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Champions of the Shell

Competitive rowing has a long and distinguished history in Canada. Throughout the 19th century, rowing became increasingly popular and rowing clubs and regattas were established in a number of Canadian cities. Increased formal competition led to Canadian participation in international events with some notable successes, particularly in the United States and Europe. In 1867, a team of four rowers from New Brunswick won the world championship in Paris and

Cockpit of Derek Porter's Hudson Boat Works racing shell, 1996. (CSTMC)
henceforth gained the title "The Paris Four." In the 1870s and 1880s, Edward (Ned) Hanlan of Toronto won a unprecedented series of Canadian, American and British single-scull events and thus became one of Canada's first sporting legends. More recently, Canadian men and women have enjoyed an enviable record in Olympic rowing competition.

One such champion is Derek Porter, the silver-medal winner in the men's single scull at the 1996 Olympic Games. In 1997, the Museum acquired one of his rowing shells (970008), a model used extensively in the lead-up to the Olympics. It is a single-seat, 30-lb (13.6-kg), 27-ft (8.2-m) (l) by 14-inch (35.5-cm) (b), carbon fibre/fibreglass model built by Hudson Boat Works of London, Ontario.

Detail showing Hudson Boat Works builder's decal on Derek Porter's racing shell. (CSTMC)

Hudson Boat Works has been building racing rowing shells since 1981. Its founder, Jack Coughlan, had previously worked for Empacher, the famous German manufacturer of racing shells. Consulting closely with individual athletes in developing improvements, Hudson Boat Works produces about 150 boats each year in all sizes, from single-seaters to eight-seaters.

The Hudson Boat Works shell in the Museum's collection incorporates features such as a honeycomb interior construction to provide rigidity and lightness, as well as a one-piece outrigger system, the latter being a relatively recent innovation.