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Rowing Race Involved In Racial Dispute Goes Off Without A Hitch

May 25, 1987

BOSTON (AP) _ A rowing competition enmeshed in a racial dispute was held without incident despite comments by white Boston team members that black rowers on a New York City club were not welcome.

″The problems are absolutely in the past and solved,″ Larry Otway, president of New York’s Saint Brendan Project currach rowing team, said Sunday. Currachs are traditional Irish boats made of wood or canvas that resemble canoes.

About 400 spectators, including Mayor Raymond L. Flynn and black church and civic leaders, crowded onto a beach in South Boston under overcast skies to watch rowers from Boston, New York and Annapolis, Md., in the 23-foot boats.

The Boston team won all five races in the afternoon competition, following a brief ceremony on the beach at which Flynn, Otway and Boston club President John J. Joyce praised one another.

Joyce, a native of Ireland, said he welcomed all members of the New York team and expressed bitterness at the charges leveled against him and his club.

″I want to make it clear I’d be very happy if all these people who rubbed dirt in my face and ... (on) my family would clear the air and apologize,″ he said.

Earlier, Joyce exchanged kisses of greeting with New York club members including Alicia Blackwell, one of two black members of the Saint Brendan Project team who attended the competition.

″I’m kind of surprised by it all because the last time I was here I had a very good time and was warmly welcomed,″ she said. ″I think it was just a few people with big mouths. They’re different from the majority.″

The dispute began in September, when Otway filed a protest with the North American Currach Association, claiming members of the Boston team used racial epithets in questioning the presence of black rowers from New York.

Joyce was not among those who made the remarks, but he fueled the uproar last week when he said his all-white club does not invite blacks from other teams for ″safety reasons″ and because their presence might ″jeopardize club funds, because there are a lot of anti-black people who come to these events and support the team.″

Joyce’s comments prompted the Metropolitan District Commission, which oversees the beach, to revoke the race permit. It was reinstated Friday when Joyce apologized and the club agreed to adhere to the policies of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination.

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