A Shell Game

Crew racing is a big business for Everett’s Pocock Racing Shells.
By Bill Richards |   April 2010   |  FROM THE PRINT EDITION
Photographs by Hayley Young
John Tytus
Bill Tytus, president of
Pocock Racing Shells in Everett, has led the company into becoming one of the
top suppliers of racing shells in the country.

The first time he visited the crew boathouseat Syracuse University in 1992, John Tytus
says he noticed something odd about the facilities. “The men had a full locker
room upstairs that was spacious and pretty nice,” says Tytus, 35, who rowed on
the Orange crew from 1992 to 1996 and now directs sales for Pocock Racing
Shells in Everett. But wedged downstairs in a corner of the boathouse, the
Syracuse women’s crew changed clothes in a room that Tytus says was “about as
big as a clothes closet.”

Syracuse’s locker room arrangements were the norm for
college crews in the early ’90s, when competitive college rowing was dominated
by lanky guys like the six-foot, four-and-a-half-inch Tytus and women were an
afterthought. In 1997, that changed. That was the year the NCAA belatedly
recognized Title IX of the Federal Education Amendment, originally passed in
1972, and began sponsoring national championship racing for women rowers. The
NCAA’s decision started a tide of cash flowing into college rowing programs for

At Syracuse, the women got a spacious new locker room of their
own, and other college athletic departments at schools like Michigan, Ohio
State and the University of Virginia that had been allocating millions to
male-dominated sports like football and basketball—and not much to women’s
athletics—suddenly became gender sensitive. Washington State University, for
example, elevated its women’s crew—but not the men—to a varsity sport, making
the team eligible for scholarships and financial support from the school’s
athletic department. Clemson’s women’s crew now rows out of what Tytus
describes as “a Taj Mahal” of a boathouse.

“The guys,” he says, “still row out of a shed.”

John Boyer
On the floor of Pocock Racing Shells' factory,

employee John Boyer preps a hull for
a second layup.

For Pocock, the NCAA’s decision to support Title IX was a
lifesaver. George Pocock began building sleek wooden racing boats for the
University of Washington in 1911 in an unlighted former tearoom on Lake Union,
and for decades afterward, the family-owned company dominated the business of
making college racing shells in the United States. Pocock boats, hand-crafted
like fine furniture, brought back Olympic gold for Seattle rowers and national
rowing titles for the UW. But by 1985, when Bill Tytus, John’s dad, bought the
company from Seattle rowing icon Stan Pocock,

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