Lake Lanier Rowing Club logo



Gold! It was a cry first heard in North Georgia in the 1800’s. It was a cry heard again in the summer of 1996 as competitors in rowing, canoeing, and kayaking brought Olympic glory to a scenic lake not far from the hills in which prospectors first discovered gold. 

Building From Local Support. What became an Olympic success story began in the mind of Gainesville architect Jack Pyburn. A rower himself, he knew Lake Sidney Lanier would be an ideal location for the rowing venue. The idea gained momentum as Jim Mathis, a dedicated community leader, pitched in to work on building the community support network needed to make the dream into reality. 

Early in 1993, a steering committee of 45 community leaders was formed and became known as “Gainesville-Hall ’96,” an official Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games support group. This group of dedicated volunteers began a campaign of “polite persistence,” as Atlanta Olympics chief Billy Payne described it in his remarks at the groundbreaking ceremony in January 1995. 

Experience From Hosting Events. These community organizers knew that experience in handling and organizing major events would enhance their efforts. With this in mind, and with the help of the Atlanta Junior Rowing Club, Gainesville-Hall ’96 began to plan for the Southeast Regional Junior Rowing Regatta, scheduled for May 15, 1993. The City of Gainesville and the Gainesville Parks and Recreation Agency sponsored the event at Woods Mill Bay on Lake Lanier. Five hundred twenty seven rowers from four southeastern states participated, with more than 2,500 spectators attending. 

The coordination and success of this regatta attracted the attention of the German National Rowing Team, reigning world champions, who were seeking a training site to prepare for the 1994 World Championship in Indianapolis. Another step toward fulfilling the promise of Lake Lanier Venue was taken when the German team announced it would train on Lake Lanier in 1994. 

Olympic Bid Becomes Reality. “It’s Lanier,” The Times declared on December 23, 1993, when Jim Mathis received the historic telephone call announcing the Clark’s Bridge site on Lake Lanier as the rowing, canoeing, and kayaking venue for the 1996 Olympic Games. The concerted community effort has laid the groundwork for what is proving to be a strong sporting legacy well into the future. 

Our Legacy Continues. Besides the 1996 Olympic Games at the Clark’s Bridge venue, the resident Lake Lanier Rowing Club and Lanier Canoe-Kayak Club have hosted a number of important rowing and canoe and kayak events, including the 1997 Champion International Collegiate Rowing Regatta, the 1997 Canoe-Kayak Nationals, the 1998 NCAA Women ‘ s Rowing Championship, and the 1999 USRowing Masters Nationals — only to name a few! Recently, the venue was the site of the 2018 World Dragon Boat Championship, with crews from all over the world converging on Gainesville to compete. And, the end of May every year, the Lake Lanier Rowing Club and the Lake Lanier Olympic Park hosts ACRA, the American Collegiate Rowing Association national championship. Leading collegiate crews from all over the United States compete for number 1 over 3 days on the water. Manned entirely by volunteers, LLRC hosts more than 1,700 rowers from 75+ crews along with their boats and families. Finally, every winter/spring season as many as 1,000 rowers from colleges in colder climates spend their winter break training on on our Olympic rowing course and exercise in our boathouse. It is great to see all of the activity, rowers young and old, supported by the residents of Gainesville – a city that includes a drawing of rowers in a quad in the city logo! 

A final “gold” note: the finish line of the course is in view of the home of the late Bill Fields, one of the members of the 1952 US Rowing team that won the Olympic gold medal at the Helsinki, Finland Games. From start to finish, a true path of gold!

LLRC Honorary Members

(Click each name or scroll to learn more)

John Ferriss
Chuck Logg
David and Faye Markey
Jack Pyburn
Jay and Linden Gaspar
Joel Wise
Richard and Patricia Bunzl
Sara Nevin


(Click each name or scroll to learn more)

Butch and Becky Harben
Ann Marie and Frank Hynes
Billy and Kitty Fields
Henry and Cecily Kannapell
Jim Mathis Jr.
Judge Sid Smith
Lou and Jean Fockele
A Taste of Gainesville

LLRC Honorary Members


In 2001 LLRC hired John Ferriss as the second Executive Director and Head Coach. John came to Georgia with over 30 years of coaching experience beginning at T.C. Williams H.S. in Alexandria, VA, and continuing as lightweight rowing coach at Cornell University from 1984 to 1998. During those years, his crews were consistent finalists at national championship regattas, won several times, and competed in the Henley Regatta in England. As a competitor, he won two IRA Championships, competed on the 1967 National Team, and in the Masters’ category. He was one of the early developers of the USRowing coach education program, edited 2 books, and produced three video tapes. John served as president of LLRC for fiscal years 2013, 2014, & 2015. John has also served in many other board positions and has provided his expertise to the club in running large regattas as well as boathouse operation. John has lovingly maintained our fleet of rowing shells in top-notch condition as well as teaching Learn to Row and Learn to Row 2 classes which is the gateway for our new rowers.


Charles Paul Logg Jr. was born February 24, 1931 in Princeton. Chuck’s father was the crew coach at Princeton University. The family moved to New Brunswick after his father was named crew coach at Rutgers in 1937. He held that job for 22 years. The crew team trained on the Raritan River, and eventually so did Chuck, who began taking the sport seriously when he enrolled at Rutgers in 1949. Within three years, he developed into an elite-level rower under his father’s tutelage.

In the spring of 1952, Charlie and his Scarlet Knight teammate, Tom Price, shocked the rowing establishment by making the U.S. Olympic team. Charlie had not set foot in a pair-oared shell until three months before the Summer Games. Even more amazing, Price hadn’t started rowing at all until 1951.

In Helsinki, the pair finished dead last in their first heat and actually collided with another boat. However, they won their next race, which qualified them for the finals. They won the gold medal—the first and only U.S. victory in the coxless pair event—finishing three seconds ahead of the second-place Belgians.

Chuck and Tom were celebrated as The Cinderella Kids after their boat, which they named after the fairy tale character. They were feted with a motorcade upon their return to New Brunswick. Following graduation, Chuck went into the military. He and Price reunited for the 1955 Pan American Games and won gold again. They fell short of qualifying for the 1956 Olympics, however. In 1981, Chuck was named to the National Rowing Hall of Fame.

During the 1960s, Chuck worked as an executive in the helicopter industry. He got into commercial farming in Florida starting in the 1970s. In 2014, Chuck was the featured speaker at the 150th Anniversary celebration of the Rutgers rowing program.

Chuck retired to the Gainesville area and became a member of LLRC in 2007. He has been an inspiration to our juniors and masters.


Dave graduated from the U. S. Coast Guard Academy in 1957, with a Bachelor of Science Degree and a commission in the Coast Guard. His 20 year active duty career included 6 ½ years of sea duty aboard 5 cutters (commanding officer of 3 of those). His shore assignments included command of a loran station as well as assignments in personnel management, recruiting and training. Starting in New London, CT, he was stationed in New Bedford, MA, Pascagoula, MS, New York City (twice), Attu Island, AK, Groton, CT (twice), Gulf of Thailand, RVN, Washington, DC, Key West, FL and finally Miami, FL. Dave is a Vietnam war veteran. During his final active duty tour as Director of the Coast Guard Auxiliary for Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, he met Faye (an Atlanta native and career Bellsouth manager).

After retirement, Faye and Dave were married at the Chapel at Holiday Marina on Lake Lanier in 1978. Both were very active with the Coast Guard Auxiliary for the next 24 years and resided at the lake in Flowery Branch. Both served on all 4 levels of the Auxiliary organization including appointment for Dave as National Commodore’s Administrative Officer and as National Conference Staff for Faye for 6 years.

When the announcement was made that Atlanta was to be the site for the 1996 Olympics, it was decision time. Should they go to Savannah with the Auxiliary for Olympic Sailing or stay at home for Olympic Rowing? That was easy. Starting that year, they began volunteering with their boat for local rowing regattas in Atlanta to learn the sport and meet the people. As the action shifted to Gainesville, they joined LLRC in 1995. When the Olympics finally began, they worked as boat drivers mostly on the media side of the venue for both the rowing and the canoe/kayak competitions. As those events drew to a close, they were asked to manage the power boat fleet for the Paralympic sailing competition. They were now hooked. In 1996, they became qualified as USRowing officials and continued working at numerous regattas until 2011. For many years, Dave assisted with the installation and maintenance of the course as well as writing bid proposals for future regattas. Both were very active volunteering for ‘Dinner On The Docks,’ serving on the Board, maintaining the power boat fleet (for nearly 20 years), recruiting, training and managing the boat drivers for both LLRC and LCKC events plus whatever else needed doing. As close friends to Richard and Tricia Bunzl, they were instrumental in facilitating the Bunzls’ donation to purchase the power boat fleet. They also purchased (temporarily) one of the skiffs that was on loan to the club while waiting for the Bunzl donation to arrive.


Jack Pyburn, an architect and rowing enthusiast, helped local organizers create the plan for the Lake Lanier venue and helped found the Lake Lanier Rowing Club. He served as club president for the first three years of operation from 1994 to 1996. After developing a conceptual layout for a venue at Clarks Bridge he approached Jim Mathis, US Rowing, and the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games about a Lake Lanier site option.

Jack managed the boathouse during the Olympics. His wife helped with medical coverage, and two of his daughters had assignments as starters, runners, chase boat aids, etc. Working with Lou Fockele, Sidney O. Smith Jr., and others, Jack worked to draw former collegiate rowers living in Gainesville and curious residents to join the club.


Jay and Linden were some of the earliest members of the club who worked diligently to ensure the growth and success of the club. Jay served as club president in 1999. He has served in numerous positions on the Board of Directors over his many years of membership. Jay has also been one of our main coxswains in competitions including coxing a mixed 4 to gold in the 2004 and 2005 US Masters Nationals and 7 Virginia Fox US Rowing SE Regional points championship trophies in a row.


Joel has been a member of the club since 1995. In 1996, the Carolina Skiff dealer wanted the 3 skiffs he had loaned to us to be returned. The club only had the money to buy one so Joel put up the money to buy a second skiff until the Bunzl donation was received. Joel and Kitty bought a double for their daughters to row. When the girls ‘left the nest,’ they donated the shell to the club. He has contributed numerous years as a willing work party volunteer, board member, club treasurer, and driver for the shell trailer to regattas. Joel provided lots of behind the scenes but necessary work over the years.


Richard and Patricia Bunzl were major financial supporters of the club. They purchased the fleet of wakeless launches used at the 1996 Olympics along with four of the Carolina Skiffs, bimini tops, boat trailers, VHF radios and other contributions. Richard was a member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary for 39 years, and a supporter of Safe Boating Lake Lanier and the American Boat and Yacht Council. Tricia was also a member of the Auxiliary for over 20 years. Richard & Tricia worked numerous regattas to help keep rowers safe during competitions.


First Coach and Executive Director – In June of 1996, LLRC hired Sara Nevin to be the Head Coach and Executive Director for the Club.  Sara guided the club’s move into the boathouse in the fall of 1996, and led it through its very important formative years. Sara was also an accomplished rower as well as coach. During her rowing career at University of Washington, Sara won three varsity eight national championships between 1983–85 and was undefeated in U.S. collegiate competition. She was a member of the U.S. national team in 1985 and 1986.

During her five years in Georgia, Sara coached all levels of rowers from beginners to U.S. national team members. Sara acted as Regatta Director for the NCAA Women’s Rowing Championships in 1998 and 2001, the 1999 Masters Nationals, and the 1997 Champion Regatta.

From 1990–96, Sara coached the varsity boys rowing team at the Mount Baker Rowing Club. There, Sara grew a program of 16 athletes to over 50 and won four USRowing Junior National Championships, including the school-boys’ eight in 1991 and 1993.

Sara coached members of the 1988 Olympic Team. Between 1989–92, Sara coached at the Seattle Training Center, coaching a group of elite and pre-elite rowers. Her stint culminated with all eight women earning spots on the 1992 Olympic team. Jack Pyburn recruited Sara to LLRC to implement the legacy vision.

After her time leading LLRC, Sara spent 10 years as Assistant Coach for the Cal Golden Bears, starting in 2001. At Cal, Sara led the varsity four through an undefeated season to win NCAA championships in 2011. Sara lead the Cal 2008 novice eight to capture the Pac-10 crown for the first time since 1989 and followed that victory with an undefeated title and an open-water win at the Pac-10 Championships: a college athletic conference on the West Coast. That year, Sara was also honored as the Collegiate Rowing Coaching Association’s (CRCA) Assistant Coach of the Year and the CRCA West Region’s Assistant Coach of the Year.

Sara became head coach for the Mills Cyclones in 2011, then started advising and part-time coaching East Bay Rowing Club of Oakland, CA in December 2013. She’s been instrumental in getting the EBRC Learn to Row programs running strong, sharing her love of rowing with those who’ve never seen the inside of a racing shell.

LLRC Boat Name Affiliations


Frank and Ann Marie were the driving force behind LLRC’s major fund raising event, The Taste of Gainesville for many years. The proceeds from this event were used to purchase many of the rowing shells of the club. Ann Marie served as club president in 2006 as well as club secretary for many years. Frank Hynes graduated from Marist High School and Georgia State University. While at Georgia State he was a brother in the Kappa Sigma Fraternity. He earned his law Degree from Woodrow Wilson School of Law. He served in the Georgia National Guard in the 170th Military Police Battalion. He also attended the FBI National Academy with the U.S. Department of Justice. Frank served on the Atlanta Police Department as the youngest Lieutenant in the departments’ history. Frank went on to the Coca-Cola Company where he became the World Wide Director of Corporate Security. Early on, a captain told him, “To do this job well, you need two bones, a backbone and a funny bone. Never lose them and you’ll go far.” Frank never lost either.


