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history of the city of warrnambool rowing club

City of Warrnambool Rowing Club – 140 years on the Hopkins River

By Susan Finnigan

Chapter Seven: Masters and schools row through the wilderness years

The Club committee and rowers were unaware they were entering the Club’s ‘wilderness years’. From 1994 until 2008 the Club records and honour boards are scant. Crew numbers had reduced and Club membership started to decline. The best intentions of improving the Club facilities had culminated in a disastrous situation, with only the diehards staying.

The regatta course was resurveyed with the finish line being the umpire’s box, upstairs in the new complex. The 2,000 metre course was a diagonal line from Mahoneys Road to a post upstream. The H.R.S.C. social Club were to raise funds catering for weddings and events in the function area of the new complex. The restaurant area of Proudfoots, which originally had boat racks in it, was leased as tearooms. By June 1996 the H.R.S.C. had rent overdue, payable to Warrnambool City Council. In 1997 the H.R.S.C. surrendered its liquor licence.

A Club highlight came from the evergreen David McDougall in 1997. He won the Male Masters Single Scull at the FISA World Masters in Adelaide. This event is of a very high calibre as, unlike in larger boats, there is nowhere to hide in a single. After winning the heats David rowed against strong international competition in the final, with scullers from Germany, New Zealand, U.K. and Australia competing.278

In October 1998 the Club celebrated its 125th Anniversary with a Dinner held at Proudfoots, adjacent the Rowing Club. Clive Wooster took on being Club President for that year and with some changes in executive, the committee remained essentially unchanged until 2008.279

Emmanuel, Brauer and Warrnambool Colleges had rowing crews training from the CoWRC shed.

Warrnambool College crews were coached by Club members including Jim Carter, with David O’Grady, Robert Church and David McDougall. There was Whale Boat training on Monday nights. Warrnambool College hosted a Twilight Regatta on the Hopkins in March 2000.

The Club held its annual regatta in December with a profit of $852 from catering. The Club was asked if it wanted to change its regatta date from the first weekend in December to the third weekend. This was not supported as schools would be on holidays. The Club drafted a letter to the local member asking for sealing of the driveway and in front of the boatshed, for safety reasons.280

In April 2001 the renaming of the coxless pair was held over until “the water recedes”. The annual inundation was hampering activity. There was a resolution to write to the Minister of Sport and meet with John Vogels, the local member, to ‘get something done about the continual flooding of the boatshed’. John advised the Club to meet with local Council. The Club discussed the flooding affecting membership and scenarios on what the Club would do if the boathouse became unavailable. At the 128th AGM, in June 2001, comments included that the ‘river flooding was worse’.

The Club agreed with a proposal from the Social Club to take over maintenance and care of boats, if they could go 50/50 on takings of the ticket machine. The fleet of boats were insured with a $1024.38 premium.281 The Club catered for the South West Sports Assembly Regatta, on November 4 2001.

In July 2002 there was discussion regarding the demise of the H.R.S.C. and a meeting planned with Bruce Anson, Warrnambool Council Finance Manager. Scenarios discussed included: 1. Rowing Club be granted the lease of the entire downstairs area of Proudfoots boathouse building. 2. Council extend the rowing Club boat storage area (upstairs and downstairs) providing toilets, showers and seating for approximately 80 people. Peter Kelson and David Church were delegated to go to the meeting. Jim Carter, who leased the tearooms, reported on the events happening with Proudfoots Boathouse. The Club agreed it was ‘to pursue the Council with the Rowing Club concerns with our accommodation’. In September the Club received correspondence from liquidators, Jenkins Peake and Co, regarding gym equipment, with an offer of $50 per item suggested. In November the Proudfoots complex was to be let to new leasees with a 50% reduction in the cost of the lease.282

There was success on the water in 2002 and the annual regatta was held. In January Carly Wooster rowing for Emmanuel College and daughter of long serving Club members Clive and Shirley, won in the Under 16 Single Scull at the ‘Head of the Schoolgirls Rowing Regatta’ (HOSG). Other crews competed with success at Essendon and Footscray Regattas. Trans-Tasman Series crews conducted races from the Club’s boatsheds in July 2002 and the Club conducted a five week rowing course, requested by SEAL. The Club regatta was held in December.

