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History of Mercantile Rowing Club

25. The Rise of the Professional Coach (1996-2000)

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The Club's 117th year and the first year of this Olympiad turned out to be the last year of David Boykett's Presidency. As mentioned above he took the view that Presidents should rotate reasonably often to maintain enthusiasm and opportunity for senior members to contribute to the Club. This newly created tradition has continued but is at odds with the earlier tradition created by long serving Presidents such as Arch Dobbie, Stephen Morell and Jim Sprigg. David's contribution was immense with the Club attained the highest levels of success internationally and at the same time being a key person behind the clubhouse renovations. He also commenced the tradition of President's lunches. As with all great members such as David, we all thought that an era had ended as a younger generation took over. However David continued his contribution to the Club with his active assistance with growing the Club's Endowment Fund.

President David Boykett Captain Celia Patterson

President David Boykett and Captain Celia Patterson

It was also the year where the Club had it's first women as Captain in Celia Patterson. Celia had also been a pioneer in rowing at Mercantile featuring in some of our early and current successful women's crews. The change in our club to a strong women's club was underway and Celia's contribution in showing the way was critical.

The Club's rowing was also under the watchful eyes of Chairman of Selectors Simon Morrison who has a good eye for quality rowing and a sound appreciation of what is required to win championships. He oversaw a good State Championships where Mercantile won six State Championships including the prized men's youth eight championships.

The youth eight comprised from the bow Peter Sutton, Michael Raisbeck, Ben Schlessinger, Jason Antica, Ben Mulcahy, Anthony Schober, Ben Stevenson, Michael Kelly and coxed by David Loftus-Hills. Many of these races were won convincingly but others such as those with Bill Tait and Simon Gadsen fell into the nail biting variety, particularly the senior pair. These two athletes were to figure prominently during this Olympiad but not make the 2000 Olympic team.

The women were prominent with Georgina Douglas dominating the scull, then combining with Captain Celia Patterson, Bettina Kaempf and Fleur McInyre for a win in the Victorian elite women's four championship.

The National Championships saw a good elite coxed four win to Peter Antonie (MUBC), Simon Spriggs, Drew Ginn, Richard Shenfield and coxed by David Colvin. This race was significant for Antonie as it was his 20th consecutive year in which he had won a national championship. It was however to be his last year to do so.

Internationally, Mercantile fared well with Georgina Douglas finishing sixth in the single at the World Championships, David Colvin coxing both the pair to a silver medal and the eight containing Drew Ginn in the seven seat to a bronze medal and Brett Hayman coxing the lightweight eight to gold.

Gina Douglas at 1997 World Championships

Gina Douglas at The 1997 World Championships

A feature of this season was a strong group of men's youth and intermediate rowers who figured well both in racing and in club activities. The intermediate crews comprised a variety of rowers but some names have stood the test of time such as Henry Edgar and Tom Skidmore.

On the masters side, the FISA Masters Regatta was to be held in the next season and so this brought out the old pot hunters at the Head of Yarra in a good win in the B category. The crew from the bow was Tony Walker, Warwick Hutchins, Vic Mulder, Gavin Jenner, Greg Johnston, Davis Douglas, Stephen Gillon, Graeme Boykett and coxed by Bill Webster.

The fleet continued to expand with a new eight the "J J Lawrence II", a four the Philippe Batters, a regulation four the Ted Sorani (replacing the existing regulation four the Ted Sorani and a pair the Barry Gross.

The naming of the eight was most appropriate to recognize the fine work undertaken by Jeff Lawrence as Captain and his work in the renovation of the Clubhouse. This also recognized the financial support also provided by Jeff to the Club.

The four the Philippe Batters recognized the continuous work of Phil in the Club over many years. He was also named Dr R A Cooper recipient for Club member of the year. Phil was later to become President.

The work of Ted Sorani in the rebuilding of the Clubhouse in 1974 still requires praise and it was fitting that the replacement regulation four bore his name.

Finally, the work of Barry Gross in showing members how to raise funds through Barrel's Bash was also overdue. His name sake function is still looked forward to every year.

The Club at this stage of it's existence and continuing until the date this was written in 2005, was buying ex AIS boats of a nomex sandwich construction. These near new two year old boats were used and perfectly maintained by the AIS and perfect for our purposes. This not only suited our budget, but provided excellent racing craft for our rowers. It was also one of the many ways in which Mercantile gained benefit from the existence of the AIS.

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