As to the general effect of rowing on strength and health I may perhaps be pardoned if I cite my own case, not because there is anything specially remarkable in it, but because it bears on some of the questions that have been raised, and I can speak about it with certainty. In early childhood I had a serious illness which considerably retarded my physical development. At school, however, I took my part in all sports, played three years in the Cricket XI. and in the Football XV., and won several prizes at the athletic sports. I went to Cambridge in 1874, when I was three months short of nineteen, and immediately took to rowing. I was certainly not a particularly strong boy then, though I had a fair share of activity. I rowed persistently in Eights, Fours and Pairs, at first with labour and distress, but gradually, as time went on, with ease and pleasure, and I found that the oftener I rowed the greater became my powers of endurance. I ought to add that I never rowed in the University Race, but I have borne my share in thirty-six bumping races, as well as in numerous other races ranging in distance from three-quarters of a mile to three miles. I believe that the six consecutive races of a May Term call for endurance at least as great as the single race from Putney to Mortlake. My actual muscular strength, too, increased very largely, and has ever since main tained itself unimpaired. I have found that this exercise has, in fact, strengthened and consolidated me all round ; and I can think of no other exercise that could have had upon me the same salutary effect that I am justified in attributing mainly to rowing—an effect which has enabled me to endure great exertion, sometimes in extremes of heat or of cold, without the smallest ill result, and has brought me to middle age with sound organs, a strong constitution, active limbs, and a good digestion. There are hundreds of other men who could, I doubt not, give a similar account of themselves.
Out of this main discussion on the health of athletes there sprang a subsidiary one, which proved of even greater interest to rowing men. It was started by Mr. Sandow, the eminent weight-lifter and modern representative of Hercules. Mr. Sandow, stimulated by a disinterested love for his fellow-men in general, and for those of Cambridge University in particular, wrote an article in the St. Yanzes's Ga2ette in which he put forward his own peculiar views on the proper system for the training of athletes. He ended by declaring that if he were allowed to train a Cambridge crew according to his system (it being understood that rowing instruction was at the same time to be imparted to them by a properly qualified teacher), he would guarantee to turn out a crew the like of which had never before sat in a boat. We were to infer, though this was at first sight not obvious, that this crew would easily defeat an Oxford crew trained on a system which Mr. Sandow evidently considered to be absurd and obsolete.
According to Mr. Sandow's system, as he subse quently developed it, the members of this crew were to have complete license in all things. They were to eat what they liked, drink what they liked, smoke as much as they liked, and, in fact, make their own good pleasure the supreme law of their existence. All that Mr. Sandow stipulated was that for some two hours a day during a period of several months these men were to put themselves in Mr. Sandow's hands for the purpose of muscular development all round according to the methods usually employed by him. Any spare energy that might then remain to them might be devoted to the work of rowing in the boat.
Now, in the first place, there are certain elemen tary difficulties which would go far to prevent the adoption of this experiment. The crew is not selected several months before the race ; and even if it were, it would be practically impossible for the men composing it to spare the time required by Mr. Sandow. After all, even the most brilliant of us have to get through a certain amount of work for our degrees. There are lectures to be attended, there is private reading, not to speak of the time which has to be devoted to the ordi nary social amenities of life at a University. Sport has its proper place in the life of an under graduate ; but it does not, and cannot, absorb the whole of that life. Yet if a man is to spend two hours with Mr. Sandow, and about two hours and a half (I calculate from the moment he leaves his rooms until he returns from the river) on the exercise of rowing, it is not easy to see how he will have sufficient vigour left to him to tackle the work required even for the easiest of pass examinations. I can foresee that not only the man himself; but his tutors and his parents might offer some rather serious objections.
But I am not going to content myself with pointing out these preliminary difficulties. I go further, and say that the whole proposal is based upon a fallacy. The method of training and development that may fit a man admirably for the purpose of weight-lifting, or of excelling his fellow-creatures in the measurement of his chest and his muscles, is utterly unsuited for a contest that requires great quickness of movement, highly developed lung-power, and general endurance spread over a period of some twenty minutes. It does not follow that because a man measures forty-two inches round the chest, and has all his muscles developed in proportion, he will therefore be better fitted for the propulsion of a racing-boat than a man who in all points of development is his inferior. If I produced Mr. C. W. Kent incognito before Mr. Sandow and asked whether it would be feasible to include this gentleman in an eight-oared crew, Mr. Sandow would probably laugh me to scorn. Mr. Sandow could doubtless hold out Mr. Kent at arm's length with the greatest possible ease. I am perfectly certain that Mr. Kent—if he will pardon me for thus making free with his name—could do nothing of the kind to Mr. Sandow. Yet I am perfectly certain, too, that, in a severely contested race, Mr. Kent—admittedly one of the finest strokes that ever rowed—would, to put it mildly, be more useful than Mr. Sandow. All gymnasium work, and even the modified form of it patented by Mr. Sandow, must tend to make men muscle-bound, and therefore slow. Skilled rowing consists of a series of movements which have to be gone through with a peculiar quickness, precision, and neatness. To be able to go through Mr. Sandow's eight weight exercises, to lift weights, to carry horses on your chest, may indicate great muscular strength, but it has absolutely nothing to do with being able to row. If a rowing man requires some exercise subsidiary to rowing, he would, in my opinion, be far better advised if he devoted some of his spare time to boxing and to fencing, exer cises which necessitate immense quickness and perfect combination between brain, hand, and eye, than if he were to spend time in building up his body with such exercises as are included in the Sandow curriculum. But, in the main, rowing must develop for itself the muscles it requires. It is an exercise which, when all is said and done, can only be learnt effectively in a boat on the water. It is thus, and thus only, that a man can acquire the necessary movements, and perfect himself in that sense of balance and of rhythm which is as necessary to a rowing man as muscular strength. My experience leads me to the conclusion that men who, though naturally well-framed and pro portioned, are not afflicted with excessive muscle, are more likely to be useful in rowing than the pet of a gymnasium or the muscle-bound prodigies made in the image of Mr. Sandow. I may cite as examples such men as Mr. R. P. P. Rowe, Mr. R. 0. Kerrison, Mr. W. Burton Stewart, Mr. W. E. Crum, Mr. J. A. Ford, and Mr. C. W. Kent.* All these men acquired their unquestionable excellence as oarsmen by the only possible method—that is, by long practice of rowing in boats. Even an exercise so nearly resembling actual rowing as the tank work practised in the winter by American crews has very serious dis advantages. It might be supposed that it would exercise and keep in trim the muscles required for actual rowing ; but its effect is to make men slow and heavy, faults which they have to correct when they once more take to the river.
With regard to Mr. Sandow's revolutionary pro posals about diet, smoking, and hours, I have only this to say. We rowing men have shown time after time that by adhering to what I do not hesi tate to call our common-sense system of rules tempered with indulgences we can bring our men to the post in the most perfect health and con dition, absolutely fit, so far as their wind and powers of endurance are concerned, to take part in the severest contests. What has Mr. Sandow shown that should avail, with these results before our eyes, to make us exchange our disciplined liberty for his unfettered license ? In the mean time we shall very properly hesitate to take the leap in the dark that he suggests.
I trust that the President of the C.U.B.C. will, in future, conduct the practice of his crew according to the methods that have proved their efficacy over and over again, and that he will not listen to the voice of Mr. Sandow, charm he never so unwisely. Non tali auxilio are boat-races to be won.