On February 24, 2018, members of the 1958 team that defeated the Soviets in Moscow returned to Conibear to dedicate our newest Men’s Pocock 8+ in the Washington fleet: the Swiftsure/Alumnus. On hand were John Bisset (cox); Roger MacDonald (3-seat); Dick Erickson’s (2-seat) wife Irma; and Bob Svendsen (bow), along with extended family and friends.
Why two names for the shell? Donated by the Ambrose family in the spring of 1958, the original shell was christened as the Alumnus and shipped off to Henley. But once the men arrived, the team and coaches decided to name her the Swiftsure because it was “less clunky and sounded better” according to John Sayre, the stroke of the team (and future Olympic gold medalist). The press picked up the name, and from then on every report coming back to Seattle noted the men rowing in the Swiftsure.
The team would lose at Henley to the Soviets but were invited for a re-match in Moscow. Once behind the Iron Curtain, the men became less interested in the shell name, and more focused on exacting revenge. Which is what they did, rowing the Alumnus—clearly spelled out in photos on the bow of the shell— across the line on the Khimki Reservoir in one of the greatest upsets in the history of collegiate rowing. “It was the Alumnus that won in Moscow, so let’s celebrate that,” said head men’s rowing coach Michael Callahan. “But everyone knew her as the Swiftsure, so we are keeping that as well.”
‘Title IX Sisterhood’
Washington’s women’s rowing team christened its newest eight-oared racing shell – Title IX Sisterhood – on May 4, 2018 on the eve of the 32nd annual Windermere Cup on the docks at Conibear Shellhouse. The new Empacher racing shell – and its name – were donated by a group of alumnae who began the Washington women’s program in the 1970s.
The UW men’s and women’s teams and a group of 1970s-era alumnae gathered for the traditional UW shell dedication ceremony, with water from the Montlake Cut finish line poured on to the shell (poured this time from the 2017 NCAA championship trophy) and an inaugural row from the varsity eight crew.
“Recently the women rowers from the 1970s have started to gather at reunions in greater numbers, especially with the start of the Women’s Alumnae Brunch the last few years,” said Linda Cox Fornaciari ’78, who helped spearhead the project of fundraising for the new shell. “Personally, six of my teammates and I have been getting together once or twice a year for 40 years. Rowing at Washington has always created incredible bonds in the boat; it is the essence of crew. But the bonds that we women forged in the ’70s are particularly strong. We were the ones who began the new era of Washington women’s crew as a varsity team and faced initial resistance even as we challenged ourselves to the utmost and won championships.”