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The Pocock Generation, Part III
by Peter Mallory
posted on October 10, 2006


The Final

The New York Times: "The University of Washington four-with-coxswain was triumphant in the opening final event on the final day of the regatta.

"The Huskies won in a hard fight with Switzerland and Denmark by one length and a quarter in 6:50.3. This was the first time [and, in retrospect, the only time in history] the United States has captured this particular event in the Olympics.

"At 500 meters, Switzerland had a lead of three-quarters of a length. Washington and Denmark cut down the margin, but the Americans fell back into third place behind the Danes. Then they regained second place, but it took a tremendous effort to catch the Swiss.

"At 1,300 meters, they pulled even with Switzerland, and a hundred yards further on the Huskies had a lead of a few feet.

"With all three crews raising the beat, it was a punishing fight right down to the wire, with hardly more than a length separating the three boats until near the end. Washington had the kick to pull it through in the last 200 meters and drew away by a quarter-length of open water.

"Members of the winning crew, except for the tow-headed stroke, Warren Westlund, were so exhausted the Huskies hardly had wind enough to cheer their opponents."

Martin: "They rowed us right over to the dock for the presentation, and we were still gasping for breath, and they started playing the Star Spangled Banner, and we weren't out of the boat yet.

"In fact, we were still in the boat when they started handing us our medals, and finally one of the officials came over and said, 'We think you better get out of the boat.'

"So we staggered out."

Giovanelli: "George later told us that never before or since had he seen a four pull as we did in the last fifteen strokes. We were actually lifting the bow out of the water.

"He said he could see air under the bow seat, and that's saying a lot considering I was a pretty big bow man.

"I attribute our win completely to our coxswain, Al Morgan.

"A coxswain has to steer a straight course, coach the crew and cheerlead. Al was the best I ever had. He won the Olympics for us.

"The minimum weight for coxswains was 106 pounds. Al weighed 131, and he was worth every pound. I would have picked him if he was 160!"

What does the crew remember about George Pocock?

Morgan: "George brought out the best rowing technique that Al had taught us.

"Not only was he a genius at rowing, but he could psyche someone up just by talking to him."

Bob Will: "I'm sure we would not have won the Gold Medal without George's help. We weren't rowing all that well, and there's no question that he helped us immensely by tweaking Westlund's rigger and a number of other things."

Giovanelli: "George Pocock was one of the greatest men I ever met. He set goals for your life. I remember him more as a friend than a coach."

Post Olympics

Giovanelli: "When we came back after the Olympics, Bob Martin had graduated.

"Al Morgan became the varsity coxswain, but only one oarsman had graduated from the IRA-Champion varsity, and it was Bob Will who was moved right in to take his place.

"Warren and I came back from the Olympics and were immediately put into the third boat!

"I finished my career rowing in the jayvee, three seats in front of Warren, the best stroke I had ever rowed with.

"Oh, but we won the IRA again in 1949, and the varsity only came in second."

One additional irony about Warren Westlund. In the entire history of University of Washington rowing, very few freshman squads have ever won the annual Class Day Race, and only one class has ever won it all four years.

That was Westlund's Class of 1950.

Stan Pocock: "I attributed their continued success to their stroke, Warren Westlund. Around such a high-spirited man, one just could not be down in the dumps. His ebullience set the tone for the entire squad."

And yet, after Ulbrickson pulled him from the varsity stroke seat in the middle of his sophomore year, Westlund never again saw the inside of the varsity boat.

At Washington, you can earn a varsity letter either by being a member of the varsity eight or by being a member of an IRA Champion jayvee crew or by rowing a postseason race as a freshman, as the Class of 1950 did. The five members of the Class of 1950 who rowed in those four winning Class Day crews, Allen Morgan, Warren Westlund, Rod Johnson, Bob Young and Norm Buvick, were all awarded four varsity letters. In the entire history of Washington crew, only two others have ever achieved that!

But of the five, only Warren Westlund had also won the IRA four times. His unique record at Washington:

1947:

  • Stroke of the Class Day-winning freshmen. Stroke of the IRA-winning freshmen.
  • Stroke of the third-place crew in the Lake Washington Regatta.
1948:
  • Stroke of the Class Day-winning sopho-mores.
  • Stroke of the IRA-winning jayvee.
  • Stroke of the Olympics-winning USA coxed-four.
1949:
  • Stroke of the Class Day-winning juniors.
  • 2-seat in the IRA-winning jayvee.
1950:
  • Stroke of the Class Day-winning seniors.
  • 2-seat in the IRA-winning jayvee.

Four Class Day wins and four IRA victories, not to mention the Olympic Gold Medal. Washington's most successful rower ever.

After the Olympics, the Clipper Too went back into storage at the Conibear Shellhouse until the 1952 Trials, when Westlund, Will and Morgan reunited for one last try at more Olympic glory. Stan Pocock "went out with them a few times to give them a few pointers."

Bob Will: "I had two kids, but Westlund, myself, and Martin got back together to try again for the Olympics. Buvick and Rod Johnson replaced Morgan and Giovanelli because Gus was married, and Bob was out of school.

"We got the Washington Athletic Club to sponsor us. We used our same shell, which had already been twelve years old in 1948.

"We rowed by ourselves all spring, and once in a while George or Stan would come out with us, and whenever they did, you could feel the difference. You think you're rowing hard by yourself, but it's really tough, so I've always maintained that if there had only been two shells, whichever had been better would have gone to the Olympics because we just didn't have that extra incentive in training.

"We made it to the finals at the Trials, but the UW undergrads and Navy beat us. They were about eight inches apart, and we were about three-quarters of a length behind them."

Stan: "The four had not trained nearly hard enough. They were going at it with enthusiasm, but it was too little too late."

The Clipper Too, however was not finished. Loaned to Australia, it won the 1954 British Empire Games in Vancouver at the age of 18! They called the boat "bloody marvelous."

The following year, Stan Pocock borrowed it to boat a group of guys who would eventually evolve into Lake Washington Rowing Club.

The Clipper Too may just be the most storied boat George Pocock ever built!

Looking Back

In 1966, George Pocock reminisced about their 1948 summer at Henley:

"I was never a coach at the University of Washington. I built their shells from 1912 on, and the only time I ever coached was in 1948. Al wasn't going to England, and he said, 'George, will you look after this four-oared crew for me?'

"And I did, and that was the only time.

"They were a well-rounded crew before I ever said a word to them, and they won quite readily.

"That was a fine crew. It was Warren Westlund, Bob Martin, Bob Will, Gus Giovanelli and Al Morgan.

"Yeah, they were a grand crew, a lot of fun, too.

Giovanelli: "Wes became a heavy smoker and died of lung cancer before he needed to have his knees replaced as the rest of us now have. We all miss him terribly.

"The four of us who remain are still tremendous friends. There's something special that binds a crew together, and I'm very grateful to have experienced the Olympics with such great teammates."




See Also
The Pocock Generation, Part II
(August 15, 2006)

The Pocock Generation
(August 8, 2006)

The Evolution of the Rowing Stroke: Author's Note
(August 8, 2006)

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