No matter how much you believe something should go one way, a lot of times, it goes the other. Wait long enough and perhaps you will find, as we have, things tend to work out in the end. Divine intervention, Karma, or just plain dumb luck, the “how” of how everything gets back to being okay again remains a mystery to us. We’re just thankful it happens, especially after losing someone like David Challinor.
Like James Stewart was to Hollywood or John Wooden was to basketball, David Challinor was our symbol of excellence and a much simpler time. Challinor started rowing at age 14, and became a member of undefeated Harvard University crews from 1940 – 1942. He graduated from Harvard a year early to serve in World War II. A loving husband, father, and grandfather, Challinor also became perhaps the most successful assistant secretary in the Smithsonian Institution’s history. Credited with establishing programs that continue to foster the work of our nation’s top conservationists and naturalists, many say Challinor’s uncommon approach to leadership was the reason for his success. He believed that, by nurturing those around him in their own pursuits of excellence, he could move the entire institution forward. Sounds just like a sweep rower to us.
Challinor didn’t row again until he was in his late 40s, but once he did, he competed throughout the next four decades in sweep and sculling events for Potomac Boat Club (PBC). At the prestigious Head of the Charles Regatta (HOCR), Challinor won his event thirteen times, nine times in the Men’s Veteran Single. Seeing Challinor race at the Charles was a source of pride for us at PBC, but he was an inspiration to countless others across our sport. Behind each competitive effort were years of experience, continuous hard work and practice. In fact, he was such an ongoing presence at the club that after he passed away in March 2008, we had a hard time believing we would never see him walk through doors again.
Eventually, we took Challinor’s familiar red Van Dusen, named Joan after his wife, and hoisted it into the rafters of the ballroom. Only then, with his boat hanging in the heart of our club, did we finally have the collective strength to figure out a way to honor him. And at first, the path seemed crystal clear. What could be more perfect than honoring Challinor and his racing legacy by naming the Men’s Veteran Single event at the HOCR after him? He had won the event so many times his name was practically synonymous with the event anyway. This was the way it should be, we thought, and the directors of the HOCR said, yes, it would be done … for $100,000.
While no price tag could be placed on the love and admiration we have for David Challinor, we simply did not have that kind of money. The news was yet another heartbreak for those of us stubborn enough to believe that the Charles was the only way. Fortunately, Board Member Tim Baxter spoke to the good people at the Masters National Championship Regatta. Soon, the Challinor family and Bob Fergerson, designer of the medal for the Charlie Butt Annual Scullers Head of the Potomac, were collaborating on a beautiful new trophy. We paid a small administrative fee to the regatta, and the David Challinor Trophy for the Men’s Heavyweight F 1x event at the Masters National Championship was born.
Enter: Richard “Rick” Anderson. On August 13 2010, Rick unknowingly became the first winner of the David Challinor Trophy when he won the category F 1x event at Masters Nationals in Camden. Club President Bob Price was there to present the trophy and get Rick’s email address so that we could find out more about the trophy’s first winner. (That’s right. Back in August.)
But, you know, sometimes when you feel strongly that things should be a certain way, anything else feels like sort of a jip. We aren’t saying that Rick winning the trophy ever felt like a jip. No, not at all. In fact, we thought he looked like a very worthy winner. We are saying that, at the time, we, the Star, still felt like the Charles folks shouldn’t have put a corporate-sized price tag on naming the Men’s Veteran Single event after Challinor. (There. We said it.)
Anyway, a month or so later, we stopped pouting and got in contact with Rick. Not that it was a prerequisite for winning the trophy, but he seemed like a really good guy. We learned Rick was a former college sweep rower from the East Coast. A transplant to Michigan, Rick helped establish and coach a high school rowing program, and build a boathouse. Challinor would have liked that. A few email exchanges later, we found out that Rick’s son, Ross, had rowed at PBC for Reilly Dampeer in our Open Sculling Program. Small world! When we learned Ross had competed in the David Challinor, one of our racing doubles, we started to feel like, hey, maybe this was meant to be.
By the time we were ready to post something on the Star about Rick and his Masters Nationals victory, it was October, and the Head of the Charles was upon us. We sent Rick a note, hoping he would be racing up at the Charles; maybe we would get a photo of him on the water. As it turns out, he was indeed headed to the Charles. His event? The Men’s Veteran Single, the event Challinor had won nine times.
Well, we won’t tell you the ending of this chapter of the Challinor Trophy – you’ll have to read the interview below – but we bet you can guess. Call it what you want … Karma, Devine Intervention, Rick chalks it up to “a lot of hard work.” Challinor would have liked that, too.
We’re just happy it all worked out in the end, maybe even for the better.
Please give Potomac Star readers a brief description of where you are from, or live currently, and of your club.
Originally from Rhode Island, I moved to West Michigan in 1975 and quit rowing. In the fall of 1984, I and my family built a new home on a lake near Rockford just north of Grand Rapids. I purchased a new Owen single and started rowing once again. One thing led to another and soon I was involved in starting up the Grand Rapids Rowing Club. I served as its club president for more than 12 years.
