“An early morning visit with the Lake Washington Rowing Club,” 1960 cartoon by Stu Moldrem of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Scoll Down for Detailed Description)

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“An early morning visit with the Lake Washington Rowing Club,” 1960 cartoon by Stu Moldrem of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Scoll Down for Detailed Description)
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Image by The Happy Rower
"An early morning visit with the Lake Washington Rowing Club," 1960 cartoon by Stu Moldrem of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

This drawing includes the crew athletes who took the US to Gold Medals in the 1959 Pan American Games in Chicago (Trials at Detroit) and the 1960 US Olympics in Italy:

Conn Findlay was partner of Dan Ayrault in their 1956 Olympic coxed-pair gold medal race. He also paired with Dick Draeger in the coxed-pair 1960 Olympic gold medal effort, with Kent Mitchell as coxswain.

John Sayre (stroke), Rusty Wailes (3 seat), Ted Nash (2-seat), and Dan Ayrault (bow), won the gold medal in the 1960 Olympic coxless-four event. All were LWRC members except for Rusty Wailes.

The Lake Washington Rowing Club has been a part of Seattle, Washington, scene since 1958. LWRC was started by men who wanted to compete at the 1960 Olympics, in Rome. A team, representing LWRC, rowed in the 1960 Olympic Trials and some went on to represent the U.S. at the Olympic Games that year.

Women joined the Club in 1963, and in 1966 a group of nine LWRC women hosted and won the first National Women’s Rowing Association (NWRA) Championships. In 1969 the LWRC women again won the NWRA Championships, and became the first USA women’s crew to travel to Europe to compete in the World Championship.

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Lake Washington Rowing Club

[The text below is extracted from the narrative story at this Row2K site: www.row2k.com/content/Lake_Washington_RC.pdf]

During the 1950s, Seattle, Washington increasingly became a Mecca for athletes seeking Olympic glory.

On an August afternoon in 1958, Dan Ayrault and Ted Frost collared an interested listener and made a two-way speech:

“Rowing talent is going to waste here,” said Ayrault, then a Navy lieutenant from Tacoma and a Gold Medal winner in the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne.

“After four years, a college oarsman has just reached his prime,” said Frost, a Seattle accountant and 1954 captain of the University of Washington crew. We have provided no means of keeping oarsmen in competition in an area which is the natural place to furnish this country’s best rowers for international events.”

Ayrault, an ex-Stanford oarsman, and Frost rounded up all the ex-college paddlers they could unearth – most of them ex-Huskies – and formed the Lake Washington Rowing Club.

Ayrault, Conn Findlay‟s 1956 Olympic partner in the coxed-pair, and Frost immediately recruited Stan Pocock to coach the new LWRC and Harry Swetnam, strength trainer at Shultz‟s Gym in downtown Seattle, to supervise land training.

LWRC soon accommodated grads from Washington, Cal, Stanford and several Eastern colleges, many of who were members of the armed forces who had been stationed in Seattle in order to train for the Olympics. For their boathouse, they refurbished a lean-to against the back of an old hangar. The old lean-to had formerly served as the varsity and lightweight dressing rooms when the UW crews used the hangar as their boathouse in the 1930s.

One of the first to join Lake Washington Rowing Club in 1958 was John Sayre, stroke of the 1958 University of Washington Varsity. John led by example. He was physically strong, had a great sense of leverage, and he was happy to raise the rate until everyone else folded.

Teammate Tom Nash: “When John decided to “go,” our four went! John had two gears, race and super race, and all of us in the boat had better be ready. If John was a length up or three lengths down, I’m not sure there was any alternative possible in his head. He simply threw the switch, and it was time to win.

“Stan Pocock used to say, “If you want to be in our top boat, each of you needs to be asked for by the others, as I only want a crew that has confidence in all members.”

“We all knew who would stroke the boat. John Sayre.”

In 1959, LWRC sent two coxed-fours, a coxless-four and a coxed- and coxless-pair to the Pan-American Games Trials in Detroit. Sayre stroked the coxless-four:
Sayre: “We were on the Detroit River for the Pan-Am Trials. One of our boats lost the first race when they shouldn‟t have, so Stan goes out and drifts blocks of wood down each lane because Lake Washington had been assigned Lane 5 or 6 in each race, while Detroit Boat Club got Lanes 1 or 2. The drifting blocks showed the Lane 1 side was considerably faster. There were currents and sand bars and whatever, and so it was a fixed race in our view.

“When we got to our race, we were so mad we couldn’t see straight. We took off, caught a huge crab, took off again, smacked into Vesper, pulled away and tried to get ahead of them, and smacked into them again. I saw a huge piece of oar go flying in front of me and thought, “I hope that’s not one of ours!”

“The ref came over and said, “Lake Washington, you do that again, and you’re disqualified!”

“We eventually got past Vesper and cut across five lanes and all the other crews to get over to Lane 2. Nobody said boo. The referee disappeared, never to be seen again.

“Detroit Boat Club was in the lead at the time, and I think we won the race by about
two feet. We had probably rowed about 2,500 meters!”

