Harry 'Dad' Vail
George O Toepfer
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Under the page heading “Crew Season, 1922,” The Badger 1924 (pgs. 255-7) read:
Wisconsin is slowly but surely regaining its position among the leading colleges of the country, which are holding the rowing championship.
Early last Spring, the Varsity crew began a season of strenuous training on Lake Mendota . The squad was again led by George Toepfer, who as a man of past experience and ability, helped whip the team into condition within a short period of time. Only two other veterans, Puestow and Turner, reported with the men in response to Coach Vail's call for candidates. Rowers from previous year's Junior and Frosh crews filled the other vacancies in the shell.
Not until more than a month after the crew had taken to the lake did the Varsity meet any outside competition. On May 27, Manitoba 's Winnipeg Boat Club came down to test their strength against Wisconsin 's rowers. It was the first time Wisconsin raced against a foreign crew. The mile and one quarter race was hard fought from the start to the very last stroke. Both shells were neck and neck until the half-mile lines were passed when the Badgers began to slowly creep ahead of the visitors. Although the Badgers (5:37.8) were three-fourths of a boat length in the lead at the mile line, the Canadians came close to winning as a result of a spurt at the finish.
The Winnepeg Boat Club (now re-named the “Winnepeg Rowing Club”), together with the Minnesota Boat Club and the now-defunct St. Paul Boat Club, founded the Northwest International Rowing Association (“NWIRA”) in 1885, with the first regatta on Lake Minnetonka, west of the twin cities. Other clubs – the Minnesota Lurine Club (1886), the Duluth Boat Club (1887) and the Rat's Portage (Kenora; in 1894), joined the NWIRA. In 1914, Britisher Sir Thomas Lipton, a tea merchant, donated the NWIRA Championship trophy.
On the same day, the Junior varsity team gave St. John's Military Academy a decided defeat. The Junior eight took the lead soon after the start and held it throughout the race. This victory more than accounted for the defeat the crew received from Culver Military Academy one week before.
Several days after the close of school, the Varsity encountered the second strongest crew in the country, Washington State (sic, the University of Washington). The race was a decided victory for Washington who had earlier won by ten boat lengths over California. Our crew proved true to form in that they kept abreast with the western champions during the first mile of the race. However, the three-mile course proved to be too much for the Badgers, who were trained only to row over a one-and-one-half-mile course, and the visitors finished several boat lengths in the lead.
Future Wisconsin crew coach George W. (“Mike”) Murphy was the junior captain and stroke of that Washington boat. In a May 15, 1985 letter to UW President Irving Shain, Murphy writes, “On our way to Poughkeepsie we stopped off at Madison for a two mile race with Wisconsin . We won by about 15 feet! When we came in to the float, Dad Vail came out, met us with a smile on his face and a tear running down his cheek, congratulated me and the crew on winning! That was the only time I ever met him in person but I have met that smile and that tear many times since, even to this day at age 87. When things got rough, that smile and tear brought to me again and again the unconquerable spirit of Dad Vail as a wonderful inspiration!"
If progress keeps up, which it is sure to do with a coach like Dad Vail at the wheel, Wisconsin will soon be rowing on the Hudson .”
In the IRA:
Washington attended the Poughkeepsie for the first time in 1922 and finshed second.
St John's Military Academy ad
Postcard of a 1921 Winnepeg Boat Club crew. Wisco's eight edged out the Club on Lake Mendota on May 27, 1922.
William F. Koch
Charles B. Puestow