2015 Floating our boats for 145 years

When writing a post or in writing an annual report, I was always conscious of leaving a record of what happened in the club during the season so that anyone who rowed for the club can look back and be reminded of their achievements. Similarly, the committee have a summary of the work they have done for the club. In reading through the report for 2015, I hope you get a real sense of what we achieved both on and off water this season. This season has been an interesting one in many ways. Unfortunately we saw most of our Junior men and women’s squad who had raced so successfully for the last three years under the guidance of coach Jordan O’Keefe, leave Ballarat to pursue tertiary education. As they were all in Year 12 and VCE exams were on right about the time regattas started they didn’t even get to race at the early regattas and of course the heavy study load expected of them meant winter training was nowhere near as extensive as it had been. Our wins definitely weren’t numerous this season and they were achieved by just a handful of rowers. We attended 11 regattas for 11 wins. Most of the races were won by the remaining Junior men’s squad, coached by Jordan O’Keefe and the rest won by Andrew Leehane in various composite Master’s crews.

In December after much discussion, deliberation and consultation we ordered a new 90kg four from Swiftboats, Australia. This was the first brand new boat the club had purchased for 30 or so years so it was a momentous occasion and a very difficult decision. The club had always purchased Sykes boats because they were built in Geelong and were excellent boats. Swift boats were cheaper but the down side was we hadn’t dealt with them before and it was very disappointing to find that the excellent relationship we had with Sykes would not be replicated by Swift! Unfortunately, after paying $16,000.00 on 1/12/2014 to secure delivery in February 2015, we finally received the boat on 6th of October 2015! Swift it mostly certainly was not! By that time most of the season had passed and the crews that were looking forward to rowing in it had moved on.

We had an approach from the President of Banks Rowing Club who met with our president, captain and co-secretary to suggest that it would be in our best interest to amalgamate with Banks to give them a base in the country. BCRC members would have reciprocal rights in Melbourne. After listening to their proposal it was obvious that we as a club would be totally absorbed and it would become Banks Rowing Club, Ballarat. So an emphatic “No thanks!” was given by our representative. In February, we finally got to see The Doctor Blake Mysteries episode that was filmed in Ballarat. It featured a number of our rowers and a lot of our equipment. The sequences with Gus Coltman, Sam Hayden and Jack Doust and were fantastic given the cold weather they filmed in the difficulty of simulating racing over a short distance to a scripted finish!

 Lake Physiotherapy continued to lease upstairs. This year we reviewed the rental payment and as it had not been increased for several years, we felt it should be increased to the CPI. Kate and Norm negotiated with Michel Pierce and Jane Miller and they felt that this was a fair increase. We had not increased the rental during the drought as the lovely lake view from upstairs in the Pilates Studio did not exist, part of the main reason they took up the sub-lease in the first place.

We had two boat christenings, naming three boats this year. The first christening was in April that saw the naming of the Jordan O’Keefe and The Kate Elliott.

On the coaching front this year in April, Belinda Bilney organised a Sculling School over winter. This was for secondary school rowers who wanted to do some training over winter but wanted to do it in sculling boats. It was an extremely successful program getting about 25 new members through the door. The goal was to retain at least one crew and we acknowledged that once school rowing started in term 4 training and retaining would become more difficult. We aimed to get at least one quad to a regatta and race for the club in the pre-Christmas regattas. Our busiest morning saw five quad sculls on the water which was a huge achievement in just getting the boats and oars. Jordan O’Keefe managed to get his junior men’s squad going after the school rowing had finished and race at Henley on the Maribynong with considerable success. Jamie McDonald and Penny Johnston have recruited and supervised the large group of Masters women to add to the strong group of Masters men that developed last season. Kate Elliott held a beginners course on 4 Sunday mornings during February and March that introduced 8 people to the sport.

Part of the poster made to advertise the Sculling school.

The second christening was held on the 27th of September with the Rachael Taylor and the Robert Lawrie named. It was very exciting to see Rachael Taylor back at the club 15 years after her Olympic silver medal win. Those of us that were able to listen to her talk were very privileged and I hope our younger rowers were inspired by her story. The Taylor family were also in attendance and were very pleased to celebrate Rachael’s rowing career and her start in the club’s Talent ID program in 1991. We finally christened the second boat, a four, The Robert Lawrie, thanks to a generous donation by his wife Nance. It took some time to source the right boat and the Lawrie family were out in force for the christening. We had wonderful weather and everyone enjoyed catching up over lunch.

As well as running the Sculling School, Belinda Bilney had a very busy year with three grant submissions with all of them being successful. This was an outstanding effort that have contributed much needed equipment to the club. First was a Vichealth, Active Club Grants for 6X Concept 11 adjustable oars which was $ 2,574.00. Secondly a Ballarat City Council Community Grant which was a  $ 4500.00  contribution towards  purchase of  a new speedboat. The old speedboat had been overhauled many time and it was now no longer viable. The third grant was from St.Johns Ambulance, a De-fibrillator and training packages valued at $ 500.00. Given the number of Master’s rowers now training at the shed this was a very important addition to our first aid and safety risk management.

While work was yet to be carried out on the outside of the shed, the committee identified the priorities of completing the balcony and the replacement of windows in the hall upstairs. We were also in the process of formulating plans to at last give our female rowers a separate toilet and change area. We did have a Working Bee over the weekend of August and we achieved a great deal. The sunken pontoon was dragged onto the shore and we cut it all up and despatched it to the tip. It took a little under an hour and has made that side of the jetty useable once more. Simon O’Brien rewired the whole of the downstairs assisted by Mike Doust. This made the shed a lot safer and it is now much better lit. Many members swept, threw out rubbish, cleaned, vacuumed, sorted and tidied up. It got us ready for the boat Christening and the start of the new season. We have also had rolling racks installed in the first bay, to store small boats and make accessing them easier. Further work on rationalising boat and oar storage is planned for the next season.

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