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History of Barwon Rowing Club

Chapter 2 - Here's a Health to the Barwon 1870

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Finally, two weeks later on 12 November, despite the still falling rain and amidst intense excitement, the club was officially opened with a series of scratch races. The boatshed was so crowded that members who wished to view the proceedings were forced to stand outside in two or three inches of slimy mud, getting as good a soaking as the rowers. Winners and losers alike were all greeted with hearty cheers as they came in. Apparently many spectators had to pay a sly trip to the nearby hotels to take a "little something" to counteract the moisture outside. Mr Walker's splendid band entertained the crowd and a large number of the fairer sex were amongst the onlookers. It was said that had the weather been finer the river banks would have overflowed with thousands of sightseers.

The course for the opening day races was from a little above the bend opposite the Hon. Charles Sladen's mansion in Pakington Street and down to the boatshed, a distance of a mile. A straight course could have been provided by finishing further downstream at the Government pound near Swanston Street, but it was decided in favour of the shed so that the ladies could witness the exciting last lengths. This decision unfortunately gave almost a boat length advantage to the crew on the south side of the river. The starter, Mr. Dallas, had a very lively time of it for he had to be out in the rain with nobody to console him except James Strachan, who kindly kept him company, whilst Mr Buckland, who was judging, at least kept warm between races by sheltering under the trees. There were six crews on that first opening day, composed of good, bad and indifferent rowers and they competed in two fours, one of pine ard one of cedar. The day's races were described in full in the pages of the Geelong Advertiser:

Chater [stroke], G. Hetry, W. Guthrie and F. Macleod.
Lascelles [stroke], J. Booth, F.G. Thomas and DA. Wilson.

The first mentioned crew was entirely supplied by the Grammar School, and a finer lot of young fellows it would be hard to imagine. They rowed in the cedar boat on the south side of the river. A good start was effected, but the Grammar School team settled down more quickly to their work than the others, and soon after passing the flour mill forged ahead, and won comparatively easily by a length and a half. They were evidently in the best condition, Lascelles' crew not having been much together for the previous week or fortnight. Mr. Lascelles's crew rowed a good stroke, but were rather slow in getting forward. Mr. Chater's stroke was one of the prettiest on the river, but his men appeared to row rather too much with their arms, and did not swing so well together as could have been desired. They pulled 37 or 38 strokes to the minute. No. 3, Mr. G. Henry, has the making of a splendid oarsman, and will, with practice, be a very tough customer to tackle.

Shannon [stroke], J.E. Pounds, J. Highett and C. Hugo, [cedar boat]
R.C. Hope [stroke], S. Dickenson, D.G. Peel and A. Robertson.

Mr. Shannon, the captain of the club, fully and quickly proved that he was worthy of all the confidence that had been placed in him. A good start was secured, and, getting away at once, his crew settled down to a long sweeping stroke that soon made it evident that they would win with ease. It was certainly a splendid sight to see them come steadily up the straight run home at a fine pace, and the contrast between their pulling and that of their opponents was very marked. No wonder that it should have been so, as this was, we believe, the first time that Hope had pulled with his crew, and they never seemed to allow him to finish his stroke. Shannon pulled at the rate of about 31 or 32 to the minute, which was, if anything, a little too slow. Mr. Pounds also displayed a good style.

J. Arthur [stroke], M. Simson, G. Ware and G. Synnot, [pine boat]
E. Nicholls [stroke], F.R. Pincott, A. Anderson and G. Day.
Mr. Nicholl's crew was backed to win at two to one, but although he was the first to get away, he was quickly overhauled by Mr. Arthur, whose crew won easily by two lengths. Mr. Nicholl's stroke appears rather short, but strong and regular; had he been at all well seconded by his men, the race would doubtless have presented a very different appearance. One of the chief features in this event was the steering of little George Blunt in the winning boat. This most diminutive individual promises, if well looked after, to become a second Sid. Edwards.

It still continued to rain in torrents, and hopes were very generally expressed that no more events would be contested, and that the captain would defer the deciding heats until Saturday next, when the weather would probably be finer, and the public would be, therefore, better able to enjoy the fun. He, however, in justice to his men, felt bound to decide otherwise. If he had deferred the heat until Saturday the winning crew would have to pull twice in succession.

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