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Cygnet Rowing Club
on the Tideway since 1890
CSSC Sports and Leisure

Wally Whedal's Rowing Alphabet

8th January 2020

As the Club approaches its 130th anniversary, members will doubtless be relieved to hear that we will not be publishing an updated version of the club history. However, your club historian felt that this occasion should not be allowed to pass without regaling members with a gem from the 1920s - the 'Wally' Wheldal Rowing Alphabet - which has only recently come to light.

A lifelong post office employee, Wally Wheldal is the best known of the original ten founding club members. By the time of his death at the age of 82 in 1947 he had given fifty-eight years of service to Cygnet.

An enthusiastic, if unremarkable, oarsman, he was a tireless club officer from the outset, serving as captain and secretary while representing Cygnet on countless committees in the wider rowing world. An early advocate of the National Amateur Rowing Association, he nurtured the club through the First and Second World Wars, helped negotiate the freehold on the club's plot on Hamhaugh Island and always clung to the vision that Cygnet would one day secure its own clubhouse.

Following his retirement from the post office in the mid-1920s, Wally turned his attention to coaching with some success in Fixed-seat Vllls and the early HoRRs. Inspired by these victories, he penned the following rowing alphabet, which appeared in the Civil Service Sports Journal in 1927:

Is Attendance, regular, punctual, of course; Your word is your bond, have no cause for remorse

The Beginner, firm, true and smart; Forerunner to success, make a good start!

The Curve inwards, which must be in the wrist; To keep arms to the body, without sway or twist

Drop of hands at the finish, made without doubt; Else the water is on you, you're late and swing out

Is the Ease with which all movements are done; Of tug and tear there must be none

The Finish, on which your weight hang; End with a swish, and not with a bang

Is the Grit, which you must show; When your stroke spurts, never say No

For Hands, to the oar square and true; Not roaming about; anywhere wont do

The Interest you take in your work; Try to improve, you must never shirk

Is the Jump that must be on the boat; As you "catch it together" with powerful stroke

"Keep off the Water" shouts Coach with his might; Don't grip the oar at the feather, let it ride light

For Length which you must insure; Swing lightly from hips, your object's secure

Is your Mentor, for the time, beyond reproach; A Crew's best chum should be their Coach

The Nippiness you must display; At the beginning and "Hands Away"

Is the Oar to be rowed square from start to finish; If it is not, the boat's pace will diminish

For the Precision at which you must aim, Think of the others, "Play the Game"

? "I am in trouble, I do so try"; Ask your Coach, he'll tell you why

The Recovery, swing light and free; In line with the keel, not across the knee

Is Self-discipline, That's on the right track; Many crews fail because this they lack

For Time, which you must keep; Legs, Body, Hands & Feet

The Unity the Crew must display; If success is to come to them on "The Day"

V Is the Vigour with which shoulders must work; Right from the base without shrug or jerk

For Wrist which must freely play; To row your oar square, and get hands away

Is a puzzle. We'll no Xcuse make; Blame not others, but your gruel take

Are the Yells you hope to hear; As you shoot past the post a Winner clear

ZI s the Zeal with which all work must be done; Pull together, Success will come

A product of its time, note that there is no mention of the 'slide', this being the era of fixed-seat rowing. Nevertheless, Wally's rhyming couplets bear more than a little relevance to rowing technique today. In his case, the coach was indeed the crew's best chum and Wally went on to coach many crews, male and female. Today Wally Wheldal's legacy lives on in the guise of a trophy in his name awarded annually to that member whom the captain considers has shown exceptional sportsmanship and endeavour.

Wally Whedal
Wally Whedal