Emmanuel College Under 16 Single Scull Winner, Head of the Schoolgirls Rowing Regatta: 2002

Carly Wooster

Warrnambool Rowing Club, Novice Scull, Winner: 1997-98

Benjamin Wooster, medal presented by his father and Club president at Proudfoots Boathouse.

There were problems reported with the ‘Spirit of Warrnambool’ not giving way to rowing boats and a follow-up with Council to clarify regulations planned. At the AGM membership was revised: senior $60, junior $40, gym $60, social $10.283

In May 2003 the incorporation of the Hopkins River Sports Club Inc. was recorded as cancelled in the Government Gazette.284 It had ended well before the paperwork caught up.

In January 2003 the Club discussed the Council proposal for alteration to the Clubroom perhaps with a feeling of déjà vu. Council had agreed to assist the Club with a $30,000 loan. It was determined that costing of toilets be sought and a general meeting be held once all information had been gathered. In March the Club approached the credit union to investigate requirements for a Club loan. The Council offered $4,500 per annum. It was noted that this did not cover the interest on the loan, however a further meeting with the credit union was planned.285 There were issues with the proposed toilets in the west wall area of the gym excavation of the retaining wall under roadway would be required, making it costly.286 There was discussion that the gym could be moved into the boatshed, which floods annually, to reduce costs of a toilet block. Numerous plans were drafted including extending the existing boatshed to include an upstairs Clubroom, an internal stairwell and toilets downstairs, blocking one boat bay. Perversely none of the plans incorporated raising the shed floor above the annual inundation level and the downstairs toilets would have been flooded for over four months a year. Other plans included toilets in the gymnasium and reducing the boatshed size, making storing fours and eights impossible.287

The annual regatta, first held in 1874 and recommenced for the Club’s centenary, was held in December. The Club was offered a regatta in November the following year and determined to apply for December instead.288 The regatta in 2004 was to be the Club’s last, to date. David O’Grady reported in September 2005 that a meeting with Rod Florence and Eric Waller, from Rowing Victoria, had been held to discuss the future of the Club’s regatta. A distance time trial regatta, similar to the Head of the Yarra, from Jubilee Park to the Clubrooms was suggested as a good idea.289 Warrnambool elected not to have a regatta in 2005. Rowing Victoria have since asked for a regatta on the Hopkins River, which affords a magnificent venue for a head race, with plenty of length, width and a few good corners however the Club is unable to host this due to the shed’s frequent inundation, when the river mouth closes.

From 2005 until 2009 the Club was at a virtual standstill. The shed was used by a school program from 2005 with Emmanuel College storing two boats in the shed. In 2008 the Club was not registered with Rowing Victoria, there were only three rowers and a small informal committee.

A rare highlight during these years was again provided by the Club Captain, David McDougall. In May 2005 he competed in the Australian Masters Rowing Championships in Rockhampton, Queensland. He rowed a Men’s B Double Scull with Banks rower Gregor O’Nians, finishing second. He also rowed in seven events, in combined club crews, at the 2006 Murray Rowing Association Regatta and the Rutherglen Sprint Regatta. Winning the M1X (Single Scull) on both days and a composite four on day two. He also won the very competitive MM1X at the Melbourne Masters Regatta, in April 2006.290

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278 Rowing Online Management System search: 2013.

279 Souvenir Menu, City of Warrnambool Rowing Club-125th Anniversary Dinner, 10th October, 1998.

280 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 2000-2003. Ordinary Meetings. pp. 1-13.

281 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 2000-2003. Ordinary Meetings. pp. 13-43.

282 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 2000-2003. Ordinary Meetings. pp. 43-71.

283 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 2000-2003. Ordinary Meetings. pp. 43-71.

284 Victoria Government Gazette 1184 G 21, 22 May, 2003.

285 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club Minute Book 2000-2003. Ordinary Meetings. pp. 71-79.

286 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club ‘scrap book’ 2001-2050. Meeting minutes 2003, club archives.

287  Merri Designs, WCC design plans- copies in CoWRC archives.

288City of Warrnambool Rowing Club ‘scrap book’ 2001-2050. Meeting minutes 2004, club archives.

289 City of Warrnambool Rowing Club ‘scrap book’ 2001-2050. Meeting minutes 2005, club archives.

290 Rowing Online Management System (ROMS), regatta search printout 2015. Copy in Club’s 2001-50 scrap book.

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