1960 The invincible four

This season proved to be one of the most successful for some time. The club attended 21 regattas over the summer and winter series with 85 crews. The wins were mainly achieved by one crew. The Maiden four of Neville Kerr, Michael Walsh, Alan Dixon and Bob Coutts coached by Pat Harrison started the season in December ’59 with winning form and set the tone for 1960. This crew won four Maiden fours in 14 days, which was a record at the time. While it was common to win a double or even a treble in the bracketed system of races, it was not often that the opportunity arose to win four in a row. No Maiden four in Victoria had ever achieved this feat before. It was made possible by the inclusion in the Christmas bracket the Victorian Championships on the Lake on December 19, 1959. Here the crew won by 10 lengths going on to win convincingly at Nagambie on Boxing Day, Rutherglen on New Year’s Day 1960 and Yarrawonga on the 2nd of January.

Coach Pat Harrison congratulates the Maiden four on their quadruple wins which was a Victorian record. LR: Bob Coutts, N. Kerr, Mick Walsh, M. Harrison, Alan Dixon, Pat Harrison pictured in the  Courier, Ballarat, January 1960.
Article from the Courier 1960

The same crew went on to win Junior Fours at Footscray and dead heated with a Wendouree four at the Country Championships to earn the right to represent Ballarat. In actual fact the crew won the race by a canvas but as the Wendouree four was the much more fancied four and contained some of the “big names” of rowing, it was decided to call it a dead heat. Both crews qualified and “honour” for the Wendouree four was upheld as a dead heat was far more acceptable than being beaten by a rang-dang Ballarat City crew. The four continued their spectacular run winning the Junior fours at Scotch-Mercantile Regatta this time dead heating with Power House then winning the re-row by 6 lengths. Not until the mid 1980’s would the club produce such an invincible crew with the talented and experienced Alan Dixon and Bob Coutts making them almost unbeatable.

Winners of four Maiden fours and four Junior fours 1959-60
Bow: N. Kerr, (2) M. Walsh, (3) A. Dixon, stroke: R. Coutts; cox, M. Harrison. Coach: P. Harrison

Although we did win a race at Ballarat Regatta in 1960, we did have a connection to the Yarrawonga pair who won the Champion Lightweight pairs race. The bow man of the pair was R. Mansfield who was the son of a former Ballarat City oarsman, Dick Mansfield.

 As with last season there was a controversial “win” where crossing the line first didn’t make the crew the winners. At Dimboola Regatta the four of Alan Dixon, Mick Walsh, Peter Dalton and Bob Coutts crossed the line first beating home the South Australian crew from Torrens. The referee ruled that City rowed “off course” never mind that Torrens also steered across into Footscray’s water. City crossed the line first by a canvas even though they clashed oars and our 3 man lost his seat. But despite protesting the decision, the referee would not budge and Torrens was declared the Champions. The referee was probably from Dimboola and the City crew had beaten the title holding Dimboola crew in the heat by 3 feet. Perhaps there were other forces at play! Alan Dixon certainly thought so and he kept the articles relating to the saga.

Two more members were elevated to Life Membership this year, Bob Lawrie and Alf Quick. Bob Lawrie whose sterling work as Treasurer had kept the club financial during some difficult times. He had been treasurer since 1948, overseeing the finances for 12 years. He would go on in the position for another 14 years until 1974 and then he would be Honorary auditor for many years after that. Alf Quick had given 10 years as secretary from 1951 and he would go on to stay active in the club as Vice-president and later as President 1978-1980 overseeing perhaps one of the most significant changes to committee, when Begonia City Ladies Rowing Club amalgamated with Ballarat City and women were first elected to the committee in 1980. Ballarat City Rowing Club was one of the first Victorian rowing Clubs to have women on the committee.

The Champion Sprint four that never was!
%d bloggers like this: