Orange Coast College’s crew program officially had its birth in
1953 and, though it began in obscurity, it has grown into one of the most
successful programs in the nation.
In 1953 OCC’s governing board leased land adjacent to Lido Channel
in Newport Beach for the construction of a crew base. For two years OCC
rowers had difficulty penetrating competitive circles, but in 1955 crew
action began in earnest. The Pirates met the San Diego Rowing Club—and
From 1953 to 1963 OCC was the only two-year community college in the nation
that participated in crew. Since that time, several other community colleges
have tried the sport for a season or two; however, today OCC remains the
only community college with a complete rowing program.
In 1957 OCC acquired two shells that had competed in the 1932 Olympic
Games and purchased a brand new shell. One year later the Pirates toppled
Long Beach State and UCLA.By 1960 Orange Coast College found itself competing
with the likes of Long Beach State, Loyola University, and UCLA—and
winning. For the past 39 years the Bucs have scheduled regattas on a regular
basis with USC, UCLA, Long Beach State, San Diego State, UC Irvine, Washington,
California, Oregon, and British Columbia.
Orange Coast College crews over the years have won more than 80 percent
of their races.
The Pirates competed in the Henley Royal Regatta in Great Britain—the
world’s premier rowing event--in 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1979, 1981,
1988, 1990, 1992, and 1996. The Bucs are the only community college crew
to participate in this 152-year-old event. In 1977 and 1992 the Pirates
defeated three international crews before losing in the semi-finals.
The Pirates have competed in the century-old Dublin Regatta (1971, 1973,
and 1975? In 1971 they became the first crew to sweep all four events
in the regatta, taking the Senior and Junior eights, Senior fours, and
On 12 occasions OCC has competed in the National Intercollegiate Rowing
Association Regatta at Syracuse, New York, the only community college
in the country to do so. In 1968 OCC’s JV eight took second in the
nation to the University of Pennsylvania. In 1969 OCC sent a Varsity four
to Syracuse and finished a close second to Rutgers. In 1970 and 1972 the
Pirates took an eight and a four to the IRA. In 1978 the Frosh four and
Frosh eight made the finals of the IRA. In 1980 OCC’s Freshmen eight
placed first--Coast’s first national championship--while the JV
eight finished fifth.
The college completed a major reconstruction of its waterfront facility
in Newport Beach several years ago. The facility now has a completely
modern boathouse and is equipped with locker room with showers, 20 rowing
ergometers, weight training~ung equipment, 12 singles, 5 pairs, 5 fours,
11 eights, and 3 catamaran coaching launches.
The crew raised $6,000 in 1971 to purchase the sleek 58-foot Karlisch
shell, “Blitzacher,” built in West Germany. It was the first
European eight-oared shell on the West Coast. In 1973 they purchased a
sectional eight-oared Karlisch, “Yankee,” which was kept in
storage in Great Britain. The crew received three major gifts from Maruja
Baldwin, which significantly upgraded the rowing program--the eight-oared
shells “Maruja’, and ‘’Audacious” and six
Following the Henley Royal Regatta in England in 1979, OCC sold its eight-oared
“Yankee” and commissioned one of the internationally famous
English Carbocraft eight-oared shells. Maruja Baldwin made a gift of a
second Carbocraft VIII to the crew, and both were christened on March
16, 1980— “Resolution” and “Lionheart.”
In 1981 Coast crew acquired its first Carbocraft IV, thus beginning a
new generation of four-oared shells. And Joseph M. Thomas presented the
Coast crew with a new Vespoli VIII, christened “My Fair Lady,”
in honor of his wife, Jill Thomas, in September 1981.
Coast crew has traveled five times to Boston to compete in the prestigious
Head-of-the-Charles Regatta. In 1976 the Pirates placed 12th of 38 boats
in the Intermediate eight-oared shells race. In 1980 the OCC oarsmen were
20th in a field of 40 in the Men’s Championship Eights, which included
the national crews of the United States and West Germany. In the fall
of 1982 OCC placed 15th out of 40 in the same event, finishing ahead of
many of the top varsity crews of the East Coast.
At the San Diego Crew Classic in April of 1981, the Pirates defeated the
Harvard and Yale JV eights for the first time in school history. In the
1982 Classic the JV eight once again beat Harvard and Yale.
In the fall of 1983, OCC christened a new Vespoli USA eight-oared shell,
gift of Joseph M. Thomas, “Henley Victory.”
Spring 1984 marked the greatest single acquisition of new shells in Coast
crew’s history. Richard Berg gave us a new Empacher VIII and so
did Maruja Baldwin. Both were “state-of-the-art” racing shells,
the best in the world. Joseph Thomas gave the varsity oarsmen six Vespoli
singles for advanced development of single scullers. Jim Warmington and
his father, Ed, each gave us a Vespoli IV; and to complete our fleet of
IV’s, the crew fund purchased one more, named for long-time friend
of the crew, Pat Hadden.
