This season saw the club record the highest number of wins ever with twenty-three in total. Danny Elliott also won the club’s first Victorian Championship in a sweep-oared boat winning the Lightweight Coxless pairs on the lake in a composite crew with Terry Poole of Corio Bay. Danny Elliott scored another eleven wins in Lightweight Senior sculls and Senior double sculls. Kate Wise in her first year as a sculler had eight wins, so between them they scored 19 out of the 23 wins. Kate Wise started racing the scull at Geelong at Barwon Ladies and Corio Bay Ladies Regattas that were held on the same weekend at the start of the season November 1978. In her first competition she won two races on each day senior B sculls and handicapped sculls.
With these successes were mainly in sculls it gave an indication of where the club was heading. Danny Elliott, the Captain again this year, decided that strength lay in overall ability in small boats especially sculls and a concentrated effort was made to teach all members to scull and compete at least at Novice level. The other reality that led to this change in direction was that we did not have the numbers of members to boat crews that were competitive in the bigger boats. It was also in this year that nationally rowing took on a new and more defined direction with a National Director being appointed. Mr. Reinhold Batschi also recommended that if rowers were successful in small boats they would have a better chance of success in larger boats. A national selection policy was drafted that based selection on performance in pairs and sculls-a model that is still followed today.
The clubhouse was repainted externally. The Ballarat City Council giving the club a grant of $300 towards the work. Club member and local painter K.O’Brien carried out the work at a cost to the club of $2000. Club members had various working bees to prepare the outside for painting. The sign on the front was taken down and repainted by Danny Elliott. Albie McGuire and Bob Angow replaced the old and worn carpet on the stairs to the hall which had never really been quite the same after the infamous Beer Waterfall! This carpet remained on the stairs until Lake Physio, our wonderful hall tenant for 16 years, replaced it in 2005.
Other regatta wins for the season were one ladies Novice pair of Sharon Mills and Jenny Hyatt who both joined the club this year. They also won a Ladies Novice four with Chris White and Tracey Eckle. We had one men’s Novice pair win. The club was represented at the National Championships at the new Westlakes course in Adelaide where Danny Elliott raced with Terry Poole in the Champion Lightweight Double Sculls, the first time this event had been held. They came second by one second! There but for clipping a buoy off the start would have been our second Australian Championship. However it was not to be. These days they would have received a silver medal for their efforts but back then you only got recognition for coming first. Terry and Danny combined with Bruce Sarah and Andrew McKinlay of Wendouree/Ballarat to rowed a quad that finished third against two heavy weight quads. The winning quad had Ted Hale, preeminent heavyweight sculler of the1980’s.Kate Wise competed at her first National Championships making the finals of both Lightweight and Senior sculls finishing fifth in both. She also competed in a composite Victorian quad scull that finished second.
A Special meeting of the club was held on September 19th to officially amalgamate the men’s and ladies’ clubs. They had in reality been operating as one club for several years and the constitution was now changed to reflect that. It opened the way for women to hold positions on the committee and the executive. The only office that a female was not to hold was that of president. The last captain of Begonia City Ladies was Kate Wise with Marg Elliott as vice-captain and Andrea Kriz, the secretary. These three also became the first three female members of Ballarat City and the first women to be appointed to the committee. Kate Wise was elected assistant secretary. At the annual meeting the following trophies were presented by the committee, the Simon Newcombe trophy for the Most Improved Novice-Jenny Hyatt. The Most Successful Oarsman-Danny Elliott and the Clubman of the year-Kate Wise. Our subscriptions were set at $15 for Seniors and $7.50 for Juniors.
An approach was made by Ballarat High School to get club members to coach their girls’ crews. Girls had only just started to row in the Head of the Lake and were still very much the “poor relations” in terms of coaches and equipment. Graeme Angow and Vin White offered to coach the girls as members of the club.
In October, just after the Annual Meeting, an very unfortunate incident took place. Ralph Murphy,the secretary and person in charge of hiring the hall, again invited a local football club to use the boatshed for an end of season celebration. This involved a keg of beer and drunk footballers, including Ralph taking over the dressing room and spilling out onto the jetty. Ralph had not obtained committee permission for this and when Danny turned up to train he was appalled at what he saw. He quickly told all the girls who had turned up to train, not to go into the shed. He attempted to go training and had drunken footballers grabbing his boat and generally being a nuisance. When he saw Ralph sitting on the jetty, drunk, he just shook his head at him and was treated to a deluge of abuse. The upshot of this was Ralph handed in his resignation and handed back his Life membership, the only member ever to do so. This incident confirmed our belief that alcohol and footballers had no place in the rowing club especially with juniors and young women training.