row2k Features
Guest Coxing the Head of the Charles 2006 – Donald 'The Rudder' Rumsfeld
October 18, 2006
Rob Colburn

Seems there's always a last-minute scramble to find enough coxswains for all the entries at the Head of the Charles. As a service to the rowing community, Row2k scours the globe during head racing season, bringing underused and undiscovered steerspersons into the spotlight. Row2k had a rare opportunity to talk strategy with this year's HOCR celebrity guest-coxswain Donald "the Rudder" Rumsfeld. Despite the text of our interview subsequently being leaked to the press, we suffered no moral or intellectual confusion afterwards - and neither will you, as long as you read this upside down.

"As you know, you go to the Head of the Charles with the boat you have. They're not the boat you might want or wish to have at a later time."

"It's an enormous regatta...you know, it's bigger than Texas! Or as big, I guess - I haven't looked lately. And...Holy Mackerel!...there are going to be crews from old Europe and from new Europe...all kinds of Europe."

When asked about his strategy for winning the Charles, Rumsfeld played his cards close to his chest, but hinted that speed would play a part in his race plan. "If you can do something very fast you can get your job done and save a lot of lives."
"Am I also going to ask a lot of rhetorical questions which I answer myself? You bet. Am I going to make a lot of technique calls as a coxswain? Absolutely. Well, I can't predict that."

"So therefore, winning or losing is not an issue for 'we', in my view...in the traditional, conventional context of using the word 'winning' and 'losing'."

"I would not say the future is necessarily less predictable than the past - I think the past was not predictable when it started."

"What we are seeing is not the Weeks Turn - what we are seeing is slices of the Weeks Turn."

As for whether Rumsfeld would consider passing another boat under the Eliot Bridge, the Secretary gave the sort of cagey response which has made him so feared among NATO coxswains: "If I said 'yes," that would then suggest that that might be the only place where it might be done which would not be accurate...necessarily accurate...it might also not be inaccurate, but I mean...I'm disinclined to mislead anyone."

The DefSec's advice on rigging, and setting pitches and spreads: "If I know the answer, I'll tell you the answer, and if I don't, I'll just respond cleverly. There are a lot of moving parts at play...the message is that there are known knowns - there are things that we know that we know. There are known unknowns - that is to say, there are things that we now know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns - there are things we do not know we don't know. And each year we discover a few more of those unknown unknowns."



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