Membership was on the increase this year with nearly seventy members. Many of these were novice rowers and this year saw several novice crews start to make their mark. Constable Pat Harrison, who was stationed in Ballarat, joined the club this year as an Honorary member and he started regular winter training with the club attending the Winter Regatta’s for the first time. In the Annual report it was noted his enthusiasm and enterprise was much appreciated and it reinvigorated the enthusiasm of young rowers with regular training and coaching over winter. The number of regattas attended in the 1958-59 season was 17 with 63 crews entered.
At Ballarat Regatta the Novice four of L. Wright, V. De Cesari, I. Sproull and L. Parkinson coached by Otto Hauser were successful. As well as coaching, Otto was still devoting his time to repairing the fleet of boats and doing all the odd jobs around the shed as usual. At Bendigo Regatta a Novice four of A.Trevenan, W.Walters, G.Bentley and B.Moore with P.Saddler and Albert Harden coaches were successful. At Scotch Mercantile a third Novice four took the honours, B.Hickey, B.Bryan, N.Carter and M.Walsh with A.Greed and P.Harrison the joint coaches. At the third of the Winter Regattas R.Coutts won the Novice sculls.
Also at the 1959 Ballarat Regatta Ballarat City also won the Maiden eights but were deprived of the win by a bizarre set of circumstances. About 2 lengths from the finish, the following umpire fired his gun to stop the race as he felt the Mercantile crew, who were coming second, steered out of its lane and “interfered” with the Ballarat crew. The leading crews were so close to the line they had no chance of stopping and had assumed that the gun was the judge’s gun fired prematurely. City crossed the line first, Mercantile second and Corio Bay in third .The following umpire disqualified Mercantile and demanded that all crews re-row the race. The re-row was won by Banks from Ballarat in second and Lake Colac in third. None of the crews who placed in the first race placed in the second race. Had the following umpire simply disqualified Mercantile and upgraded the minor placings all would have been well but his bizarre decision cost the club their first eight win for years. Little wonder the members of the crew still felt cheated of that win to this very day.
The club was also successful at the start of the next season, at the end of 1959, in winning two eights races in Novice and Maiden. The Novice eight was won at Metropolitan Regatta (now defunct). The winning crew were G. Thurling, L. Parkinson, B. Hickey, B. Bryan, A. Dixon, M. Walsh, N. Carter, and stroked by R. Coutts. Pat Harrison was the coach. The same eight with the inclusion of R. Jones instead of B. Bryan won the Maiden eights at the next regatta, which was Upper Yarra.
A new innovation by The VRA was the holding of Country Championships this year which proved a great success. It actually gave the smaller, less well equipped country clubs an opportunity to compete on more equal terms. Competing against the bigger, better resourced metropolitan clubs was always difficult. Due to the revival of rowing and the number of successes the committee introduced a club aggregate. Events were held every weekend and points awarded with the rower scoring the most points winning the series and the trophy donated by club stalwart Stan Wilton.
The Annual report stated that the club was very much indebted to the Social Committee and the excellent job they did of again running the dances at the City Hall each Saturday night. If it were not for the wonderful job they had done the club would not be in the good position they were in. However the “old” volunteers who had been responsible for running the dances were getting older and retiring. Members were reminded not to take their work for granted and to give all possible assistance to help continue the good work.
I guess any new members joining the club at any stage should stop and think about the members in the past who worked long and hard to achieve what the club has today. Without the hard working committees and fundraising of the last 60 years the club would not be where it is today. So don’t take it for granted. Don’t just walk into our club and assume you have a right to everything there. Remember that someone else’s hard work provided everything that is there!
Club property was adequate comprising 9 boats and 28 oars-1 racing eight, 1 practice eight, 1 racing four, 2 practice fours, 1 racing pair and 2 practice pairs and 1 training sculls. The club also had 2 home trainers, a primitive type of the rowing ergometers that are used today. The fleet was ageing and finances were such that no new equipment was purchased this season. We also donated a practice eight to Ballarat High School.