In 1996, when my oldest son was in ninth grade, I started Rockford High School Crew using Grand Rapids Rowing Club equipment and an old Garafalo four I purchased from Grand Valley State University. We began with 11 kids and next to nothing. The team is now a varsity sport with about 100 rowers, its own boathouse and equipment. The boathouse serves the Rockford area; hence, I now row for Rockford Crew. After 13 years as head coach, I retired from coaching in 2008, to focus on my business and get back in competitive shape.
When did you start rowing? Why?
In the fall of 1968, I was a freshman at the University of Rhode Island (URI). All the campus organization held a joint club day so I went to see about getting involved in a club. I figured if I didn’t get involved in something then, I wouldn’t do anything outside of studying the whole four years. Outside the student union was a long object that attracted my attention. It was a wooden eight. Having spent my summers on Narragansett Bay, I loved to row. They basically told me to go away as I was too small. Obviously, I was not deterred and by the end of my freshman year I had made the first freshman boat. After college I learned to scull at the Narragansett Boat Club where I rowed for two summers before moving to Michigan.
Were there any challenges you had to overcome to train this year? What do you love about rowing (assuming you love to row, of course)?
As for challenges this year, time is still a factor. The need to earn a living too often gets in the way of training. At least now the coaching obligations no longer demand a major portion of my time. To win in our sport, and most other sports too, one must put in the time and effort. There is no getting around it. Rockford’s football team has shirts that say “Work to Win.” I used to wear one of those shirts to high school crew practices.
I love everything about rowing. Rowing is extremely demanding and introspective; it will test you in many, many ways; and, for some reason, it attracts a lot of very intelligent people. I love having rowing friends from around the globe. I especially love coaching high school novices. They make me laugh.
You mentioned in an email message to us your son trained in a boat named after Dave. Where does he row? Does anyone else in your family row? Do you ever get a chance to row together?
After rowing for GVSU, my youngest son Ross moved to Philadelphia and joined the Penn AC with hopes of making the National Team. This past summer, he rowed the 2x with William Cowles at PBC in Washington, DC, and was coached by Reilly Dampeer. Even if he doesn’t make the National Team, the move to Philly was still a success. He met his wife at a Penn AC party.
My older son Dean stopped rowing after high school. Ten years later, while working on his PhD at Carnegie Mellon, he decided to row again and joined a not so competitive masters group at Three Rivers Rowing Club. That led him to a regatta in Philadelphia and afterward to a party where he met a young woman to whom he is now engaged. He now lives in Philadelphia, too.
When schedules permit, I do row with my sons. At the 2009 Independence Day Regatta I rowed the masters 2x with one and parent/child 2x with the other. At the Head of the Ohio, I rowed the open 2x with one and masters 2x with the other. We have fun and we go fast.
Since this was the first year of the Challinor Trophy, it was important to us that our club president be there to present it to you in person (and we hear he ended up hightailing it through the MatNats foot traffic to make it). Did you know there was a trophy associated with the win in your event?
I did not know Bob had to race to the presentation site! Please thank him for his efforts. I appreciated his filling me in on the background of the award. I did not learn of the trophy until I saw it on the table while awaiting my turn at the awards ceremony. I was most pleased to see it. My fellow competitors were most jealous and said they would have rowed harder if they had know about the trophy!
You mentioned in an earlier email message that you thought Jim Dietz would give you a tough race. Were you surprised by your victory at the Charles?
I first rowed in the HOTC in 1969, while at URI. Since returning to rowing in 1985, I’ve raced it most every year. Since 1989, I’ve won 10 medals and maintained a guaranteed entry every year but one. As I said earlier, it takes a lot of work to win. There’s no getting around it. Until recently, family obligations, coaching, and work have prevented me from dedicating the time to rowing fitness. With the kids out of the house and no coaching obligations, I’ve been able to put the effort into the sport. It’s been a great season with four gold and one silver at the Masters Nationals and three gold at the FISA Masters (two of my races were canceled).
So, no, the victory was not a surprise. I was well prepared and believed I would finish in the top three. Having bow #1 helped me to see how others were progressing. From the start, I moved away from Jim Dietz but Bow #3, Jack Meyers, was rowing extremely well. Jack passed Jim Dietz at the Weeks Footbridge. Jack is also a former HOCR winner. By Weld, he had three seconds on me plus his 8 second handicap. I got three seconds back by Cambridge, but knew Jack still had the handicap advantage over me. I rowed the last 750 meters like it was sprint race at 34 spm around the curve and then up to 36-37 spm for the final straightaway to gain 8.6 seconds and win by .963 seconds. It hurt.
Well, fantastic job, Rick. Thanks and congratulations, again! We hope your sons were there to see it!
Both boys were there. The older, Dean, watched the racing action. The younger, Ross, rowed in the Penn AC Championship 8+. Dean may row at Fairmount in the spring.
Check out more photos from this story: