Charley Butt says it takes at least three months for a team of oarsmen to develop the timing and skill needed to work well together as a crew.
However, Butt, a crew coach for 30 years at the Potomac Boat Club, did not even have three weeks to develop a top-flight crew to compete in the European racing trials for junior men.
So Butt worked with the best five oarsmen he knew - two of them from Washington-Lee high School where he also coaches - and after only 11 days of rowing together, they won a national championship, qualifying for an invitional meet in Belgium and Copenhagen.
They leave this morning and in the next 15 days will compete against 11 European national crews, including perennial rowing powers West Germany and Denmark.
The crew of high schoolers - Rick Herwig and Peter Coffey of Washington-Lee, Greg (Scruffy) Wells of Yorktown and John Hornblower and Andy Sudduth of New Hamshire - had finished a lagging third in their first event.
Then Butt changed the alignment of his oarsmen, made Wells the coxswain and instituted five-hour practices each day, broken into two sessions.
Last Thursday and Friday at Lake Occaqoan, Va., they made Butt look like a genius by defeating 10 teams from Florida, California and Pennsylvania. Their fastest time in the 1,500 meters was 5:17 despite a stiff headwind.
"I was really surprised because we just got the boat and crew together last week," said portside oarsman Herwig. "I guess one reason we row so well together so quickly is that each of our styles are similar, and without trying to sound conceited, we're all very good oarsmen."
They will have to be more than just good to keep pace with European crews. Some have rowed together for years.
"We'll be competitive," Butt said. "We think we have a good crew. We've been fast in our trial runs and these kids are excellent oarsmen, one of the best crews I've coached in 30 years."