"Yes," said Mr. John M. Logan, of Cambridge in reply to the inquiry of a representative of the Westminister Budget, "as proprietor of a boat-building business which dates as far back as 1826, as you suggest, I think it will be of interest to the public to know what the style of boat was that was used in the first University Boat-race- how she was built - and how she compares with the boats of the present day.
My father, Mr. Samuel Logan, built the boat which Cambridge rowed against Oxford in 1836. The race was rowed from Westminister to Putney, and Cambridge won in the good time of thirty-six minutes. The only race between the Universities previous to 1836 was in 1829.
It was rowed at Henley-on-Thames, when Oxford won. It was always delightful to hear my father's account of the style of boat he built in those days. The boat used in 1836 was about 60 ft. long and 4 ft. wide at her widest part. Her planking was English oak. For fear of leakages she had oakum put between each plank. It is almost impossible to-day to fancy the University Boat-race being rowed in a miniature man-o'-war. The next boat my father had the honour of building for Cambridge was in 1845, when the race was rowed from Putney to Mortlake - I believe for the first time. This boat was a great improvement upon the first. She was smaller in beam and built of pine. She was not, strictly speaking, unrigged, but had wooden outriggers, and received the very stylish name of an eight-oared cutter. The outriggers were similar to those used in the old sculling boats that raced for the Doggett's Coat and Badge. Cambridge again won in the handsome time of 23 min 5 sec. And when one remembers the style of boat used then and the excellent time made one can forgive an old 'Varsity champion of that day narrating with pride his doughty deeds, and still pinning his faith to his style of rowing and training.
"Although in 1845 the public had not caught much enthusiasm for the Oxford and Cambridge Boat-race, I am assured that the desire to represent one's University was as great then as now, and the greatest possible enthusiasm existed amongst University men.
"Since 1845 we have not built a boat that has raced in the now annual race, but one may be allowed a little family pride in claiming to hold the unique position of having built the first winning boat for Cambridge, and in building two winners and no losers.
"In the days gone by there was much tough and heavy work in building an eight. Now it is the tender, delicate handling of cedar planks one-eighth and one-sixteenth of an inch thick. My father kept building until 1880, since which time very little change has taken place either in form or construction. My first racing boat was built for the Jesus College Boat Club in 1872, which was stroked by Mr. Cecil Rhodes: she was a great success, making five bumps in six nights' racing at the 'May Races,' and then won the Ladies' Place at Henley. She was a fixed-seat boat, about the last of fixed racing eights, for in 1873 slides were used both for the University race and the 'May Races' at Cambridge.
"The making of a racing eight is not such a difficult matter as it at first appears, as the conjuror says when has performed a clever trick. I will show how it's done. The boat-builder, when he gets his order and the probably weight of the crew, first determines in his mind what length he will build his boat, and what beam and depth amidships; then the formation of the centre mould, and the trimming of the boat fore and aft. Having seen his boat, he strikes his centre mould and places it on a table (levelled for 63 ft. or 64 ft. long, especially made for building racing eight upon); then he set out his boat from stem to stern, and strikes mould after mould until completed, when to the onlooker her shape assumes the vertebrae of, say, a sea serpent in repose.
The centre of each mould is then notched to receive the keel, to which is attached the stem and sternpost, after which the cedar is cut into lengths and width accordingly, then planed ready for being over the moulds. After the cedar is properly prepared, the cylinder with gas jets is set going. This is used to steam and bend the boards. Wetting the outside of the board with water and placing the inside close to the hot cylinder, the heat soon makes the board pliable so that it will bend around the moulds without splitting. After the cedar is securely fasted and nailed to the keel the boat is turned over on to some stock already prepared for it. Then comes the fitting of thin ash timbers and nailing them, followed by long narrow pieces of pine (known by the name of ribbons or inwale), which are nailed inside the boat according to her shape down, after which the gunwale (to which, when finished, the riggers are fastened) is put on. Now come the larger timbers, through which the riggers are bolted, and then the seats, breakwater, coxswain's seat, and canvas, after which she is handed over to the polishers to be finished off for racing. Although the cedar of which the racing eights are built is so thin, yet very rarely an accident happens while building. The builder is trained to be very careful and thoughtful as to where he places anything that might split the boat. Also, great care is taken to choose suitable cedar - only the kindest grain and the very best will do for the work; and it must be well-seasoned wood."