Rowing: Crew toast 50th anniversary of glorious win

By David Leggat

Peter Masfen (left), coach Jack Stevenson, Alistair Dryden, cox Bob Page, Darien Boswell and Dudley Storey. Dryden says the crew were like family.
Peter Masfen (left), coach Jack Stevenson, Alistair Dryden, cox Bob Page, Darien Boswell and Dudley Storey. Dryden says the crew were like family.

Memories will be prodded and tales may grow in the retelling when a notable anniversary is celebrated at the Auckland Rowing Club tomorrow.

It was 50 years ago today that the Auckland club's coxed four of Dudley Storey, Darien Boswell, Peter Masfen and Alistair Dryden, with cox Bob Page, won the inaugural Prince Phillip Challenge Cup at the annual Royal Henley Regatta, which is being contested this weekend.

It is no stretch to suggest that result formed part of an important era in New Zealand rowing. The previous year an Oamaru club four had won the title at the Perth Empire Games; five years later Storey was part of the four which won the country's first Olympic rowing gold medal in Mexico City, the same regatta at which Dryden and Page were in the eight which finished an agonising fourth.

Oamaru received an invitation from Henley for the newly created event on the back of their Perth success, but when Auckland beat them at the 1963 nationals, the invitation was passed on.

Hurried preparations were made. The crew needed £3000 for the trip - the Reserve Bank inflation calculator equates that to about $120,000 now - which was raised by various means including selling coal, firewood and piles of topsoil, hosting dances and functions. They bought a boat in England for £300, a boat which still sits at the Auckland club and will be on show tomorrow. Having won a leadup regatta at nearby Marlow a week earlier, Auckland beat the Nereus club from the Netherlands first up. Racing at Henley, 48km from London, is straight knockout and head to head in two lanes. Auckland then eliminated the Nottingham club before toppling the Thames club in the final.

For the five Auckland men, Henley, with its pomp and ceremony, was a new experience.

"It was very much an eye opener," Dryden said. "Everybody in their blazers with badges of [their] clubs. A lot of people didn't seem to move far from the entertainment tent."

His abiding memory of the final was the weather. It rained hard and the grass enclosure turned to mud.

The four represented New Zealand at the Tokyo Olympics the following year, finishing a disappointing eighth.

For these men the ties still firmly bind. Page died several years ago, but he'll be toasted tomorrow.

"There was great camaraderie, we were almost like a family. I'm not sure whether it was the winning of the race or the work we had to do to get there, but the combination of those two things means we remain firm friends to this day," Dryden said.

- NZ Herald

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