In 1985 the Orange Coast College crew was invited by the People’s
Republic of China to be the first American crew to go to China. The Junior
Varsity eight flew to China and competed at the Tjinjin Lake course in
Shanghai, winning the final 2000-meter race by a length. The eight-oared
shell “Resolution” was presented as a gift to the China Sports
Federation and Shanghai Rowing Association.
The 1986 season featured a new format for the Newport Autumn Rowing Festival
and a new spring regatta at Stanford. For the Newport Fall Regatta we
combined the oarsmen from Coast, Irvine, Long Beach, and Stanford for
the three-mile race, which was a great success. In April Coast was invited
to the first Stanford Redwood Shores Crew Classic, where we recorded our
first dual meet win over Eastern power Brown.
The 1987 year was an exciting one, with the Freshmen winning the Derek
Guelker Memorial Cup at the San Diego Crew Classic; the Junior Varsity
winning the first two-mile race with Stanford at Stanford; and all four
Coast crews winning their events at the UCLA Crew Classic. The special
gift of Joe Thomas was the new VIII, “Legend,” with a wonderful
dinner-christening at Newport Harbor Yacht Club. The year was capped with
the most successful total crew effort in Coast’s history--wining
the Pacific Coast Championships in the Junior Varsity eight, the Freshmen
eight, and the Varsity four, defeating Cal, Washington, UCLA, Stanford,
and a host of others.
The year 1988 was a monumental one for Coast crew. All Coast crews at
the San Diego Crew Classic placed first, with the JV winning for the first
time. Their performances were repeated at the 100th anniversary of the
Long Beach Regatta and again at the Newport Regatta. Coast defeated Pennsylvania
and Wisconsin for the first time in dual races at Stanford. The crew of
1987-88 was among the most successful and fastest in Coast’s history.
The Junior Varsity accepted an invitation to race at the Henley Royal
Regatta and Reading Regatta, placing first in the latter.
In 1989 the Freshmen eight won the San Diego Crew Classic for a third
consecutive year; the sophomores raced “Victoria,” the new
Filippi VIII, gift of James Warmington. The Pacific Coast Championships
provided the opportunity for one thrilling finish after another. The Freshmen
win over Washington was a tremendous triumph of quality rowing and determination.
The JV’s race with the University of Washington was characteristic
of the Coast oarsmen’s toughness, their resounding improvement throughout
the year, and their pride in doing their absolute best! The IRA Championships
provided the last challenge for the Freshmen eight. Defeating Eastern
Sprint Champion Pennsylvania in the heat, the Pirates were National Champion
runners-up in a close race with Princeton.
1990 was a history-making year--the gift of two extraordinary VIII’s;
the bright red Vespoli “D” hull, presented by Joseph Thomas;
and a beautiful new Empacher, the gift of James Warmington. It was also
the first time that a crew at Coast won the Pacific Coast Championship
as freshmen and then repeated that championship in the JV category as
sophomores. That success enabled them to race successfully at the IRA
and to continue their season at the Henley Royal Regatta. Certainly, this
crew was among the fastest of Coast crews.
1991 included an overall win of the Palmer Cup at the Newport Regatta.
It was also the first experience of Coast crews rowing at Annapolis against
Syracuse, Navy, and Cornell.
1992 marked the first major change in blades in 20 years. The “hatchets”
made a significant difference and a fast varsity VIII was made even faster.
After a highly successful Southern California season, Coast’s Varsity
VIII finished 1/10 of one second to Washington at Opening Day in Seattle.
At Redwood Shores, all the Coast crews were successful over Stanford,
and the Newport Regatta was equally rewarding. After the Pacific Coast
Championships, the varsity continued on to the Henley Royal Regatta, where
they won race after race right into the semi-finals.
1993 provided another incredible Coast finish at the Pacific Coast Rowing
Championships. After 21 minutes of video review by regatta officials,
the come-from-behind victors of the Freshmen VIII race, by .02 second,
was Orange Coast over Washington. This marked the 32nd victory at the
Western Sprints by an Orange Coast College crew. The crews earlier had
won the Palmer Cup at the Newport Regatta for the eighth consecutive year.
1994 - The year marked the entry of a new Empacher VIII, MARUJA, which
was successfully campaigned through the season and finished just one-half
second behind Washington in the Pacific Coast Championships while breaking
the course record at Natoma in the JV event by 14 seconds--5:49.3. Two
former Coast oarsmen, Chip McKibben ‘85 and Fred Honebein ‘88,
were members of the gold medal winning USA World Championship VIII.
