The Oct (Kathy Whitman)
Guy Harper –
The KATHY WHITMAN (built in 1976) was originally equipped both as an eight and later equipped as a sixteen oared boat…with all outriggers being quickly interchangeable. It spent its entire life on Green Lake until we bought it in 2002. It did not race any other Octets as there were none to race…however, it did race on Green Lake as a straight eight
The KATHY WHITMAN was named, of course, for Kathy Whitman, who is currently the Seattle Parks Aquatics Manager. She was the Greenlake rowing coach from 1970 to 1980 and also coached many other National Green Lake crews. Her husband, Dewitt, passed on a few years ago, however, he was also an oarsman and in fact, is the bow in the picture sent to you. He is the one with the red oars. With sculling, each oarsman usually has his or her own special set of sculls, of which they are familiar and prefer to use…thus the many different blade appearances…as is seen in the picture.
I guess one of the best attributes of the Octet is that it is very stable…especially with 16 oars on the water providing maximum stabilization. Another nice feature, is that if someone crabs, there is no need to stop rowing…as the recovery is almost instant. BTW, it has been said that a boat such as the Octet, when rowed correctly, has a potential speed of being faster than any other rowed vessel… This would be an interesting observation when competing against your fellow rowers! Note: I capitalize Octet completely out of reverence to this fine type of boat!
Way back in 2002, I received a call from the Seattle Park Department advising they wanted to sell a wooden Pocock 8 man rowing shell. At the time, I had just spent several months restoring a 4 man shell and wasn’t, for sure, about to get involved in restoring another wooden shell. Although these 8 man shells at that time were selling for several thousand dollars for use as décor in restaurants, the park department only wanted $2500.00! …and so, of course, I immediately bought it!
The next morning after our Ancient Mariner early morning turnout, our crew all went for our traditional breakfast at Voula’s. I explained to the group the shell was in pretty good shape and could be rowed as an “eight” with a total of 8 oars or as an “Octet” with a total of 16 oars. In less than five minutes, the group committed to $3600.00! …and another restoration was underway.
I called Stan Pocock to drive with me to Green Lake and see the new purchase. Stan remembered the shell very clearly as it was the last shell of that variety that they had made back in 1976. The reason it was in such great shape is that the shell, when rigged as an Octet, weighed over 400# (as compared to the under 200# carbon fiber shells of today) and the youngsters were just not strong enough to get it out of the rack and into the water…let alone, getting it back out of the water and back into the rack.
The KATHY WHITMAN is a dream to row and our AMRC group competed in several races during SYC Opening Day. Here is one of the pictures taken during a race.
As the years went by and more high tech equipment was available to our group, the Octet was elevated to a very top storage rack at the Pocock Rowing Center and was not used again. Last year, Jim Buckley and I were discussing how wonderful it would be if Port Townsend could be the new home for the Octet. On a chance, I called the Pocock Rowing Center and discussed a sale or donation of the Octet. A few minutes later, I received a call that the boat would be donated including both sets of riggers! A call then to Jim and his friends, quickly brought a truck and shell trailer to the PRC and the boat was loaded and on its way to its new home.
Everyone agrees, this is a very fun boat to row and with the great care given to the wooden Pocock boats, this one should last for a long time.
Lots of memories connected with this special Pocock shell.
2014 – The Oct won first overall in Portland’s inaugural Ross Island Race, opening a substantial lead over Portland’s Oct For more info visit Ross Island Race page
The Kathy Whitman was rigged as an 8 for the Head of the Lake Race. Thank you to a fellow photographer on the Montlake Bridge for taking this stunning photo
In March 2015, we launched a successful crowd funding campaign to raise money for restoration. This beautiful boat will get the renovation she deserves thanks to her adoring fans! (see the link and click on updates!)
The real Kathy Whitman…The one – but not the only – Kathy Lazara Whitman wearing her new Rats Hat. We learned quite a bit about the Oct’s namesake and her late husband Dewitt who had his own boatshop and was Green Lake’s rigger (he was the one who rigged her as an oct using riggers from fours at the Pocock Rowing Center -) Dewitt later rowed with the Ancient Mariners Rowing Club– who purchased the Oct in 1995.
Kathy coached Green Lake Crew through many victories over her 10 years, – and was herself a champion sculler and sweep rower (stroke). She started at age 15 in Seward Park when her father brought home a Pocock single that George built. (what a way to learn how to row!) She still has it – and it is in excellent condition.
Kathy was instrumental in funding the Green Lake Crew program, being director of Seattle Parks and Recreation – aquatic division, then and now. She commissioned the boat to be built in 1976 for Green Lake Crew, who were very lucky to receive a brand new beautiful boat – one of the last Pococks of its kind. And we are honored to be restoring such a beautiful boat named for such a legend in Washington racing’s history.
Quite an interesting and accomplished lady.
We created this movie for our crowd funding campaign…
Women’s Masters 8+ N. Russell raw time 27:46.339 adjusted time 28:46.339
2016 Rat Island Regatta