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australian rowers profiles and history

Peter H (China) O'Brien

Mercantile Rowing Club (VIC)

A successful cox and lightweight oarsman who has given much back to both his Club and to Rowing Victoria.

As an aside, Peter is so well known by his nick name China that some people have never known his given name.

His background as a coxswain amongst older rowers and rowing with the numerous great characters of Mercantile Rowing Club in the 1960s, might have had a bearing on China being an engaging, quick witted, interesting and entrepreneurial member, always full of fun. In his youth (and perhaps beyond), you could always rely on him for humorous escapades around the boathouse. The lightweight group with whom he raced was good and they were never short of having a good time as well - a classic work hard and have fun crew. China in turn became one of the best known characters of the Club.

When asked about memorable crews, he included the 1968 National Championship lightweight eight win because of the members of the crew who included Peter Downey, Geoff Park, Tim Hogan and Rob Connolly. But also because it was won in record time and that record survived for many years.

In discussion about his rowing days, he mentions names of other members more than events. As with most rowers, it is obvious that the friendships forged in rowing have lasted longer than the race memories.

He also has his serious side with family, rowing administrative duties and until retirement, running his own businesses. His work with both the Club and Rowing Victoria has been invaluable and undertaken with care and precision. He is one of those members who will always be there for the Club and who has given much back to the sport.

Naturally the Club has acknowledged his great work with a boat named in his honour.

1968 National Champion Lightweight Eight with China in the stroke seat

Summary of rowing activities

1960 - Joined the Club as a coxswain during the Commonwealth Games in 1962

1960-64 - Coxed most categories from novice pair to senior eight and lightweights of course lightweights

1962 - Victorian Championship Pair, cox - First - with Dick Garrard and Bob Lachal

1966 - Commenced rowing again moving through the ranks from novice to senior

1968 - Commenced lightweight rowing.

1968 - NSW Championships Junior Four, stroke - First

1968 - National Championship Lightweight Eight, stroke - First

1969 - Victorian Championship Lightweight Four, stroke - First

1969 - Victorian Championship Lightweight Eight, stroke - First

1969 - Interstate Championship Lightweight Four, stroke - Second

1970-74 - Assistant Secretary Mercantile

1970-74 - Assistant Secretary Melbourne Amateur Regatta Association

1975-84 - Hon Secretary of Mercantile and the Melbourne Regatta Association

1975-84 - Rowing Victoria Executive Committee Member and Regatta Secretary

1988-96 - Hon Secretary of Scotch Mercantile Regatta Committee

2021-present - Hon Secretary of the Victorian Oarsmen and Womens Association

Andrew Guerin
January 2023

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