The Ultimate Team
Twin brothers bring a lifetime of teamwork to Terrier crew.
Rowing is often called the ultimate team sport. To be a successful crew, all eight rowers must complete their strokes in perfect unison. Catch, drive, finish, recover. Catch, drive, finish, recover.
Learning to surrender to the rhythm of the crew—to think and move as one—can be difficult for the fiercely competitive young men and women who often are attracted to the thrill of rowing, but for two members of the Terrier rowing team, performing in synch comes naturally. They’ve been doing it all their lives.
Born just three minutes apart, Barney (CGS’11) and Charlie (CGS’11) Ruprecht have the same long, lean physique; the same short-cropped brown hair (though they part it on opposite sides); and nearly the same school-boy smile. As infants, the identical twins took their first steps on the same day. They attended the same elementary school and learned to ride their bikes together. In high school, they excelled at the same sports—soccer, squash, tennis, and golf. They both took up rowing in their high school freshman year—following the lead of their grandfather, who’d rowed at Yale—and by senior year they were competing together as a pair.
The twins’ parents encouraged them to choose different universities, where they’d be less dependent on each other. The brothers conducted separate college searches, says Barney, but in the end, “we both just chose the same school.” Charlie tells the same story. “The decision was independent,” he says. “I said that I was going to BU, and then Barney said, ‘Oh, me too.’”
With their rigorous BU rowing schedule, the brothers are now living as much in synch as ever. Their practice schedule limits the times they’re available for classes, so they’re assigned to the same CGS team and take most of their classes together. As freshman rowers, their team housing assignments put them on the same floor of The Towers on Bay State Road. This year they’re following crew tradition by living with teammates once again, this time in a South Campus apartment.
Their days follow the same routine: Up at 5:30 a.m. To the boathouse by 6:30. On the river (or the rowing machines—equally despised by both) until 9. Classes from 10 to 3. Back to the river for afternoon practice from 4 until 6:30 or 7 p.m. Dinner. Homework. Bed.
Barney estimates they spend 90 percent of their time together. They wouldn’t mind more time apart, the brothers agree, but they don’t mind all the togetherness, either. They’re used to it by now.
“In a sport like rowing,” says BU Assistant Crew Coach John Lindberg, “how you move, how you give your effort, is in large part dictated by your inherited biomechanics, your physical structure.” That being the case, he says, the Ruprecht twins are very similar rowers, which explains why they’re often seated together in the bow of the boat.
CGS Senior Lecturer Regina Hansen taught both brothers in her Rhetoric 101 and 102 courses last year and immediately noticed their intellectual similarities. “They’re a riot,” she says. “They’re very nice and polite and pleasant, and then they have these startling opinions that will just stop the class.” If a classroom discussion is progressing along too predictable a route, she knows she can ask Barney or Charlie for his opinion, and either will take the conversation in an interesting new direction. “Not just one, but both of them do that,” she says.
Coaches and professors do, of course, notice the brothers’ differences. “Barney is a little bit quieter; Charlie is a little more out there,” notes Hansen. Lindberg sees it this way: “Barney likes to take stock of things first, to get the full measure of what’s going to be done, how it’s going to be done. Charlie is a little bit more adventurous, a little more willing to confront challenges head-on.”
The twins describe themselves similarly. “I’m really schedule-oriented and neat and orderly,” says Barney, “where he’s more free-spirited and does what he wants, when he wants.” Charlie adds, “He likes to be right all the time, while I’m more laid back and relaxed.”
On the river, however, the differences among crew members have to melt away so they can row as a unified team. The freshman squad the Ruprechts rowed with last year had a winning season, says Lindberg, not because it was the biggest, strongest crew on the water but because the rowers worked so well together. The brothers very possibly set the pattern for this success. “Certainly Barney and Charlie had years of putting their differences aside to work together,” Lindberg says. “I have to assume that the relationship between the two served as a model for the rest of the crew.”