Following is a collection of reports from past years of the Flying Doctor Rowathon, also known as the RFDS Murray Rowathon. This collection of reports will be added to over time.
Due to the Covid-10 pandemic in the eastern states, the Flying Doctor Rowathon was cancelled.
Due to the Covid-10 pandemic in the eastern states, the Flying Doctor Rowathon was cancelled.
The 28th Flying Doctor Rowathon was another very successful event in terms of participants’ enjoyment and fundraising for the RFDS. Total funds raised amounted to over $66,700 and went to the RFDS Mental Health in remote rural communities program. This was another amazing fundraising achievement by all participants and their friends and families and shows great support for the RFDS.
There were 158 rowers and about 30 supporters representing 19 clubs from Vic, SA, NSW, ACT and Qld with 35 boats including 2 octos, 20 quads, 6 doubles, 1 pair and 6 single sculls.
On the Friday evening prior to the big day, the Wentworth District Rowing Club (WDRC) hosted a most enjoyable BBQ with guests sitting at tables on the lawns in front of the Club with a beautiful country sunset and pelicans fishing on the Darling River. People enjoyed socialising with friends and planning for the early morning start.
The Rowathon day started with WDRC providing breakfast from 5.45 which enabled participants to have a quick breakfast before driving approximately 40 minutes to the start on a private property called “Jimmba”at Trentham Cliffs. Boats had been rigged the day before and were ready to go. Crews set off soon after 7.00am and headed down stream to Mildura and lock 11, a distance of 18Km. With great support from the lock manager and Geoff Rix of WDRC, crews were guided into the lock, rafted up, shut in and then lowered down to be let out for the short row to Apex Park for morning tea.
The Wentworth Public School P&C parents provided yummy scones, jam and cream and other treats as well as drinks for morning tea, following which boats, some with news crews, headed down to Coomealla Golf Club, a distance of 25Km, for lunch and a rest. Lunch was again provided by the WPS P&C. The final leg was approximately 25Km to WDRC with crews finishing in time for a relaxing drink and nibbles on the lawns in front of the rowing club.
The Survivors Dinner was held in the WDRC boat shed with the Club members and friends providing a delicious roast dinner followed by desert for the 170 participants, supporters and guests. During the evening we auctioned three special items, a water colour painting “Make a Splash” by local Wentworth artist, Marg Whyte; a limited edition print of a painting of Grevillea “Robyn Gordon” by Graham Pilley and a bottle of Wild Duck Estate, 2017 Duck Muck. Trophies and medals were awarded to the winning crews and/or clubs and many people were thanked for their generous contributions to the Flying Doctor Rowathon.
In particular we acknowledge the support of the following:
Wentworth Shire Council for their cash grant
Lee Mann of Robinvale Ford and the Robinvale/Euston/Mildura communities for their donations of produce and items for our fundraising shop and cash donations.
Malcolm Baker, Mildura Council/Apex Park and Coomealla Golf Club for the use of their landings and river banks and
most importantly the Wentworth District Rowing Club for hosting the event.
Results can be seen on the “Trophies & Results” page.
2018 was the 90th year of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, so for the 27th Flying Doctor Rowathon we recognised this 90 year achievement by setting a new course of 90km and the fundraising target $90,000. Participants completed the 90km and raised a little over $90,000 for the RFDS Mental Health in Remote Communities Program. This was the most successful fundraising total in the history of the Rowathon and was a wonderful effort by all concerned.
There were 165 rowers, representing 21 clubs from Vic, NSW, SA, ACT & Qld, who rowed in 28 boats including 9 single scull, one double scull, 16 quad sculls and 2 octo sculls.
As in past years, participants and supporters enjoyed a Friday evening BBQ hosted by Wentworth District Rowing Club (WDRC), sitting on the lawns in front of the Club on a balmy evening. It was a time for catching up with rower friends and watching the sunset over the Darling River.
The Rowathon day started with an early breakfast provided by WDRC, then first leg rowers drove or took one of the two mini buses to Apex Park on the Murray, just below Mildura, where they started the first leg of 25km to Coomealla Golf Club landing. At Coomealla, participants and supporters enjoyed morning tea, crews had a rest or changed rowers then set off down the Murray, another 25km, to WDRC. Lunch and a well-earned rest for all rowers and supporters was enjoyed by the Rowing Club then crews set off up the Darling River to the private property owned by Bob Hill, a distance of approximately 20km. Here, all enjoyed afternoon tea, a rest, crew changes and the final leg boats set off back to WDRC. The Morning and afternoon teas and lunch were provided by the Wentworth Public School P&C Committee.
Of the 28 boats that participated, 3 single scullers, one double scull and a quad scull did the 90 km with no change in rowers, an amazing effort.
The Survivors Dinner, held in the WDRC boat shed, was provided by the Rowing Club members and friends and was enjoyed by approximately 180 participants and supporters. During the evening we auctioned a beautiful reconditioned single scull donated by Andrew Cannon, a set of sculling oars donated by Croker Oars, and a limited-edition botanical print donated by Graham Pilley. Trophies were awarded to the winning crews and many people were thanked for their wonderful contributions to the event.
In particular we acknowledge the generous support of the following:
Wentworth Shire Council for their cash grant,
Lee Mann of Robinvale Ford and the Robinvale/Euston/Mildura communities for their donations of produce and items for our fundraising shop,
Coomealla Golf Club and Bob Hill for allowing the Rowathon the use of their river landings and facilities,
and most importantly, Wentworth District Rowing Club for hosting the event.
