1963 First Victorian Sculling Championship

Mr. Francis E. Findlay was elected unopposed for his fifteenth term as president. Alan Dixon continued in the position of Captain and Albert Harden was secretary. These three members of the executive plus committee member, Ralph Murphy, qualified and became licensed regatta officials this year. The hire of the hall, under the guidance of the club Trustees, Frank Findlay and Ted Edwards continued to provide the major source of income. As the active membership was again somewhat lower, this income offset the decline in subscriptions. The greater social freedoms of the sixties-the access to a wider variety of activities, the advent of television and the increased ownership of cars-all had an impact on the number of young men wanting to spend seven days a week training and weekends racing.

The highlight for the 1962-63 season was undoubtedly Bob Coutts winning the Victorian Champion Junior sculls on the tough Lower Yarra course on December 15th of 1962. This was the club’s first State Championship and would actually pave the way for an unprecedented success in sculling by club members in the next fifteen years. Mike Harrison came third in this event and then also went on to win the Maiden sculls at Yea Regatta and Albert Park later in ‘63. Both scullers also represented the club at the Victorian State Championship in February with Bob Coutts finishing in fourth place in the final which Jeff Sykes won in a time of 8.07. We boated an eight for the Victorian Country Championship eights and came second to the Ballarat crew which was coached by former City coach Pat Harrison. He had moved to Ballarat although his son was still competing for the club.

We are not quite sure why Pat Harrison moved on, but Danny Elliott in a conversation with Frank Findlay asked him about it and Frank indicated that Pat worked rehabilitating young men in trouble with the law. As part of that rehab he was bringing them up to the club to row. Frank indicated that he did approve of this and so Pat moved on. Pat would reinvigorate Ballarat Rowing Club just as he did with training and racing at City. Get a strong core group of rowers and train them hard, racing in pairs and fours and then putting them in the eight. Danny said he used this as inspiration for what he did as Captain and coach of the club in the 1980’s. Again he would lead the club to its most successful era ever, culminating in winning three Premierships including the Champion Club of Victoria in 1987.

At the end of 1963, at the start of the ‘1963-64 season, Bob Coutts and Alan Dixon had a string of four wins at the early regattas. I have included their wins in this year’s post as Bob would leave the club in December. At Dimboola Regatta they raced a junior pair and were the only country club to score a victory at this regatta. They went on to win Junior pairs at VRA and Upper Yarra as well. Their cox was Alan ‘s younger brother Philip, who would go on to have success as an oarsman and also return to the club in the late 1990’s with his daughter Andrea and  also serve on the committee for several years.

On Sunday evening the 15th of December, the President and members of the club entertained the Ladies Auxiliary, (their wives!!) at a Christmas Social. Bob Coutts was presented with a gift together with the clubs best wishes for his forthcoming marriage and future career in Melbourne. The Annual Report said that his rowing progress had been outstanding and rowers of his caliber were hard to find. He went on to row at Mercantile and was a member of their Junior eight.

The trial of the “new” shovel blades purchased last season was an unqualified success with four wins being scored from their initial outings. The Ladies’ Auxiliary, on the strength of these successes, purchased six more oars giving the club a set of eight.

Otto Hauser continued to give the unswerving service and dedication to the club that he had always given. This season he virtually rebuilt the old racing pair, which had become un-rowable and returned it to service. He also repaired any other boats that needed attention during the season. His skills learned in the Railway Workshops continued to keep Ballarat City afloat literally!

The Ladies Auxiliary of the Ballarat City Rowing Club gave an outline of their activities for the first time in the Annual Report. They continued their sterling work fund raising for the club. They held an Apron Parade and a Fair, organized and ran a very successful Cabaret Dance in the hall, held two House Parties as well as catering for lunches and afternoon teas on Championship Day and Ballarat Regatta. This was the beginning of fundraising at Ballarat Regatta that would continue on the 1990’s. Mrs. Moon was the president, Mrs. June Dixon secretary and Mrs. Harden the treasurer.

Winners Junior pairs, VRA, Melbourne, Footscray, Dimboola, 1963
Bob Coutts, Alan Dixon and cox Philip Dixon. They are using the new shovel blades.
As can be seen by the list of names of the BRA Regatta Committee, Ballarat City members feature heavily in the running of Ballarat Regatta.
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