Bill – Olympic Gold Medal Winner coxed eights 1952 Helsinki – Bill Fields was in the second seat for the great 8 Navy crews which won so many titles including three consecutive winning shells at the IRAs and two consecutive champions at the Eastern Sprints. Navy crew won 23 races straight (29 overall) from 1952 to 1954. In 1956, Bill was named to the National Rowing Hall of Fame. Fields graduated from the Academy in 1954, becoming a career naval officer, retiring as a commander in 1977. Kitty was one of the early club members, serving as a Board member at large. With her house right behind the plaza on the tower side of the venue, Kitty was instrumental in enlisting support from the neighbors of the venue for the events held, literally, in their back yard.


Henry and Cecily are among the best rowers the club has ever had. Henry won gold in the mixed coxed 4 at the US Masters nationals in 2004. Cecily was in the first LLRC boat to compete at the Head of the Charles. Both were stalwarts of the teams which won 7 Virginia Fox US Rowing SE Regional points championship trophies in a row from 1999 to 2005. Henry served as club president in 1998 as well as other board positions and racing captain for many years. Cecily served as club secretary in 1997 and at other times and racing captain for many years.



Jim Mathis Jr., a Gainesville banker, was one of the key players in bringing the Olympics to Lake Lanier as chairman of the Gainesville-Hall County Roundtable that later became the Gainesville Hall ’96 Committee.

Olympic memories: Q&A with Jim Mathis Jr.  

Gainesville Times staff reports
POSTED: July 17, 2016 12:30 a.m

Jim Mathis Jr. carries the Olympic flame during the torch relay through Gainesville on July 15, 1996.
How did you first become involved in the Olympic effort here?

In 1992, I was asked by the city of Gainesville to help compile a book of possible sites and services that might be used in support of the Olympic efforts in Atlanta. From this emerged the need for team training facilities, family and team housing and the realization that this should be a community-wide effort. The Gainesville-Hall ’96 Roundtable was established as an inclusive organization and began its efforts to organize the community.
Local rower Jack Pyburn came up with the idea of actually hosting rowing and canoe-kayak events on Lake Lanier. Soon we hosted the Southeastern Youth Regatta with 512 rowers. Later that year, the German National Team used Lake Lanier to train for the World Rowing Championships to be held in Indiana that summer. This was the beginning of our quest to host the 1996 Olympic rowing and flatwater canoe-kayak competition.
What is your fondest or most vivid memory from the Games?

Two great memories: First was the day the headline in The Times read “It’s Lanier” announcing our selection to host the Olympic competition.

Second: the thousands of new and old friends who helped make our experience rich for everyone. This resulted in NBC sports commentator Charlie Jones proclaiming Gainesville-Hall the “Hospitality capital of the world.” Friends from all over the world remember their Olympic experience.

How has your involvement in the Games affected you since?

To see a true Olympic Legacy take hold at the Lake Lanier venue is gratifying. For 20 years, the two clubs have hosted hundreds of events both large and small, national and international.

Today, the Olympic venue thrives under the leadership of GH ’96 and venue manager Morgan House. The venue is one of the few remaining sports venues from the 96 Games. This is largely thanks to the community-wide support established during the summer of 1996.


Sidney O. Smith Jr., one of Gainesville’s all-time outstanding citizens and who had rowed at Harvard, helped get the commitment of the Harvard and Yale crews for the Harvard/Yale/Oxford/Cambridge Head-to-Head Race held on the Lake Lanier Olympic course in 1995. It turns out that up to that time the four collegiate rowing powerhouses head never raced head to head in the sport’s history. Sid was one of the early club members, serving as a Board member at large.

Former U.S. District Judge Sidney O. Smith Jr. was a long-time and influential member of the Brenau University Board of Trustees.

Brenau President Ed Schrader described Smith as the “moral and intellectual compass” for the university and its leaders. Smith was so important to the evolution of Brenau as a doctoral degree-granting institution that trustees voted unanimously two years ago to name its graduate school for him.

Judge Smith was the fourth generation of his family to serve on the leadership board of the institution, and until his death, he remained an active member.  Smith or one of his ancestors was involved in every major development at the institution since its inception in 1878. He was the leader in the movement in the early 1990s to acquire full university status for Brenau and was instrumental in the university’s winning approval from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to become a doctoral degree-granting institution.

