1912 Season

Harry 'Dad' Vail
Harry 'Dad' Vail
  Charles M. Pollock
Charles M. Pollock
 Results | Summary | Photos | W Winners 

Season Results


Season Summary

The 1912 season was opened with four regulars in the shell. Handicapped by a late start on the lake, the men were forced to work very hard to round into shape by the necessary time.

On May 24, Wisconsin 's varsity (8:15.4) defeated the Minnesota Boat Club on Lake Mendota by an unknown margin.


In the IRA's:

Stanford became the first west coast team to attend the IRA's.

The 1912 varsity eight crew finished second at the IRA's to Cornell by only three seconds (over four miles) after losing their regular No. 2 oarsman, Raymond Cuff, through a hand infection just before the race.


Poughkeepsie Races All Won By Cornell….Wisconsin a Surprise

With a crowd of more than 50,000 people looking on from the river banks, observation trains, hundreds of pleasure boats, the oarsmen of Cornell scored a triple triumph.

Just above the bridge (and just beyond the two-mile marker), Wisconsin began to attract attention. The Badgers had dropped their stroke and yet they were pulling up steadily on (Cornell, the leader and) Columbia . Columbia 's oarsmen seemed to be all right, but there wasn't the driving power to the pull which such a high stroke should produce. The hard up-hill fight was telling on Columbia. In front of them was Cornell whom they were trying to catch, and right at their heels was Wisconsin coming on with steady determination. At the bridge Columbia seemed pretty well fagged out. Wisconsin was rowing a gallant uphill race, and had almost caught up with the fast-tiring Columbia eight.

At three and a half miles Cornell was more than two lengths in front. Everybody was sure now that it was Cornell's race, and attention was centered on Columbia 's fight with Wisconsin . Columbia could no longer raise her stroke above thirty-five, while Wisconsin , rowing at thirty-six, was gaining fast. A quarter of a mile from the finish Wisconsin was abreast of the Columbia boat, and then slowly forged ahead. Columbia couldn't stand the gaff, that's all there was to it. Occasional splashes and the jerky course of the boat showed that they had about reached the end of their rope.

Cornell was taking things easy with two and a half lengths to her credit, but now Wisconsin , rowing a lively thirty-six, began to edge up a bit on Cornell. That didn't last long, for the Ithacans had plenty of reserve power. Once over the finish line with the tension of the grueling grind over, the big, exhausted athletes of Columbia and Wisconsin let their oars drag listlessly in the water.

-New York Times article of June 30, 1912 (Part 4, p. 7.)

The Badger 1914 described the 1912 IRA's varsity race at Poughkeepsie as follows,

Wisconsin, pulling a slow, well-measured stroke, gradually pulled away from Pennsylvania, and, from fourth at the two-mile mark, passed Syracuse (coached by legend Jim Ten Eyck) for third place at the two and one-half mark, later passing the Columbia crew and lessening the lead Cornell (coached by famed Cornell Crew Coach Charles Courtney), who crossed the line just three seconds ahead of the Badgers.

The 1912 crew apparently drifted off direction waiting for the start and were left at the post when others got away.

Captain Charles Pollock, who had transferred from Fargo College in the spring of 1911 and gone out for UW's crew, was also football player at Wisconsin in the fall of 1911, until he broke a leg in the Iowa game. He returned to crew in the spring of 1912, as the team's captain, and led the Badger varsity - described in the local press as “ Wisconsin 's wonder crew” - to a second place finish at Poughkeepsie .


Poughkeepsie, June 29

The sturdy freshman crew of Cornell won the second race from Wisconsin by a scant length in one of the greatest races seen on the Hudson . It was a bitter, hard race from the start to the finish, the Badgers fighting it out with Cornell in the gamest struggle which ever marked the freshman event here.

When the Pennsylvania stake boat got adrift, Pennsylvania had an advantage of more than 15 feet. The lead didn't help any, for Wisconsin shot into the lead by about 10 feet over Columbia , and with Cornell on even terms. Before the mile mark was reached Cornell, rowing the long steady (Cornell Coach Charles E.) Courtney stroke, slowly nosed ahead of Columbia , while Wisconsin had a quarter of a boat length on the Ithacans. The race developed into a closely fought duel between Wisconsin and Cornell, while Columbia , Pennsylvania and Syracuse were closely bunched behind them.

