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Boat Club Foundation Speech – November 2013

In November 2013 Paul and Ros Espie hosted a cocktail party for the Rowing Foundation at their home at Darling Point. This night provided a substantial boost in committed pledges and donations to our Foundation. Our thanks to Paul and Ros for hosting us and giving the Boat Club the opportunity to be re-committed to growing our Foundation capital.

On the evening our Deputy President, Chris Noel  gave the following speech about the importance of support for the Rowing Foundation and reflected on the last ten years of success – success which has been in large part enabled by our Foundation donors.

Ten Years of Success – Sydney University Rowing

Good Evening and welcome to SU Rowing alumni and friends.

An occasion like this is a good time to ask the question – what is our role as a sporting club within the university?

No doubt we want to bring to success the sporting ambitions of our members but we have a wider role. One of these roles is to represent our university into the outside community in positive way – this includes presenting well trained teams that can demonstrate they are part of a successful and thriving institution.

This objective brings me to my theme for tonight – ten years of success – what have we achieved for our club and our university in the past ten years.

Keeping in mind that we are one of the oldest clubs of Sydney University and one of five Founding Clubs of Sydney University Sport I think we can be proud of our last ten years and some of the successes and initiatives of the rowing clubs.

It is eight years since we launched our Rowing Division of the University of Sydney Sports Foundation. Our launch of USSF has proved a catalyst to SUSF and other sports clubs to do what we have done and for this reason alone we can be proud of the fact that USSF now has eight clubs involve with ten divisions for scholarships and capital appeals. Over $4m dollars has been raised through USSF .

In 1975 we won the NSW Championship Men’s Eight – it was our first win for many years and we did not win again till 2005 – thirty years later. The difference in 2005 was that we went on to win again in 2006 and 2007 and every year since up to 2013. In February 2014 we will attempt to win our tenth consecutive title in this event.

In the early nineties at the Sports Union the executive discussed on a many occasions how we could transit from “occasional success”  – where a group of active and committed students at a club would gel with the right coach and have a year or two of success to model where we could have continual “planned success” over a long period.

The main thrust of our approach then was to try and professionalize our approach to our clubs – to coaching, training and competing and the first step was professional coaching and administration. SU Sport led the way and supported clubs – including our own in assisting us with paid coaching, assistance in managing our accounts, assistance in our administration.

At our club level we implemented some key strategies to bring success to our rowing programs:

a)      Recruitment of paid quality coaches

b)      Advance planning and setting of club and crew objectives

c)       Maintenance of a high quality fleet of boats for training and competition.

The results have flowed from this approach. In the period 1963 – 2003 – forty years,  we won the Oxford and Cambridge Cup for men’s Intervarsity eights just twice – 1983 and 1993. Since 2003 we have won on five occasions including just two weeks ago in Ballarat.

We have won the points score at the Rowing NSW State Championships in eight of the last nine years.

Our rowers have represented New South Wales and Australia in national teams at either U23 or senior level or both virtually every year since 1989. Our club had 12 rowers representing Australia in the 2012 Olympic team in London.

Similarly the success of our program has assisted to lift the standards of our state – in the period of thirty years 1978 – 2007 NSW won the Kings Cup on two occasions 1984 and 2004 while our arch rivals  Victoria accumulated 18 wins. In the six years since 2008 the NSW crew, with an average of six university members each year in the crew, has won six titles in a row – a new record for New South Wales.

Our club administration has been active in a number of initiatives in promoting our sport and our clubs. Among our achievements I have mentioned the impetus to launch USSF and I should also mention the launch of The Australian Boat Race –a race modelled on the British classic and designed to create a unique university rowing event that can promote both our sport and our university.

As I have mentioned – high quality professional coaching and administration is an essential for our success and this brings me to the purpose of tonight – recognizing that having and maintaining a good quality fleet of boats and equipment is also essential -the clubs launched the Boat Foundation as part of USSF in 2005. Since then with generous support from a small number of alumni we have been able to steadily turnover our equipment each year by selling older boats and buying new ones.

Cost of Our Fleets:

Each of our clubs currently has around $600-700,000 of rowing fleets – these require turnover ideally every 3-4 years and depreciate at around 10-20% per annum. To maintain our fleets in top condition we need to be generating income from our boat funds of at least $60-$70,000  for each of our clubs each year.

Rowing is a small sport so it won’t surprise you when I tell you that for this reason the burden of supporting our equipment program will fall heavily on the small number of the graduates of our programs. With single sculls costing from $10K each we need to ask our alumni to contribute and that they do so substantially.

When we started this Foundation project our fleet situation was just acceptable. We envisaged that we would spend a larger proportion of funds we raised on new boats for the first 6-8 years. The purpose of our initiative at the moment if to ensure that in future years we are raising more funds than we expend and add each year to our capital account with a longer term view that interest earned on our capital will eventually fund our fleet purchases in the future.


Over the past eight years some alumni have been particulate supportive both financially to our cause and personally to myself.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank these people who also happen to be our major donors:

Charles Moore, Paul Espie (our host tonight), Austin Curtin, John Boultbee, Eric Carter, Steve Newnham, Phil Winkworth.

Please think about how you can help – we can arrange monthly, quarterly or annual donations through USSF and the Sydney University Development Office. Talk with Tom McCann, Steve Newnham, Alex Wilcox or myself tonight or we will follow you up with a door form in the next couple of weeks. Your support of Sydney Uni Rowing is greatly appreciated.

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