1991 NSW Schoolgirls Head of the River
Girls steer smooth course from humble start (Daniel Williams, Sydney Morning Herald, 20 Dec 1991)
In May, a small group of students from Sydney Girls’ High School asked Richard Silverton, a then 23-year-old law student, if he would coach their school rowing club.
It was a small club comprising six girls, and their fleet was humble, but Silverton saw a youthful spirit in the girls’ eyes and agreed to train them two mornings a week.
They were preparing for the inaugural Schoolgirls’ Head of the River regatta – GPS schools have contested a coveted event of almost the same name since 1892.
Sydney Girls’ had a squad of 12 by the time the event was contested in October at Davidson Park, Roseville. On race day, their excitement was high but expectations were modest, for the regatta had attracted 150 competitors from 11 schools, mostly the Sydney private schools which had more rowers and better boats.
Three days a week at 5.45am, the girls assemble at the University of NSW boatshed in Gladesville. They work on the water for the 1 ½ hours while Silverton, who is perched in a speedboat, barks order into a megaphone. One afternoon a week, they run for 45 minutes through Centennial Park.
After the success in the Head of the River, coach and rowers sat down and discussed the future. They launched a recruitment drive which had swelled club numbers to 42.
The girls say it is a painful sport – arms and legs burn with exertion – but they are drawn to it because it is entirely different to others they have tried and seems to breed friendship among them, perhaps because of shared agony.