The club had faced three major challenges in its 135 years that could have bought an end to the Ballarat City Rowing Club but none could equal the challenge it now faced. The first major challenge was World War 1 and the dreadful loss of young men who were off fighting, next was World War 2 which again closed the club for several years and hot on the heels of that, the disastrous boatshed fire of 1950. Now, in 2005, we were facing another equally unprecedented challenge. No one could have foreseen the catastrophic set of circumstances that would lead to the club’s ultimate challenge-how do you run a rowing club with a completely dry Lake!
2005 would be the last time that the club competed at regattas as a club. Lake Wendouree had for the last two summers got so low that rowing was just impossible after January making training intermittent at best. Never before in the history of the Lake had we experienced such an extended dry period. That coupled with in-action on all levels of government to diverting water flow from various sources to top it up meant that Ballarat’s iconic lake had reverted to a swamp. We got rain in the winter time but not enough to refill and last through the hot summer. The last extended drought was back in 1865-1869 when the lake dried up completely. It was also very low in 1916 but as the rowing clubs were not operating due to the impact of World War 1 so the Council used it as an opportunity to clean up the silt. If it had not been for the hard work and commitment of the small but dedicated group of about 10 people during the next seven years of drought and the tenancy of Lake Physio that gave us financial security, it would have indeed been curtains for the club.
As well as working endlessly on the maintenance of the shed, a little band of Master’s men still managed to attend some regattas, the biggest being the Australian Master’s games in Adelaide. With trailer loaded with sculls and doubles they set off and had a wonderful time with Norm and Wayne scoring their first gold medal in the Men’s C double sculls and a silver in Men’s D double sculls. Wayne and Barry teamed up and raced the Men’s E double sculls and scored a bronze medal. Wayne Lyle was the most successful member of the group winning gold, silver and bronze medals. He is pictured below with Norm racing and on the victory dias. Barry Lyle, Wayne Lyle, Colin Angow, Norm Young, Ronnie Young, Eddie Sullivan and Peter Whitefield again did the club proud by training and getting out there and having a go at as many Master’s regattas as they could. Kate Elliott was still coaching one night a week and had a four from High School, a Loreto four and about 10 Master’s women training regularly. Jordan O’Keefe took on coaching the Loreto girls and got them prepared for their first race proving himself a very good and patient coach for beginners. He also raced a couple of Novice sculls and towed the trailer to a couple of regattas. Andrew Smail also joined us from Ballarat College and assisted with Master’s coaching.
We obtained one grant this year which was to be used to purchase a coxless quad scull for our Master’s crews to use. Up until now they had been using a coxed boat with a modification made so that they could steer it without a cox. Hardly ideal but such was their enthusiasm they would happily adapt whatever equipment we had and then fundraise so we could buy something more suitable. Eddie Sullivan again organised the fundraising and we ran a Gourmet chicken burger stand at Springfest which didn’t raise as much money as previous years because of the cost of the product!
The Council also replaced the two memorial seats out the front of the shed finally after they were removed in the 1980’s. It had taken over twenty years to get them back as the club had originally had them installed. One seat was dedicated to club members who served in World War 2 and the other seat was dedicated to long serving President C.H.Bunce.
Maintenance works continued unabated. The exterior was re-rendered and a coat of sealer applied. Again the work was done by members supervised by the contractor so the cost of this was much reduced. The last of the old jetty was pulled up and the new decking put down. Wayne Lyle, Barry Lyle and Norm Young were at the head of every working bee and organised materials and equipment. Belinda Bilney, Tim Wise, Danny Elliott, Kate Elliott, Ron Young and Colin Angow also contributed many hours to the upgrade.