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Navy's First Lightweight Crew

The Beginning of Lightweight Rowing in America: 31 May 1919

The following information is captured by Tom Weil (Yale '70) in his article "Some Firsts That Weren’t – The Beginning of U.S. Collegiate Lightweight Rowing" (22 Jan 2015) published on Hear the Boat Sing.

In 1917 Canadian oarsman and coach Joseph Wright, who had been hired to coach at the University of Pennsylvania the previous year, issued a challenge for collegiate crews to add 150-pound rowing to their eight-oared events. Wright had seen weight class rowing in Canada, and he added 150-pound crews to his Penn program in 1916. As he stated, "This would give the needed opportunity for a great number of good men who try out for the sport yearly, but who are too light to make either the first Varsity or Freshman eight.”

Wright's challenge issued, Yale seated a 150-pound crew and put 12 May 1917 on its schedule to race Penn on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia - which would have been the first collegiate lightweight race in the United States; however, WWI intervened and the event never occurred.

Now fast forward to 1919, and the American Rowing Association finally added a 'Special Eight-Oared Shells (150 Lb. Crews)' rowing event to their Fifteenth Annual Regatta of 31 May 1919 on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia.

And this date, 31 May 1919, now marks the first known record of an intercollegiate men's lightweight crew race in the United States.

Tom Weil, Yale '70, and Yale lightweight oarsman 1966-1970, writes about this event here. And, Tom includes in his article a copy of the program in which two 150-pound crews entered: the University of Pennsylvania and the United States Naval Academy.

Rowed over the Henley distance, Navy won this inaugural 150-pound event by rowing in at 7:09.8.

Rowing for Navy was a Plebe-coxed eight of four Segundos, one Youngster (stroke), and three Plebes with one Segundo and two Youngster spares.

In the American Rowing Association's Sixteenth Annual Regatta of 1920 Navy and Penn met again but this time were joined by Princeton and Yale - and Penn rowed to victory on the day.

Information about Navy lightweight rowing from 1919-1954 is sparse. Navy lightweight boats are known to have rowed several more times in the 1920's and several times in the 1930s but very little archival information is available to learn details....

...But, the rowers in the boat of Navy's First Lightweight Crew are known for our posterity!

The First Navy Lightweight Crew

Position Oarsman Class Weight (lbs)
Bow John Monas "Colorado PAT" Maloney 1922 148
2 Paul Sylvester "Whitey" Thomson 1922 149
3 Frank Hersey "Herskey" Conant II 1920 150
4 Harold Sheffield "Van" vanBuren 1920 150
5 Arthur Edmond "Art" Pew, Jr. 1922 150
6 Barnett Thomas "BT" Talbott 1920 150
7 Frederick William "Mac" McMahon 1920 150
Stroke David Carleton Sloane 1921 148
Cox Donald Louis "Frenchy" D'Oyley 1922 110
Spare Paul Ralph Heineman 1920 150
Spare Arthur Percy "Perc" Earle 1921 150
Spare Frank Russell "Frankie" Talbot 1921 150

And, for U. S. lightweight rowing posterity, the first Penn lightweight crew is also captured.

The First Penn Lightweight Crew

Position Oarsman Weight (lbs)
Bow Harold Shevitz 143
2 Waldo L. Miner 144
3 John L. Geis 142
4 Edgar H. Ertel 144
5 Joseph W. Scott 150
6 Samuel D. Goodis 149
7 Henry H. Parcher 150
Stroke Russell McCormack 150
Cox Howard McLoughlin 103