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Harry Nyce, Clayton W. Chapman Awardee, Does Not Waste Time

by Sarah Marshall, smarshall@usrowing.org | Nov 30, 2015
For a man whose greatest concern at a regatta is time, it seemed appropriate that Harry Nyce should be concerned about how long his acceptance speech should take when he is honored with the Clayton W. Chapman Award at this year’s USRowing Annual Convention.

For a man whose greatest concern at a regatta is time, it seems appropriate that Harry Nyce should be concerned about how long his acceptance speech will take when he is honored with the Clayton W. Chapman Award at this year’s USRowing Annual Convention.

“It will be a short and sweet speech, I can guarantee that,” said Nyce. “The reasonNyce people do timing is so they can still be involved without getting noticed. This is completely against my natural philosophy to avoid the spotlight.”

While he may not be the first to admit it, Nyce embodies every characteristic of the Clayton Chapman award. Presented annually to an individual who best emulates Chapman’s 30-year stewardship of the Eastern Sprints and IRA Championship Regattas, the awardee is an individual who has consistently served in behind-the-scene administrative roles that have previously gone unrecognized.

Nyce may prefer to work in the background, but his service to Lake Quinsigamond and to the rowing community has not gone unnoticed.

Known as the “godfather of race timing," Bob “Harry” Nyce has been an integral part of the rowing community and regattas in the northeast for five decades.

“When I first started working at the Eastern Sprints in the 70s and 80s, everything was on paper," he said. "The finish line would give us the time and then we would write it on a big piece of paper and post it somewhere. At this same time, I was working and developing databases so it seemed a natural progression for me once I started working as a software developer to try and move into the digital realm.

"So at first, it was just as simple as inputting the numbers from the finish line and making them easier to print out and publish them. Around 1999, when Finishlinks started showing up at a couple local high school track meets, some parents talked someone into bringing one down to a regatta.

"The next year, we brought one in and tried to integrate it into the regatta and incorporate it with how we were printing results and it worked out. We went from hand-inputting the results that we received from the finish line to being able to use the camera capabilities. It was great to bring it even further.”

Well known for his development and implementation of the timing and results systems for multiple regattas including his work with the Head of the Charles Regatta, Nyce also developed the software that has become a cornerstone of the analysis matrix used by the IRA Fairness Commission.

“My main motivation in developing the software is that I strive to do as little work as possible," he said. "I tried to make the software cover everything that I could to minimize any chance of mistakes.

"Every race still gets checked manually, but all of our advancements are driven by a desire to do as little work as possible. While there is always work involved, it helps to make the job as easy as you can on yourself because mistakes will always happen. Better to have the little things taken care of.”

The USRowing Annual Awards Reception, presented by Nathan Benderson Park, is the last chance to honor the best in the year of rowing. This year's reception will be held Saturday, December 5, 2015 in the Hilton Philadelphia at Penn's Landing. The night will begin with a cocktail hour, followed by a presentation of awards.

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