The great crowds along the river banks and on the excursion steamers and observation train burst into a riot of enthusiasm as Cornell and Wisconsin zig-zagged the noses of their shells into the lead only to fall back again on even terms. As the five crews swept down to the bridge, the nose of the Wisconsin boat showed slightly in front of Cornell. As the crews shot past the bridge piers, Cornell and Wisconsin were on even terms and a length behind were Columbia, Pennsylvania and Syracuse, having a fine triangular fight of their own. The closeness of the race aroused the crowds to a high pitch of excitement.

When Cornell's shell showed slightly in the lead, and the Ithacans increased the stroke to 35 in the hope of shaking off Wisconsin, the latter crew fought gamely and refused to be shaken off. Instead little Lewis, the Badger coxswain, called for a spurt, and the shell again shot ahead of the Cornell boat.

Cornell raised the stroke again and nosed ahead, but Wisconsin fought desperately again, and cheer after cheer echoed across the river as Wisconsin pluckily took the lead again.

Enthusiasm ran high as the crews battled toward the finish. Men who have been witnessing boat races for years threw their straw hats in the air at the game struggle which the Wisconsin youngsters were putting up against Courtney's crack freshmen. After Wisconsin had a third time refused to be shaken off, they hit the stroke up to 37, and showed in front again. The pace was killing, and a fourth supreme effort proved their undoing. Cornell was rowing 33 and went to the front. Wisconsin, after falling behind three different times, and fighting ahead of the Cornell boat each time, was finally worn down under the grueling high stroke.

Syracuse in the meantime had shaken off Columbia and was in third place, two lengths behind Wisconsin ; the Quakers, with a final spurt, increased their pace and beat Columbia by 10 feet.”

The Badger 1914 described the freshman race, “At the pop of the gun, the Freshman crew took the lead and maintained it until the last quarter mile (a two mile race), when the Badgers caught three crabs, and lost to Cornell by a slight margin."

In the four-oared race, it was Cornell. Columbia, Syracuse and Penn.

Captain Charles M. Pollock wrote the following in a signed column in The Badger 1914 (p. 242) following the 1912 season:

Better Rowing

To put rowing on a high plane at Wisconsin, there are several things that ought to be done. Conditions ought to be more favorable toward rowing than they are at the present time; a great deal more cannot be expected, because of the enormous financial outlay occasioned by the expensive nature of a middle Western crew.

First, the varsity ought to be able to row in a new shell every year. A new shell means lengths in the course of a four-mile race. Not only do these new shells benefit the varsity in the one particular year, but in a few years our boat house will be well stocked with good, serviceable shells, and a few of the worn out ones can be discarded.

Second, we ought to send a four-oared boat to Poughkeepsie . Many good oarsmen never made a varsity boat, because he was a little too light or short of stature. But a man of that type would be just the person to place in a four-oar.

A few words might be said in regards to a new boat house. We may have one when the New University is built, and a new boat house would do more for the success of rowing than anything else.

The trip to Poughkeepsie should never be abandoned. It is a great financial outlay, but some day we are going to ‘sweep the river” and then no one will ever regret the money spent on rowing. As it is, we stand high in the estimation of Eastern people because of the game fight the Wisconsin crews always put up.

The rowing future of Wisconsin will depend on the coaching of “Dad” Vail. Wisconsin could never hope to have a better man in that position. There is no coach, even Courtenay (sic), who knows more about rowing, or can teach it better than Harry Vail. In him the success of Wisconsin 's rowing future lies, and may we sincerely hope he will always be with us.



Poughkeepsie Regatta

Poughkeepsie Regatta


Capt Charles M. Pollock

Capt Charles M. Pollock



Hoy B. Clayton
Ray L. Cuff
John A. Fletcher
Marshall Graff
Charles M. Pollock
Edward R. Richter
Axel T. Sjoblom
Maurice C. Sjoblom
Frank C. Wood


return to top

contact the webmaster