1995 - Coast Crews won the Palmer Cup, representing the best effort of
nine colleges at the Newport Regatta and the Freshmen and JV won the Pacific
Coast Championship. This was also the first year that OCC raced in the
Varsity category - placing third on the West Coast.
1996 - The crew named the new VIII Richard II for Richard Berg, who provided
the much-needed VIII for the Freshmen/Novice crews. The Varsity raced
at the Head of the Charles in Boston, raising their standards and expectations
for the year. For eleven years in a row, OCC won the Palmer Cup for the
best overall performance at the Newport Regatta. It was an historic first
for OCC at the Pacific Coast Championships, winning the Frosh/Novice VIII,
the JV VIII, and, for the first time in Orange Coast rowing’s 42-year
tenure at the College, the Varsity VIII.
1997 saw the Crew repeat the grand sweep at the Pacific Coast Championships:
Varsity VIII, 2nd Varsity VIII, Novice VIII. OCC also retained the Palmer
Cup for the best performance at the Newport Regatta, for the 12th year
in a row.
1998 - The year of “El Niño” -- Coast was able to retain
the Palmer Cup.
1999 - This year Coast acquired four new pairs and five new Vespoli IV’s:
Pat Hadden, Louise Marscellas, Connie Johnson, Walter Rolsma, Robert Moore.
2000- Marked the first time that Coast Crew traveled to Lake Quinsigamond
in Worcester Mass., to compete in the Champion International Collegiate
Championships. The Novice VIII won a bronze medal; the Varsity IV finished
2001 - Several new things happened this year. The Crew raced at the extraordinary
Head of the Charles River in Boston to kick off the season. Secondly,
BLITZACHTER returned -- in the form of a new Empacher VIII. $23,000 was
raised by friends and alums of the Crew. And, we lost a bow (repaired!)
to a seal, which charged across the forward 18 inches of RICHARD II (the
shell still won the PC championships!). And finally, Coast raced at the
1996 Olympic Rowing Site in Atlanta, Georgia. All crews made the finals.
2002 - Extraordinary. The deaths of Brian Sweet and Rob Jordan slowed
our beginnings as we mourned our losses. But soon, perhaps propelled by
the sadness, the crews found their bearings and went on to have the best
season yet. The Varsity won every race it entered in California, including
the Cal Cup at the San Diego Crew Classic and the Western Intercollegiate
Championships by a length. The Novice VIII’s also had excellent
success, winning their categories at the WIRA regatta as well, and then
going on to win the Avaya Regatta in a real triumph at Princeton.
2003 - The fall began with a trip to Boston and a 6th place finish, the
best ever for OCC, at the Head of the Charles. The Varsity and Novice
Eight once again made the finals at the San Diego Crew Classic. The Newport
Regatta was two tenths of a second from a five event sweep and the WIRA
Championships saw all four eight’s medal, with the Novice Eight
winning by open water. Coast returned to compete in five events –
making four finals at the Pac 10 and PCRC Championships.
2004 – The crew raised over $10,000 to purchase ergometers and oars this fall. Races were won and lost by a few inches several times this year. Coast raced more boats in more regattas than at any time in its history. The Varsity winning the Cal Cup at the San Diego Crew Classic and then winning the WIRA Championships was a very significant achievement. The second Novice was undefeated this year finishing with gold at WIRA while the Novice and JV were second. The Varsity, JV and Novice went on to participate at the East Coast Athletic Conference National Invitational Rowing Championships in Worcester Massachusetts.
?2005 – Illness, injuries and academic accidents plagued the crew in the fall. As winter practice gave way to the anticipation of spring racing, the crew began to blossom. In early March, we traveled to Spokane for the first time to race Gonzaga Univeristy. Close racing by the Varsity, JV and Novice boats and a marvelous trip. The dual races with UCLA and UCI were very close. The Crew Classic, the Newport Regatta and The WIRA Championships were great regattas for all Coast crews. The Varsity eight raced up to their potential and rowed very well. The JV raced well and was split into a pair and a four for WIRA due to a Varsity injury. The Second Novice Eight participated in the San Diego Crew Classic and then went undefeated the rest of the season winning The Newport Regatta and WIRA. Likewise the Novice Eight lost only to Cal in San Diego and won the rest of their races going on to the ECAC Championships, qualifying for the finals before the Regatta was cancelled due to bad weather.
2006 – The new empacher viii “Butch Pope” was christened. The Varsity had a great year winning the Cal Cup at the Crew Classic. The First Novice won the Newport Regatta, WIRA Championships and placed third at the ECAC. The Second Novice won at WIRA and went on to be the National Champions in Worcester Ma. winning the ECAC. Trips to Cal, Davis and Opening Day in Seattle rounded out the year. It was a very good year. “Hell Ya!”