No water, no rowing, no wins but the club soldiered on! The Annual Report opened with “ It is with regret that I report this season was characterised by an almost complete lack of that very activity to which we owe our existence-ROWING!” The committee this year were Danny Elliott ,President; Kate Elliott, Secretary; Norm Young,Treasurer; Ron Young, Captain and committee of Tim Wise, Barry Wright, Belinda Bilney, Wayne Lyle, Jordan O’Keefe, Eddie Sullivan, Colin Angow and Gavin Cormick. Colin Angow had made a return to Master’s rowing and joined the men’s squad who were training mainly on the ergos. The committee members were essentially the only club members and all the work done on the building was done by the 12 of them. All the time and energy normally devote to training and racing was instead spent on a total overhaul of the boatshed. Thankfully Lake Physio had moved in upstairs and we had regular income that could be expended on the building. In the absence of memberships and fundraising we turned our energies also to alternative sources of income such as applying for every grant we could. This year on top of the rental income, we gained $7000 in grants. In financial terms we had never been as well off.
This year was affected by the worst drought conditions since 1968 with the extremely low level of the Lake making all rowing after Christmas virtually impossible. No rowing meant no training other than on ergos and this very quickly lost its appeal. No training meant that racing was not possible and we started to lose the membership we had worked so hard to build. We couldn’t attract new members because we couldn’t actually go rowing! The low water coupled with the height of the reeds made training very uncomfortable and forced the cancellation of all regattas scheduled for the Lake including the Australian Masters Regatta and Ballarat Regatta that moved to another venue for only the second time in its long history. With training and competition thus curtailed the club did not compete at any regattas and for the first time in 35 years remained winless. We had no water to train on and no time to travel to other venues that had water.
All our energies were concentrated on the maintenance and upgrade of the boatshed. The building maintenance had taken a back seat because as a club we were totally focused on competing and getting our rowers and scullers through to the top levels and competing for Australia. Consequently a huge upgrade was needed and thanks to a fantastic band of workers volunteering nearly every weekend that season, the boatshed had never looked better. We literally renovated from the waterline up! The entire jetty was restumped, joists and bearers replaced and then totally re-decked in new timber.
The entire downstairs exterior has been scraped down and re-rendered with a polymer based product that should last twenty years or more. The window frames have been sanded, filled, undercoated and painted. Our new tenants, Lake Physio, had the upstairs floor professionally sanded and polished and it looked fantastic. After 50 years of club members having to polish the floor with big, old, heavy electric polishers on a regular basis,we could retire the old floor polishers and give the members who had wielded them a well earned rest.
We applied for and received funding for four major projects that were completed this year.The first and most significant was the replacement of the World War 1 and World War 2 Honourboards.We held a dedication ceremony at the shed on May 8th 2004. Phil Horwood of the Ballarat RSL sub-branch assisted in planning the day and also attended and participated in the ceremony.He also supported the club’s application for the grant from the Department of Veteran Affairs.The Mayor David Vendy attended and the Rev.Canon Bill Devonshire performed the dedication.It was great to see several of the members whose names are on the honourboards present for the occasion.The only hiccup in the day was the disappearance of the sandwiches which did thankfully reappear just in time for the guests to enjoy them at the conclusion of the ceremony.
Through the Families and Communities Minor Facilities Grant program we received a grant for a laptop computer. It will be used to store all member records, the Rowing Victoria clubs’ module and all policies and information about the club. It made the secretary’s job easier allowing the typing of minutes at committee meetings ,the treasurer for financial records and the captain will be able to submit regatta entries via the internet. How very different from submitting entries by post or even by telephone as it was done in the past!
The Ballarat City Council Community Grants program provided us with approximately $3000 to upgrade our showers and changerooms. The old Junkers hot water services installed in the 1970’s and that hadn’t worked for many years were replaced by a Rinnai Infinity instantaneous system. Shower partitions and wall dividers between the men’s and women’s change areas were planned.
Because so little rowing happened this season coaching hours were also reduced. The junior girls and masters women squads trained regularly on Tuesday and Thursday nights with a four from Damascus, a four from Loreto and a 5 Master’s women. Towards the end of the season there was only enough water to float a tub pair! The Masters Men’s squad continued working VERY hard over winter. Dr.Belinda Bilney formulated an ergo and weights training program that renewed interest and increased motivation.
At the Annual Meeting in September, Colin Angow and Alan Dixon were awarded life memberships for their contributions to the club. Colin started at the club at age eight,as a coxswain and later spent 17 years as president. Alan Dixon also made a great contribution to the club throughout the 1960’s.He was Captain and secretary and also became the club’s first Australian Champion. Alan was very ill at this time and could not attended the meeting so Kate Elliott took his Life membership to him and presented it on behalf of the club. Barry Lyle was awarded Clubman of the year and special awards were made to Wayne Lyle and Norm Young in appreciation of their contribution to the building upgrade. There was no Most Successful Oarsman or Novice as no regattas were attended.
Sadly in October Alan Dixon passed away after a battle with cancer. Alan contributed greatly to the club both as a competitior and Administrator. Over the last two year he had also lent invaluable assistance to completing the club’s history having kept a very complete archive of photos and newspaper cutting through the 1960’s. Alan was a talented artist and he painted the picture of the clubhouse that was used for the cover of the book.
In December 2004 the club held a reunion and book launch for the club history written, researched and self-published by Kate Elliott. Titled “The Boys from The Rush Beds” it covered not only the history of the club from 1870 but also the early development of Lake Wendouree and rowing in Ballarat. It was four years of hard work but it was a very proud day when she was finally able to present the complete history of the club to the members. The Launch was held at the boatshed and it was wonderful to see many former members who hadn’t been into the club for 30-40 years. New contacts were made with former members and their families and it became a catalyst for more photographs and memorabilia finding its way back to the club.