"On the morning after our arrival I was reading an English paper in the cabin, when I was startled by a sound that was very familiar, but the last I should have expected to hear in Kiel Fiord. Had I been dreaming, or was I still lying off the Doves at Hammersmith? It was a human voice screaming and cursing in the purest Thames tow-path dialect, reckless of aspirates, rich in horrible invective. It was a Cockney addressing men whom he called respectively Five, Four, Three and so on as if they were so many convicts. He was urging them in impassioned language not to feather under water, to keep their something eyes in the boat, not to sugar, and to do or avoid doing several other things. How often I had been bullied in a similar fashion by a similar tyrant on the Cam! I leapt on deck and lo! There was a genuine racing four pulling by! There were several other fours and funnies on the bay, and it was evident that the “Wasser-sport” was much patronized at Kiel.The Germans have certainly caught up with the English in sports since then, and over the same period the English have taken up lager. Coincidence? I think not.
I afterwards learnt that the rowing regatta was soon coming off, so all the rowing men were in training, and this particular crew of young Germans had imported a professional coach from the Thames to teach them how to row. They were very enthusiastic and plodding, but the coach with all his skill and blasphemy could not drive any real style into them. It seems strange that the North Germans, well set-up as they are physically, can never approach the English in any athletic sport.
“It’s all that d----d lager they drink,” said a professional oarsman, who had been to Hamburg, to me; “it swells them out till they’re all wool and flabbiness.”
The Kiel rowing men made a good deal of their tutor, admired him greatly, and bore his fearful language with patience. They wanted to row at any cost, and they had been led to understand that it was quite impossible to become a true English wassersportsman unless one has been well cursed through one’s apprenticeship."
I was struck by the use of the term 'funny' for a double scull or pair, which I haven't heard used since I was a kid. Funnies were usually clinker built, so I suppose the word died when shells came in for racing boats and fibreglass displaced wood for leisure boats. I think this charming nomenclature should be revived instantly.
Here is a modern funny featured in Wikipedia, being rowed on the Amstel. The picture was taken by Paul Vlaar.