1987 Boat Race Mutiny---Books---Topolski/Gill

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Yankeerunner
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1987 Boat Race Mutiny---Books---Topolski/Gill

Post by Yankeerunner » December 3rd, 2019, 2:10 pm

Yeah, this is old, but interesting.

"How two races could possibly be interpreted so differently by people in the same team, supposedly working toward the same goal, remained a mystery to many coaches and oarsmen who heard about the trials. It is difficult, perhaps almost impossible, to get laboratory-like conditions in trials such as these. Honesty and clarity are the main requirements for successful seat racing, and it seemed that there was little of either at these trials. Both sides left with the belief that the other had been out to cheat on the results."

The above quote is from the Alison Gill book The Yanks At Oxford, which is essentially a counterpoint to Dan Topolski's book True Blue. I find it interesting that in the 32 years that have passed few of the rowers have had anything to say about what happened. We are left with only the books.

I first bought the DVD Miracle At Oxford to have something, anything, about rowing to watch while doing long steady state rows. Then I had my local library track down the book upon which it is based, True Blue, and later had the librarians working overtime to find me The Yanks At Oxford. They found True Blue at a library on Cape Cod, apparently donated with the author's inscription to the previous owner, "Since my publishers consider this Anti-American you may be my only reader on that side of the Pond." They found The Yanks At Oxford at the Penn State University library.

Then I looked for common denominators. There were many, but with vastly different interpretations in the dueling books.

While being left with a "Mistakes were made on both sides" feeling, my sympathies lie more on the Topolski/McDonald side than the Clark/Lyons/Fish etc. side.

Has anyone here followed the incident carefully enough to have have any insight?

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Re: 1987 Boat Race Mutiny---Books---Topolski/Gill

Post by MPx » December 3rd, 2019, 7:33 pm

I used to work at the same place as Gavin Stewart who was the eventual stroke for that True Blue boat - before going on to row for GB at a couple of Olympics. A lovely giant of a man though not one I knew well, but my mate Henry knew him better and did try to talk to him about it after we had both read the DT book back in 1998. Gavin was apparently fairly tight lipped and the impression left was much as you say - "fault on both sides" - but also that he didn't recognise quite a lot of the content of Dan's book as a reflection of what actually happened through the year. Whatever, its still a good story...
Mike - 62 HWT 183

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Re: 1987 Boat Race Mutiny---Books---Topolski/Gill

Post by Yankeerunner » December 4th, 2019, 3:21 pm

Haha, yes, in addition to Stewart not recognizing a lot of content of Dan's book I'd heard in some of the more recent Boat Race commentary that the speaker considered the book to be a fiction. That is why I put so much effort into finding the Gill book. To see if I could sort some of it out. It took several years for my librarians to track it down, bless them.

Both books put Stewart on the side of the Americans. The afterward in Topolski's book even acknowledges that after the race was over so was Gavin's truce and he strongly indicated his displeasure with McDonald.

At the time (if not still) Stewart was the tallest and heaviest stroke ever in the boat race. Although I think that he had also stroked the Isis boat the year before. If I recall correctly Dan's reasoning was that in the engine room where a guy his size would usually row, he wasn't as good at following the stroke of the guys in front of him, but that he could keep a great rhythm at stroke and others were good at following him.

I'm glad to hear that he got to row in a couple of Olympics. The Boat Race must have been a terrible experience for him, with Topolski having been his coach for several years but the Americans having become his good friends.

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