson and two leaky eights from Harvard University. Eventually new shells, equipment and trailers were purchased to give the crew a morale boost and improve their competitiveness on the water. The crew described as a “rag tag outfit” including some ex-football players who abandoned the gridiron. In the spring of 1971, with less than four months of rowing experience, they won the Cypress Gardens Regatta in Orlando Florida. Stowe and the team were jubilant but knew this was just the beginning with many challenges ahead. In May the crew competed at the Dad Vail Regatta and placed 4th in the varsity heavy weights. 1972 Dad Vail Regatta - The varsity eight was undefeated and won the New England Championships. In May they headed for Dad Vail. After successful preliminary races, they drew the lane closest to Peters Island in the final championship race. Stowe worried about slowness of the lane in the final 500 meters and told the crew to gain all they could in the first 1500 meters. With a two boat length and open water lead at the bridge, the crew rowed at 38 strokes per minute and maintained the lead heading into the final stretch. They finished with a two boat lead in 6:16 minutes for the 2000 meters and won the 34th Annual Dad Vail Trophy. The race was followed down the course by Peter Jennings ABC-TV news reporting on the regatta on the evening news. L-R: Brad Balch (Stroke), Mike Wensman, Ken Knutson, Bill Spitler, Freddy Montoya (Coxswain), Mark Noll, Larry Shirley, Pug Gutridge, Bill Plage (Bowman) 1997 Crew Reunion - Stowe stated “Winning the Vail was a special thrill and I am looking forward to rowing over the course for a reunion in 1997.” Stowe organized a 25th reunion for the 1972 championship crew. They rowed again in a loaner shell for the feel of being back in their seats and remembered all the rowing techniques they had learned from Stowe. 2022 Dad Vail Regatta - Our original crew is planning to attend a 50th reunion in Philadelphia to enjoy the festivities and watch the new teams compete in the championships 1972 CGA varsity heavyweight crew 500YEARS AGO