84th Annual Jefferson Dad Vail Regatta Program Book

As homophones go, rowers are among those people best suited to differentiate between the words “crews” and “cruise.” There is nothing restful and relaxing…there is no cruising…when an athlete commits to competing on a crew team. Thematically, that concept applies to the 1973 Dad Vail Gold Medal winning UMass Men’s Varsity Eight, a crew celebrating the Golden Anniversary of their monumental victory on the hallowed waters of the Schuylkill River. That the boys in the boat… senior stroke and co-captain Jeff Allen, co-captain and senior Bill Moran, sophomore Bill Fitzpatrick, grad student Tony Joneck, junior Rich Clair, senior Al Flanders, sophomore Paul Gowen, sophomore Peter Berg and coxswain and sophomore Roger Bonsall…burst from the start to hold a never relinquished open water lead over a field that included defending champ and arch rival The Coast Guard Academy after just 500 meters might have appeared easy. But the end result was more about adapting to change and committing to hard, grueling routines than the final margin of victory. As the team gathered in the fall of 1972, longtime UMass coach Mike Faherty stepped aside in favor of Mike Vespoli, who came to Amherst fresh off competing for the US at the Munich Olympics. “Mike Faherty deserves a lot of credit for bringing to program to where it was,” recalled Flanders. “But I remember he had called a few of us to his office the previous season and said he thought he had taken the program as far as he could.” Rowing had always been a hard sport featuring none of the accolades that accompany most other collegiate sports. Vespoli took that hard training, and made it harder, as the new head coach declared early and often that winning the “Vail” was the only acceptable result. “For most of us,” Moran said, “it’s not a high glory sport. It’s a very rewarding sport, and an experience you only really appreciate later in life. Only those people who have rowed know what I mean. But the feeling doesn’t go away.” “The training that preceded even getting into a boat was harsh,” Fitzpatrick confided. “Running up 22-story buildings was one of the more punishing training events. By the time we reached the 12th floor, each leg felt like it weighed a couple of hundred pounds, and then just after that, my lungs felt like they were on fire.” Once most (but not all) of the ice was gone from the school’s home water on the Connecticut River, seat racing began begat assignments as the overall team members competed for the coveted seats in the “big boat.” 50YEARS AGO The Journey Justified... UMass Wins 1973 Dad Vail Gold