31 July 2023

Canberra Rowing Club masterminds million-dollar fundraiser to build new boatshed

| Tim Gavel
Start the conversation
Canberra Rowing Club in 1972.

Canberra Rowing Club member John Burchett in front of the Nissen Hut (called the Igloo) boatshed at the Kingston Boat Harbour in 1972. Photo: Supplied.

If a position such as ‘father’ of Canberra Rowing Club existed, it would automatically be allocated to Pat Davoren.

He was there in the first year of the club’s existence in 1964 at the East Basin. He was still there when it moved to Yarralumla in 1973. And he is still involved today.

“I joined in 1964 with a few mates from Canberra High,” Pat said. “In 1973 the club moved to the present location in Yarralumla. It was a derelict building. We raffled a car to get it up to scratch and moved our boats there in 1975.”

That formerly derelict shed has been home to Canberra Rowing Club since 1975 and has well and truly passed its use-by date.

Not that the facility impacted the club’s ability to produce and nurture champions as well as establishing itself in the pantheon of Australian rowing.

Canberra Rowing Club Masters Quad Scull wash their boat in front of the Club’s Boatshed at Yarralumla Bay. Crew members from left are Pat Davoren, Ruth Mills, Judy Schneider and Bruce Cooper.

Canberra Rowing Club Masters Quad Scull members wash their boat in front of the club’s boatshed at Yarralumla Bay. Crew members are Pat Davoren, Ruth Mills, Judy Schneider and Bruce Cooper. Photo: Supplied.

“We fostered a number of school rowing programs over the years, including Canberra Girls Grammar and Marist College,” Pat said.

“We were chosen by the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport) to run the first talent identification camp in 1988/89, which identified future Olympic champion Megan Still and world champion Liz Moller.

READ ALSO Kick-off one step closer for Throsby Home of Football after key planning approval

“Bruce Hick came to Canberra to be part of the AIS. When he wasn’t rowing with the national team, he was rowing with us.”

The need for a new facility to cater for a greater number of female rowers was identified many years ago.

Rendered image of the proposed boatshed viewed from Yarralumla Bay.

Rendered image of the proposed boatshed viewed from Yarralumla Bay. Photo: Supplied.

“At one stage we only had male members and the boatshed didn’t properly cater for female rowers,” Pat said.

“The women’s toilet and shower area is about six square metres with one toilet, one shower and one hand basin for 80 rowers.”

The plan to build a new facility was put in place more than a decade ago. And fundraising – and plenty of it – was needed to generate the money.

“We raised money through our core business which is rowing,” Pat said.

“Fourteen years ago we developed a fundraising plan through corporate rowing where we recruited businesses and government departments where they paid a fee of about $4000 to be trained to row over a month before racing in a regatta.

“One year we had 11 crews that raised over $40,000. We supplied a coach, an assistant coach, a cox, a tinny and a boat.”

It proved to be the backbone of the club’s fundraising activities.

READ ALSO Public servant to Queanbeyan swim school owner: Pete’s long-held dream becomes a reality

By 2023, through a range of fundraising initiatives, the club had raised about $1 million and was ‘shovel ready’.

It was exactly what the ACT Government was looking for and allocated Canberra Rowing Club $1.3 million in funding in the budget.

“We will need to borrow a little bit more,” Pat said. “If we can find a good contractor, it’s hoped we can start in March next year and be completed by September 2024.”

If any club in the ACT can have it built and ready in this timeframe, it’s Canberra Rowing Club.

Once built, it will be a testament to those who have spent countless hours on the water training more than 1000 corporate rowers.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.