Despite the lanes, three LWRC boats, the coxless-pair and both fours, qualified for the Pan Am Games. All three Lake Washington qualifiers won Gold Medals in the 1959 Pan American Games in Chicago, including LWRC co-founder Ted Frost in the coxless-pair.

By the 1960 Olympic Trials, Lake Washington‟s dominance was complete. They won all the sweep small-boat Olympic trials, both pairs and both fours, a feat never equaled, before or since, by a single club.

The LWRC coxless-four, their 1960 priority boat, was an all-star squad: As expected, in the stroke-seat sat John Sayre, 24, UW varsity stroke at Henley and in Moscow in 1958 and 1959 Pan Am Champion in the coxless-four. In the 3-seat was Rusty Wailes, 24, who had rowed 7 in the 1956 Yale Olympic Gold Medal Eight and 1959 Pan Am Champion in the coxless-four.

In the 2-seat was Ted Nash, 27, from Boston University, University of Washington and the U.S. Army and 1959 Pan Am Champion in the coxless-four.

In bow sat the only addition to the 1959 LWRC Pan Am Champion four, Dan Ayrault, 25, former Stanford team captain, LWRC co-founder and captain, and a member of the 1956 Olympic Gold Medal Coxed-Pair. All four were mature athletes with years of rowing experience, probably the only non-European crew which on paper approached the statistics of the continental oarsmen.

Nash, only a Pan Am Champion and the last man to make this august boat, was the least polished of the four. His initial leg drive was just slightly more aggressive than that of his LWRC teammates.

Lake Washington‟s crackerjack four-without-cox made it four victories in the first five finals by spread-eagling their field right from the start. They won by four lengths over a Navy crew that steered out of its lane somewhat but still finished ahead of Princeton and the Menlo Crew Association four.”

Final Results:

1 Lake Washington 7:16.0
2 Navy 7:27.3
3 Princeton 7:32.1
4 Menlo Crew Assn. 7:35.0

International coxless-fours of that era still tended to go out hard, rowing their fastest 500 of the race in the first 500. The 1960 Lake Washington crew was part of a new trend in international rowing, tending to row more even splits, but this meant they often trailed the field early and had to come from behind.

Lago di Albano was nestled within the caldera of an extinct volcano outside of Rome, and in the opening Olympic heat, Hungary pulled out half a length on Great Britain and a length on the USA in the first 500 meters. By the 1,000, the Barn Cottage Four of Mike Beresford, Colin Porter, John Vigurs and Chris Davidge had pulled back to within a deck of Hungary, with the Americans only a foot or two behind them in third place.

Just past the half-way point, the Americans hit a buoy in the tailwind swirling within the high walls of the volcano, and Ted Nash‟s oar split down the length of the thin blade in use in those days. In the third 500, as the crippled U.S. fell half a length off the pace, the British continued to slowly reel in the Hungarians.

Georg Meyers: “The four-without-coxswains are the toughest to steer. And the Yanks proved it. In their preliminary, they veered into a buoy, and Nash broke an oar. They continued on, rowing two-thirds of the course with the broken blade flapping. The Lakers ended up a distant second to Great Britain.”

Stan Pocock: “With the broken piece hanging on by the copper tip, Ted had to wrestle with the damaged oar all the way down the course – an almost superhuman effort. Still, they finished second to Britain. After the race, the British stroke [and captain], Christopher Davidge, came over. He had heard that Ted had broken a ‘blyde’ and asked whether this had affected their performance. Ted quickly broke in to say that it had not, and that they had done their best. Ted congratulated him and his crew on their win and urged them to go after the [favored] Germans in the final.

“Later, in private, he showed me his arm. It was blown up like a balloon from the struggle he had just endured. His effort on the water that day was a great display of fortitude, his actions on shore a great display of gamesmanship.”

With only one crew advancing to the final from their repêchage, the Americans lined up against that summer‟s European Champions from RC Germania Düsseldorf of West Germany.

Meyers: “Germany had goofed off in its preliminary and was forced into the repêchage after a photo finish with the Italians.”

Georg Meyers spoke to Dan Ayrault before the repêchage: “These are the toughest crews I ever saw,” said Ayrault, who rowed with Findlay and Kurt Seiffert for a Gold Medal in Melbourne four years ago.”

Down by nearly a length of open water to the fast-starting Germans after 500 meters, Lake Washington set out to reel them in during the middle 1,000. They finally caught up with about 600 meters to go and won by open water, advancing to the final and breaking by nearly four seconds the new Olympic record set by the British just the day before.

In the Olympic final, Great Britain led the Soviets by a deck after 500 meters with the United States again more than a length and a half behind the leaders. The British then quickly slipped to the back of the field with their bow-seat weakened by illness. In their absence, the Soviets took over first, and as the field as a whole slowed, the U.S. took over second by the 1,000, three seats ahead of the Italian Moto Guzzi crew but still a deck of open water down on the Soviets.

The third 500 saw the Americans pull away from Italy and close to within three-quarters of a length of the Soviets, while the Czechs moved up even with the Italians for third.

