Last Saturday in October 1972. The OUAA rowing championships were going on at the Henley course in St Catharines. At that time Brock was a very new very small university and in competition with other more established universities we were used to getting whipped.
The university didn’t have a gym they could hold a basketball game in. The team went to a local high school to practice and play. Same for an arena, none on campus so down to the local city arena for practice and games. In off seasons trying to get pemier athletes to come to Brock was more than difficult. There was no phys-ed dept. very little in training facilities and no reputation as winners to lure prospects to come here to follow their athletic dreams.
But rowing was different. St Catharines has been a hot bed of rowing for a century and the local high schools all have programmes. At that time there was some friction between the local rowing club and Brock but at least we had a great course and good boats to row in. There was also a sense around the city that if you were going to row you did it well or went home.
Western University was at that time the prime rowing school. Every year they had a lot of St Catharines guys attending that formed the core of a very powerful team. They were used to winning regularly and sometimes that was aided by a head coach who felt it was fine to cheat if he could in order to win.
In 1972 however things were different. Brock had an incredible lightweight crew. So good in fact that they were winning both light and heavy varsity races. They were backed up by a junior varsity crew that also won every race that year except our own invitational regatta.
The men’s programme was the same each year. All races were in eights and they went novice men 20 pts
light weight varsity 40 pts
junior varsity 30 pts
heavy varsity 40 pts
Western won the novice race and then our lightweight crew won their race
Score western 20 Brock 40.
As we went out for the JV race we knew hat if we won it would clinch the overall championship. Even if Western won the heavy varsity it would have made the score 70 to 60. With this in mind we did the only thing that made any sense. We took out a bottle of champaign with us in the boat. Carrying the extra weight in the bottom of the boat under the coxies legs.
It was as always a tough trace but as usual that year we pulled away from Western and clinched the race and the overall championship for Brock. We pulled out the bottle, popped the cork and toasted the victory out on the water in front of the grandstand, a little celebration that got a bit of criticism from the purists but we had just won what at the time at Brock was a very rare provincial championship.
As we headed back to the dock the light weight crew was already racing in the heavy eight race which they won.
Final score for the day Brock 3 championships to Western 1 and overall winners for us.
The party that night as always at the end of the season was a total blow out.
Now 2012, This year marks the 40th anniversary of that victory and I was informed yesterday by the current Brock rowing coach that our crews are being inducted into the Brock sports hall of fame. Now we are trying to find all the crew members that we have lost touch with over the decades to have a bit of a party in June at the induction ceremony. I know our coach has passed away as has one of the women’s coaches of the time. Many of the crew members have gone off my radar but between the alumni association and our own contacts we hope we can find everyone to let them know and I guess the party won’t be quite as riotous as we were used to but it will still be nice to touch base again.
The one advantage we will have after all this time is that there is virtually no one left to dispute our lies when we brag about how fast we were.
Not that we’d ever stoop to that sort of thing. We didn’t need to. We were/ are that good.