& 1876. As told in Harper's magazine these
were the largest regattas ever assembled to that point in the United States.
The 1876 race sprint style race consisted of 16 Colleges (simultaneous
start, 16 lanes across) racing in "sixes" along a three mile
course. At this regatta, Hamilton rowed against perennial powerhouses
Harvard, Princeton and Yale, as well as their traditional small college
rivals Union, Williams, Trinity, and Wesleyan. After the completion of
the New York State Thruway in 1910, the canal was filled in, bringing
the first chapter of Hamilton Crew to an end.
Under the leadership of a small group of dedicated and ambitious students,
Hamilton Crew experienced a rebirth in 1983. Lacking equipment, coaches,
and funding, the entirely student-run team was driven completely by spirit.
At this time the club of over forty students traveled over a half an hour
every day to Delta Lake located in Rome, New York. There the team operated
out of Delta Lake State Park storing their wooden shells on the ground.
In 1987, the team moved locations to an old airport in Marcy, NY that
sat on the banks of the Erie Barge Canal. An ideal body of water stretching
from Albany to Buffalo, the canal provided the team with flat water and
unlimited mileage. While the rowing conditions were ideal, the team's
equipment still remained outdated. Hamilton continued to row in its two
wooden shells, a four and an eight, often borrowing boats from other teams
in order to compete. The highlight of Hamilton Crew's early years was
a world record setting long distance row that began in Utica at 5:30 in
the morning and ended in Albany. The team of 10 and a safety launch rowed
148 miles, shattering the old record of 130 miles, and raising 14,000
dollars in the process. This row enabled the team to purchase a used boat
from Northeastern. Interestingly enough, the boat until recently remained
in use and bore one of the founders' names.
In 1990, the team moved to its present site at a NY state boat launch
along the Erie Barge Canal in Rome, NY. With the generosity of parents
and alumni, the team was able to purchase a trailer as well as a used
boat from Yale. Known as the "Blew (and later Blue) By You",
the boat built quite a reputation (both good and bad) in the rowing community.
However, the team still struggled in competition against other programs,
which, during the late 1980s and early 1990s, were vastly improving as
their funding was increased. Professional coaches were hired by these
teams and, in most cases, varsity status was awarded by their colleges.
The fall of 1993 marked a turning point for the program, where both coaches
and rowers stepped up the intensity of their efforts. This new spirit
in the fall of 1994 coincided with the first ever college sanctioned fundraising
effort. The newly organized Friends of Hamilton Crew contributed both
capital and hard work to help the team realize a long time dream of having
their own boathouse. The boathouse, with room for ten eights, was dedicated
in April of 1995 to the student coaches whose energy and commitment made
it possible. With the construction of the boathouse and the continued
support of the Friends, the team was able to significantly improve its
equipment both in quality and number. With these improvements came increased
participation and the team grew from 45 to 75 rowers from 1994-96.
As one might expect, with increased support, participation, newly acquired
equipment and the unquenchable "Blue Crew" spirit came improved
results. Beginning in the fall of 1995 Hamilton Crew became more recognizable
at regattas for their efforts on the water, not just the spirit they displayed
on shore. However, the team was still not satisfied. In order to really
improve, it needed to set its sights on varsity status and a professional
coach. Upon the graduation of the last student coach in 1996, the team
was able to convince the College to enter into a partnership with Friends
of Hamilton Crew to provide a salary for a part-time coach.
In the Fall of 1998 another dream was realized and the Hamilton Crew program
began a new chapter in its history. The program was elevated to the status
of varsity sport and hired its first full-time and assistant coaches.
The program did well under the leadership of Joe Bilyea, an accomplished
rower and a coach with a great deal of experience. Under Coach Bilyea,
the team began its transformation of attitude from club to varsity and
was rewarded with small victories during his time at Hamilton. In the
Fall of 2001, the arrival of Mike Gilbert, a coach with a winning record
behind him and a competitive spirit, further intensified the drive of
the team. Now, after two years of rebuilding, this relatively young team,
with the support of the Friends and its coaching staff, looks forward
to proving its skill and producing record-breaking results in the 2003-2004