Preview: Pocock Classic Racing Shells

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What do you get when you cross a violin maker with a boatbuilder? We imagine it might look something akin to what happens at the Point Hudson Boat Shop in Port Townsend, Washington. We visited Steve Chapin who has taken over producing the Pocock Cedar Racing Single after the Pocock Co. made it’s last wooden shell in 2003. Pocock Racing Shells set the standard for most of the 20th Century in Collegiate and Olympic rowing. With equipment and cedar stock from Pocock and his own boatbuilding skills, Steve Chapin is carrying the Pocock Classic Cedar Single tradition into the 21st century.

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16 Responses So Far to “Pocock Classic Racing Shells

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    John McDaniel says:

    Now I wish I would have visited this shop when I was in Port Townsend a couple of years ago. As a sailor I spent most of my time with Brion Toss and studied his rigging shop. Read the “Boys in the Boat” many times and now understand better the skill behind the Pocock story. I live in Wisconsin but now will have to visit again to see this wonderful craftsman. Thank you for the Great video.

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    Ronald Coddington says:

    Rowed in college competition in the middle sixties. The eights and fours were all Pococks. Our very early spring practices in the river had us rowing through floating ice. Tricky for the oarsmen, but the thin-skinned shells held up well. During one practice while approaching the dock, the stiff snow melt current carried us past the dock face, and the prow rammed and jammed into a gap between the dock boards. Of course, the rest of the boat swung downstream. The bending ripped the bow open and thoroughly splintered the forward end of the hull. We backed off and quickly regained the dock, pulled the boat before it flooded and rolled it to drain the ice cold water right onto our warm workout gear. The forward two or three oarsmen got most of that bitter deluge. Our rigger, an amazingly talented gentleman named Herb, perfectly repaired that hull, the damage not one bit visible, and it was back in service in a matter of several weeks. I often today wonder what happened to those many Pocock eights and fours that abounded in the college rowing circuits way back then. Great video. Thanks.

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      Guy Harper says:

      Check the RIRSC active inventory in the PT Marine Center. Lots of very old restored Pocock shells of all types. They just acquired a 1956 yellow fiberglass four/quad+ with the original wood interior that Stan Pocock experimented with when George went to the Australian Olympics. This shell has been doing well in all races…at 63 years of age! Very nice that this particular shell will row as a quad or a four for many coming years! Enjoy a row while there.
      Guy Harper

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    Jack Kintner says:

    Did a story on Chapin for a magazine several years ago, glad he’s still at it. It was 50 years ago in 1967 that the UW gave PLU a Pocock shell for free as long as they could get it to Tacoma themselves. So they carried it from Green Lake to the Ship Canal and rowed it to Tacoma. In December. See today’s (6-18-17) Seattle Times for the story.
    Also, the thing that impressed me about Chapin’s work is how he’s able to keep the shells straight without using lasers. Just a small amount of deviation would render a boat unseaworthy due to its not running straight. Amazing skill.

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    jim hilty says:

    I just read “The Boys in the Boat” this summer and the Pocock shells are prominent in this wonderful story. There is woven into the story a brief biography of the Pococks and there construction of the shells. This interesting and informative video explains segments of the construction of these long boats that were difficult to envision during the read. Great book and equally great video.

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    Steven Hall says:

    Great video. I wanted know how he filled the gap (made by the saw blade) left between the two shell halves. I understood one side is already glued to the frame so can’t be moved and sliding the other unglued halve up to meet the edge would change the shape… Wouldn’t it?

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    Jackson Bergamo says:

    Mr. Steve Chapin this is even true Lutie, each boat built is a true Stradivario. Thank you for producing this film was excellent. Congratulations!

    Best regards,

    Jackson Bergamo

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    Dan Schafer says:

    Awsome video, I would like to see a video on repairs of cracks and holes, thanks for taking
    time to enlighten us!

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    Eric Warner says:

    I just finished reading “The Boys in the Boat” (I recommend it as a good read!) in which the Pocock shells feature heavily. I stumbled across this video this morning. What an incredible boat! Thank you for posting the video and thanks also to Steve for keeping this tradition alive!

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    Harvey Kerstein says:

    Fantastic video, thanks. Should you go to the Point Townsend Wooden Boat Show you can stop by and see the operation, it is an amazing art.

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    Leslie Smith says:

    I had heard that Pocock’s wood singles were getting a new lease on life, fantastic. I wish I was in the market for a new boat but I have both an original Pocock single and a more recent Graeme King, a priceless combo.

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    Tim Huebner says:

    Steve’s skill and craftmanship are amazing. I had the honor of visiting his shop a few years ago whilst in Port Townsend for a rowing regatta. Already an owner and rower of two wooden singles (not made by Pocock but by Graeme King–a builder in Vermont whose work should also be videographed for posting), I was prepared to be awed and I was not disappointed. One feature of wooden racing sculls which few may appreciate is how well damped their structure is. Plastic high-tech materials always seem to result in booming, clanking and pinging while sculling at speed. Wooden racing shells sound like ‘snick, whoosh and splash’. Wood, glue and varnish make for strong and non-resonant boats. Their light materials and scantlings belie their strength. And their strength allows the athlete to magnify their speed with the leverage of the long oars. Wooden Pococks are referred to as Cedar Speeders. The boating community is blessed to have a craftsman like Steve continuing to create these exotic beauties for knifing across our waters. Thank you for a great video treat. Warm regards.

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    Richard Hayhoe says:

    The video gave me the inspiration and illustrated a good method for applying heat shrink polyester fabric decks to canoes and open water performance rowing craft. Very useful for that detail alone, beyond the sheer impressiveness of the boats and the building methods, craftsmanship and equipment.

  • David Tew

    David Tew says:

    I started out rowing in wood Pococks and knew no different. Then when I got to college there were numerous other wood shells by Staempfli, Donoratico, Garafalo and King. The difference among all the designs and their various capabilities, including the best way to row in them, was noticeable and challenging.

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    Irv Mac Dowell says:

    Great video. When we started the Swan Creek Rowing Club in Lambertville, N.J., we bought two Pocock 4’s from a local boys’ school. Boy were they heavy! When the women used them, we had to add two or three extra folks just to get them to the water. They creaked and groaned magnificently when they were rowed with their 12 foot wood oars. We used them for a couple of years before replacing them with glass and Kevlar boats. Sadly, the Pococks, like so many of their brethren, were sold as restaurant decoration.

    Best regards,

    Irv Mac Dowell


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