By Kourtney de Haas, Austin Rowing Club
One of the rotating topics featured on this blog will be the rowing biography of various Austin Rowing Club members. We start this week with Hamilton Richards.
KdH: How/where/when did you discover the sport of rowing?
HR: Having been around boats all my life, I don’t recall when I first propelled a boat while facing backwards, but my first outing in a sliding-seat boat would have been when I was 13. The school I was attending had had a rowing program for many years, my father had rowed there, and my grandfather, a teacher of English and Latin, had rowed and coached rowing there, so it would have been a pretty good bet that I would row (also, I couldn’t throw or catch a ball well enough to have any future in the other spring sport). During my student days there, a new boathouse was dedicated to my grandfather, with a plaque containing the famous verse from Virgil’s Aeneid, “Nunc, nunc, insurgite remis!” (“Now, now, lean into your oars!”)
HR: When is easier to recall than how: around 1983. Joanne and I had moved to Austin in 1978, and I suppose I must have noticed a boat on Town Lake, as it was called then, and tracked it to its landing spot, which was under the MoPac bridge.
KdH: Do you have any outstanding memory or story, good or bad, related to rowing that you can share with us?
HR: A few years ago I was visiting my brother Jim for a week in Ollala, WA, and he had very kindly put a Maas Aero at my disposal. He had been a rower in years past, but a broken wrist was proving troublesome, so I was sculling solo. The first few days I rowed in the Colvos Passage, between Olalla and Vashon Island, the water was splendid–like a mill pond for hours at a time–and the rowing was wonderful. No motorboats, beautiful forested shoreline, blue skies. Conditions were perfect for a faster boat, but I was content in the Aero, in whose seaworthiness I had complete confidence.
The third or fourth day, I decided, for no particular reason, to take my cell phone along, and a good thing it was. After an hour or so, up sprang a brisk north wind, a flat calm became 2-foot waves in no more than 10 minutes, and the Aero’s cockpit was awash. The self-bailer was useless–water was pouring in over the gunwales far faster than it could drain out. Fully aware that I had found the Aero’s limits, I fought my way to the nearest shore, where there was a sort of beach and a house. I needed to know where I was, so I could tell Jim where to find me, but there was nobody home. There was, however, a car in the driveway with its doors unlocked, so I took the address from its registration. I called Jim on the cell phone, he found me, we loaded the Aero onto his car, and one of the rare truly lousy rowing days was over.
KdH: How often do you row now, and in what types of boats?
HR: Nowadays I’m a confirmed single sculler, preferably in boats made of wood, the structural material that’s been under development for 400 million years. I like to think that I row four times a week, but it’s probably more like three.
KdH: Where is the best place you have ever rowed?
: For me Lady Bird Lake
is tied for best with Squam Lake, NH. The latter is beautiful and cool, instead of swans and cormorants you see loons and eagles, and you can drink the water. On the other hand, it is sometimes infested with motorboats, especially on weekends.
Probably the worst was the Nashua River, in Massachusetts. In recent years, thanks to the EPA, the Clean Water Act, and efforts of stalwart local citizens, it has been miraculously cleaned up*, but when I rowed on it, the water was gray and opaque with waste from upstream paper mills. Since it was already so polluted, the towns along its banks saw no harm in dumping their untreated sewage into it. We were told that if we ever fell into it, we would have to undergo a rigorous course of immunizations.
: Do you have (or have had in the past) any special roles at Austin Rowing Club
or other rowing organizations?
HR: I was Director of Sculling, back in the days when ARC scullers were a despised minority. Example: If a sweep crew damaged a boat, c’est la vie, but scullers were expected to pay for any repairs.
More recently I’ve been supplying and operating the software ARC uses for managing regattas and for keeping track of boat reservations and usage.
KdH: Do you see yourself still involved with the sport of rowing in five years? If yes, do you have any goals you can share?
HR: If age-related deterioration doesn’t accelerate too much, I should still be rowing in five years (I’ll be only 76!). And that’s a good enough goal for me.
KdH: If you were to be reincarnated as a piece of rowing equipment, what would you want to be?
HR: Heh. A bow ball, of course.