Speaker To Chronicle Dynasty Of Rowing Boat Builders

By: Elizabeth Van Wye

Jim Pocock. COURTESY PHOTO

HARWICH – “'The Boys In The Boat'…The Rest Of The Story,” set for Thursday, Nov. 9 at 7 pm at the Pilgrim Congregational Church, is the next program in the church’s speakers series. The speaker is Jim Pocock, great nephew of famed boat-builder George Pocock, who built the boat that won the gold medal in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

The 2013 best-selling book “The Boys In The Boat” recounted the story of the eight-oared crew team from the University of Washington, representing the United States, that narrowly bested the German and Italian teams to win the eight oar gold medal race in the 1936 Olympic games. The “Boys In The Boat” chronicles both the hardships and struggles of the boys and, crucially, the development and fine-tuning of the boat, on the way to their award winning race.

Built by the young British born boat builder George Pocock, who also served as mentor to the team, the boat was the first of what would turn out to be 21 Olympic gold medal winning boats built by Pocock and his brother Dick over the more than five decades that followed.

The brothers were raised by their father, who grew up in a family of boat builders in England, and they became his apprentices at an early age. It was at their father’s shop in Teddington, England that the brothers learned the techniques that would come to dominate racing shell construction for decades. In 1911, with jobs scarce in their native England, George and Dick moved to Vancouver and then Seattle where the boys began building boats on their own.

George Pocock sold his first shell to the University of Washington in 1912 and wound up setting up his business there. With Pocock shells, the University of Washington team took their first national title and a dynasty was born.

Jim Pocock grew up on the southern coast of Connecticut where his grandfather Dick Pocock built boats for Yale, winner of two Olympic gold medals. His great uncle George, featured prominently in the book, was the more well-known brother, who for five decades built the racing shells that every college in America, other than Yale, rowed in.

Pocock knew both men well. “George and my grandfather Dick would get together and talk about rowing,” he recalled, “and I would listen in.”

In addition to amplifying some of the stories in the book, Pocock will focus on the many family stories not covered, including the early history of rowing in the United States. He will also talk about the work the brothers did for the Boeing aircraft company, when George was a foreman in a key assembly plant. His presentation will last “just under an hour,” and will include many family photos as well.

Pocock has had a career as an ordained Congregational minister, leading churches in Connecticut, California and Wayland, Mass. He and his wife Beth live in Gloucester, where he is founder and president of Elevate New England, a non-profit with a working program that helps urban public high school students graduate with a plan for the future.

Pilgrim Congregational Church is located at 533 Route 28 Harwich Port. The program is open to the public; a donation of $10 is suggested.