Sidney Oslin Smith Jr. was born and raised in Gainesville, Ga., where in 1878 his great-grandfather, Reconstruction-era Congressman William Pierce Price of Dahlonega, Ga., was a member of the founding board of what is now Brenau. Price’s son-in-law and Smith’s grandfather, William Arthur Charters, was on the board in 1911 when Brenau became a chartered institution of higher learning. In addition, Smith’s father, Sidney O. Smith Sr., the first licensed insurance agent in Georgia, and mother, Isabelle Price Charters Smith, served simultaneously on the Brenau board.

Following service in World War II, Smith graduated cum laude from Harvard, where he played on the football team with future U.S. Attorney General and U.S. Sen. Robert Kennedy. In 2008, Smith was in the audience when Kennedy’s daughter, Rory, presented a program of her award-winning documentary films in Brenau’s historic Pearce Auditorium. Afterward, Kennedy and Smith engaged in one of the judge’s favorite pastimes, swapping stories.

Smith graduated magna cum laude from the University of Georgia law school. After private law practice and service as a Georgia superior court judge, President Lyndon Johnson appointed him to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, where he served for nine years, including six years as chief judge.

His service to both public and private education began as chairman of the Gainesville Board of Education. In addition to Brenau board membership, which comprised a period as chairman of the board for the private, not-for-profit institution, Smith also served on the state Board of Regents, the governing body for Georgia’s public colleges and universities. Although he offered to step down from the Brenau board to remove possible conflict of interest questions, members of both bodies collectively dissuaded him.

Although Brenau historically is a women’s college, the trustees in the 1970s expanded its charter to offer coeducational programs in Gainesville and on other campuses. In the 1990s, Smith was instrumental in expanding graduate programs and winning approval for Brenau’s university status. Fittingly, moments after the Brenau board voted to name the graduate school after Smith, he made the motion, which the board also approved without dissent, for Brenau to launch its first doctoral degree program. The Doctor of Nursing Practice program seated its first candidates in 2011. The university’s strategic plan envisions enrollment increasing to about 5,000 students by 2025. Most of the growth will occur in graduate programs.

“Judge Smith was a classic southern gentleman and a scholar,” Schrader said. “The judge was perhaps the most thoughtful person I have ever known. He carried on his family’s legacy of leadership at Brenau with integrity, enthusiasm and energy. In many ways, he was our moral and intellectual compass. He will be missed and remembered, but he will never be replaced. It was indeed very rewarding that he was able to see the graduate school carry his name forward, passed on through many new generations of students.”


The Fockeles

Lou, former publisher of The Times and another of the great citizens of Gainesville, and his wife, Jean purchased the first multi-seat boat, an eight-person shell, for the newly formed Lake Lanier Rowing Club. That support and the boat brought out of the Gainesville woodwork experienced (former collegiate rowers living in Gainesville) and curious residents desiring to try the sport for exercise and fun. They were also instrumental in providing support to hire our first coach.

Lou Fockele, who died in 2002, and his wife Jean, who died in 2005, left behind an inestimable legacy. We remember their gentle influence, their kind generosity, their strong faith, and belief in Gainesville and Northeast Georgia, and their delighted pleasure at the successes of local residents or agencies.

The Gainesville Daily Times, now The Times, brought Jean and Lou Fockele to Gainesville. They moved from Florida after Lou became publisher of this city’s new daily paper. For more than 55 years, they contributed to the community. Their contributions only increased after The Times was sold to Gannett in 1981.

The Fockeles worked with other members of the community to begin the Gainesville Community Foundation. It now is the North Georgia Community Foundation, and in 2003, its assets were $19.3 million. More than $7.3 million in gifts were received and $3.25 million in grants were made.

All the while, Jean Fockele kept an eye on worthy new charitable organizations and did what she could to make them grow and function efficiently. And she continuously worked to strengthen her own knowledge as well as the learning of others.
She was one of the organizers of BULLI at Brenau University, the Brenau University Learning and Leisure Institute for older people and retirees who still want to learn. She began the Newspapers in Education program here in Hall County that provides reduced-cost papers to classrooms to enrich students’ learning of reading, current events, geography and social studies.

She was a volunteer tutor at the local Adult Learning Center, and helped to organize the Spelling Bee to raise money for the center. One of her most recent support projects was Girls are Priority, or GAP.


The proceeds from LLRC’s major fund raising event, The Taste of Gainesville, were used to purchase many of the rowing shells of the club. One of the ‘MUST ATTEND’ annual events in Gainesville where patrons enjoy the delicious specialties of many local restaurants in a relaxed outdoor dining experience on the lake with live entertainment! Over 600 people attended the 2016 event which featured a craft beer and wine festival for the first time.