The fourth 500 was all USA and Italy. As the Czechs faded out of the medals, the leading Soviets were passed by the Americans with 300 meters to go. Just before the finish, they were also caught for the Silver by the Italians.

Sayre: “The race was very much what we expected it to be. The Russians led half way because they had the fastest start. We cannot match their starts. Our plan was to stay within closing distance. We finally overtook them and rowed as hard as we could to take the lead. It was a tough race.”

Ted Nash has glorious memories of the race: “That finish by our four was the best racing I ever felt in my life, before or since! We had just about caught the Russians, but the Italians were still open water ahead of us, but we felt so good we were all screaming. Sayre already had us at 40 with 350 to go, and the three of us behind him were yelling, “Up! Up! Up!” and John was loving it! . . . “The lake is inside of a volcano crater, and we could hear the cheers from the finish area. Half were yelling “Italia! Italia!” and half were yelling “Oosa! Oosa!”

“When we pulled even with the Italians’ 2-man, there were maybe eleven strokes to go, and we beat them by two meters of open water. That’s how fast we were going! At the finish we couldn’t stop. We felt so good we did maybe twelve or fifteen more strokes until the officials called to us. They were afraid we were going to hit the marble wall at the end of the lake.”

This was the first time the United States had won this most prestigious of European events at the Olympics since 1904 in St. Louis when only American crews were entered. No U.S. crew has won it since.

Dan Ayrault today credited the broken oar for winning the Gold Medal. “The Seattle crew finished second to Great Britain in a preliminary heat after Ted Nash snapped an oar against a buoy. If that hadn’t happened, we would have won that race easily and probably gotten fatheaded. It scared us to death, but made us concentrate on steering a straight course and working like dogs to win our way back through the repêchage heats. We probably would have had the same attitude as the British crew. They beat us and felt they had the world by the tail. They finished fifth in the final.”

Ted Nash: “When we got out of the boat, all four guys without thinking reached for the other guy’s hand. We all held hands, and we hadn’t done that before, ever!

Arthur D. Ayrault 1935-1990
After graduating from Stanford and serving in the Navy, Dan Ayrault became a teacher of math and history and coach of rowing at the Lakeside School at the north end of Lake Washington while he was rowing for LWRC. At Lakeside, he “continued the tradition of the Lake Washington Rowing Club and their unorthodox emphasis on weight training and dry-land conditioning, meaning the oarsmen plunged into this program using barbells and running flights of stairs,”
Later, after earning a graduate degree at Harvard, he returned to Lakeside School as its headmaster until his early death in 1990.

Ted Nash: “Dan was a superb oarsman. He rowed both sides and sculled. He made no mistakes and was an excellent steersman and would hold our small boat course even when racing bow-to-bow with crews in adjacent lanes. Two Olympic Gold Medals is not just validation. It is close to perfection! We missed him leaving us so early in his life.”

John Sayre: “Dan died the earliest of all of us. He was the headmaster of Lakeside School here in Seattle, headmaster of Bill Gates and Paul Allen, kind of got them going under his wing. He had a heart murmur. They put a pacemaker in, and something went wrong. Wham! He was dead in his 40s. “Dan had two Olympic Gold Medals!”

Richard D. Wailes 1936-2002
Sayre: “Same thing with Rusty. He also had two Gold Medals! Rusty was my closest friend for fifty years, and we did all kinds of things together. We had a boat and a fishing operation in Alaska. We had cabins on an island in the San Juans. Losing him was not just losing a friend. It was almost like losing a brother. We knew each other so well, our good points and our bad points, that we almost didn’t have to talk to each other when we were doing something together. We knew exactly what the other guy was going to do.”

Nash: “Here was a tall 6’7” giant of a quiet, warm, friendly man. Rusty had won his first Gold in his Yale 1956 Melbourne Olympic Crew and was really enthusiastic to go to the Pan-American Games in 1959, leading to the Rome Olympics in 1960.

“I was always confident that Rusty would stay glued in rhythm to our stroke, John Sayre. He was deliberate in each catch and release of every stroke. Rusty thought like an engineer and crafted his strokes like an artist.

“Rusty was very close to John in many ways, and they made a near-perfect stern pair. Their families and lifestyles blended, and they later had many years of adventure and hobbies.

“Rusty was a coach’s dream, I think, in that he was like Dan Ayrault, making no mistakes. He was mature, religious and friendly to all. His personality charmed everyone. He became the matrix center who held the crew together when we were in the roughest of water and winds.

“We raced in what was then called an ‘Italian rig’ with both starboard oars one behind the other. It may have been the first of its kind out of the USA at an Olympics. In the tandem behind Rusty, I felt in touch with Sayre because Rusty was so exacting. Rusty also had a way of keeping us all on Stan Pocock‟s program and schedule in case Stan had to stay at his work late. Rusty saw to it that we never cut any corners or took mileage out.

“In later years on Lake Washington, Rusty rowed in masters‟ crews, and that‟s where he died, doing what he loved.”

Sayre: “He went way before his time. I got one of the first calls, and it was a total shock. He was in better shape than ninety-five percent of his age group.

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