85th Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta Program Guide

By Bill Fitzpatrick Returning in 1974 as defending Dad Vail Heavyweight Eight Varsity champions when we arrived in Philly on Mother’s Day weekend, the UMASS men’s rowing wanted nothing more to finish up Mike Vespoli’s last season as our coach with a victory. It was evident to all that Mike was very wary of complacency. We worked hard all winter with weights and in running the towers in the Grad Research Center. We had lost four powerful seniors from the crew that had blown away the field in the 1973 final. Men’s Rowing was, and still is a “club sport” at UMass, which means we had almost no budget. Mike coached us as a grad student, and we held raffles to help buy the ergometer that Mike wanted and a shiny new fiberglass eight (one of the first five built by Shoenbrod). Mike held up one of his U.S. rowing t-shirts as the prize for the top seller of raffle tickets, and I still have it in my drawer. Mike named the boat JPT (Just Plain Tough). We had won all of our races that season, but many of them were tight. We probably didn’t have the same overwhelming strength as the “73” crew, but we still had good power, and I believe we had some heart. We had a former prep school coxswain, Bruce Kline who had shown up out of nowhere to help us win those close races. Kline was dominant and ruthless in a race. He would laugh as he took advantage of every opportunity to get an edge, like a little Napoleon. When Mike tried to brief us on race strategy before the finals, Bruce took charge and then told all of us, “we’ll pull hard to get ahead, and then we’ll pull even harder to stay ahead.” We didn’t take the lead at the start, but we pulled ahead at 1200 meters and stayed ahead, winning by a half boat length. Bruce had it right again. Some of us were ill the night before but we all made it to the Blue Jay Restaurant on race day morning. Our coach, our stroke, Steve Loomer, and the coxswain, were probably the keys to our success, but the rest of us, Paul Gowen, Bill Fitzpatrick, Rich Clair, Kevin Conner, Jack Watkins, Peter Flood, and Peter Berg all pulled hard. Our stroke passed away far too soon in life, and he is still missed by many. Those of us who are still alive from that crew are getting old now, but we will always have our fond memories of the Dad Vail Regatta in 1974. 50YEARSAGO 1974 UMASS Crew Comes To Dad Vail Trying To Defend Men’s Varsity Eight Crown