Ford Weiskittel, assistant rowing coach at Hobart and former professor of classics and ancient history, was featured in Crain’s New York Business. Weiskittel’s nonprofit organization, Trireme Trust USA, is responsible for bringing a reproduction trireme, the H.N. Olympias, to New York. A trireme is a Hellenistic-era warship characterized by three rows of oars on each side, manned with one person per oar.
He is quoted in the article, “We want to row Olympias around the Statue of Liberty because it represents freedom.”
As a professor, Weiskittel was the chair of the classics department from 1979 until 1986, leaving to become director of Trireme Trust USA, a non-profit corporation which sponsors research into ancient maritime history. The organization operates the H.N. Olympias as a research vessel in the Mediterranean. A replica of a fifth-century B.C. trireme, the Olympias was designed and built by the Trireme Trust and and is the largest man-powered ship in the world, with a crew of 170 men and women rowing together on three levels. Launched in 1987, the ship is a commissioned warship in the Hellenic Navy. Olympias represents the largest, most expensive, and most elaborate archaeological experiment ever undertaken.
Weiskittel founded the modern rowing program at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 1982 and served as its first coach from 1982 until 1986. He rowed at Henley Royal Regatta in England in the coxless pairs with Hans Feige ’86, competing as Hobart College, the first time the College raced at Henley.
For his dedication and commitment to William Smith Athletics, Weiskittel was presented with the Heron Award at the 2007 William Smith Athletics Banquet.
In additional to his involvement with the rowing programs, Weiskittel is a member of the Geneva City School Board and annually runs the Boston Marathon as a fundraiser for cancer research.
Weiskittel earned degrees from Princeton University, where he studied architecture and art history, and Oxford University, where he studied philosophy and ancient history. He has published articles on Roman architecture, Pompeii, Vitruvius, and the Greek trireme. He was one of the oarcrew for the first season of sea-trials in 1987 and has been rowing master for the series of sea-trials since then.
The article about the Olympias follows.
Crain’s New York Business
Greece ships a bit of history
South Street Seaport to host replica of ancient Greek warship
January 02, 2011
A piece of history from ancient Greece is coming to New York City, and it’s not headed for the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
A group of businesspeople and maritime experts are bringing the H.N. Olympias, a reproduction of a trireme, to the South Street Seaport in the summer of 2012. Powered by oarsmen, triremes were used as warships in the fifth century and played a key role in saving Greek civilization from Persian rule.
“We want to row Olympias around the Statue of Liberty because it represents freedom,” said Ford Weiskittel, a retired classics professor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, who is helping to lead the 2-year-old initiative.
It’s hoped that the project will spur tourism much like Olafur Eliasson’s Waterfalls did in 2008. The South Street Seaport Museum is planning an exhibit on triremes, and New York University is expected to host a conference on the historical role of these warships. Olympias is due to start its journey to New York from Athens next January and to undergo about $100,000 worth of repairs when it arrives.
All the group needs now is $2 million and 170 volunteer oarsmen to make the venture succeed. Trireme Trust USA, a nonprofit, has secured $500,000 and free shipping to get the boat to New York. A fundraiser is planned for May. Among the heavy hitters supporting the project are television broadcaster Ernie Anastos and billionaire John Catsimatidis.
“Finding housing for the rowers will be our biggest expense,” said Mr. Weiskittel, who is seeking an international team. One oarswoman on board is Sybil Nestor, a 73 year-old New Yorker who has rowed the trireme in Athens and London for a special exhibit in 1993. “I’ve started to train already,” she said.