We also thank all participants and their supporters for taking part in the 27 Flying Doctor Rowathon and raising the incredible $90,000 plus for the RFDS.
The results can be viewed on the “Trophies & Results” page.
The 26th Flying Doctor Rowathon raised a little over $44300 for the new RFDS Victoria Mental Health Program that supports people in remote communities. This was a wonderful effort given that our numbers were down on past years. Approximately 80 rowers representing 15 clubs from SA, Vic, NSW, QLD and ACT and making up 4 sculls, a double scull, 5 quads and 2 eights, participated in this great event.
A large number of participants and guests enjoyed the Friday evening BBQ hosted by Wentworth District Rowing Club (WDRC) on the lawns in front of the sheds with a lovely sunset reflected on the Darling River.
The Rowathon day started with the usual healthy breakfast at the WDRC sheds and, after a briefing, boats set off at 7.30 for Coomealla Golf Club landing on the Murray River. Morning tea was provided by the Wentworth Public School P&C parents, including their famous scones, jam and cream. After a rest and some crew changes, rowers headed back to WDRC for lunch and a welcomed rest. Then crews headed up the Darling to the private property of Bob Hill, just beyond the 20km river marker, for afternoon tea, again provided by the WPS P&C parents. The final leg was back to WDRC and the finish line. The weather was very kind to rowers with mainly cloud, a little shower of rain at lunch time and some sun early afternoon.
The Survivors Dinner in the WDRC sheds provided by the Rowing Club members and friends was enjoyed by approximately 90 rowers, supporters and guests. Trophies were awarded to the winning crews, a successful auction was held and many people and organisations were thanked.
We acknowledge the generous support from:
Wentworth shire Council for their cash grant,
The Robinvale/Euston/Mildura communities for their fundraising and donations,
Wentworth District Rowing club for hosting the event,
Coomealla Golf Club and Bob Hill for the use of their river landings and
All participants, their supporters and friends for their fundraising efforts.
Results can be viewed via the “Trophies & Results” page.
The 25th Flying Doctor Rowathon was a great success with 114 rowers participating and approximately 30 supporters following the event. There were 22 boats (6 sculls, 2 double sculls, a four, 12 quads and an octo) and rowers representing 21 clubs from Vic, SA, NSW, ACT, and QLD. Fundraising for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) totalled $50248 and represented a wonderful effort by all involved. The money raised was to be used for the RFDS Mobile Dental Health clinic.
The weekend started on the Friday evening with a relaxed and friendly BBQ hosted by Wentworth District Rowing Club (WDRC) on the lawns in front of the Club with the sun setting on the river and lots of pelicans landing on the water as the sun set and eventually stars lighting the sky.
The big event started on Saturday morning with a cooked breakfast at 6.15 provided by WDRC, a briefing at 6.45 and rowing started at approximately 7.00. With the Murray in almost flood conditions the course was changed so first two legs were on the Darling, from WDRC up to the Bob Hill’s property just beyond the 20Km river marker and back to WDRC for lunch then the same for the afternoon legs. The weather was ideal for rowing with some cloud cover and mid 20’s temperature. The greatly appreciated morning and afternoon teas on Bob Hill’s riverside landing were provided by the Wentworth Public School P&C committee.
All participants did very well and enjoyed the day.
The Survivor’s Roast dinner was held in the WDRC rowing shed with approximately 130 participants, supporters and guests enjoyed a delicious meal provided by WDRC volunteers. Trophies were awarded, a successful auction held and presentations made, in particular a special one to John Marr, one of the original instigators and long time supporters of the Murray Rowathon.
We acknowledge the generous support from:
Wentworth Shire Council for their cash grant and free use of portable toilets
The Robinvale/Euston/Mildura communities for cash and produce donations
All participants and their supporters for their fundraising and donations
Wentworth District Rowing Club for hosting the Flying Doctor Rowathon.
The complete time sheet and results can be accessed via the “Trophies & Results” page.
The 2015 Flying Doctor Rowathon was another great success with 110 rowers and 38 supporters representing 19 clubs from SA, NSW, ACT & VIC. Total funds raised for the RFDS Vic and their Dental Health Program was $41,160, which was a commendable amount.
The Rowathon weekend started with the Friday evening Wentworth District Rowing Club (WDRC) BBQ on the foreshore of the Darling River and all who attended thoroughly enjoyed the balmy evening, the food and friendships.
Breakfast on Saturday morning started soon after 6.00am with rowers and their supporters enjoying a delicious continental or cooked breakfast provided by the WDRC and while they were finishing, announcements were made and boat numbers were issued. The start commenced at 7.00am with crews rowing down the Darling, through the cutting to the Murray and upstream on the Murray to Coomealla Golf Club, a distance of approximately 22Km. Supporters and non-rowing crew caught the buses, provided by the Wentworth HACC, to the golf club to wait for crews to arrive and enjoy morning tea, including the famous country scones, jam and cream, catered for by the Wentworth Public School P&C committee. Some supporters also rode bikes along the river to lend support for their particular crews. The second leg was back to WDRC for lunch and as the weather forecast was for a top temperature of 35C, there was concern for the afternoon conditions and possibly the need to shorten the course however, clouds came over for the later part of the second leg and the skies opened during lunch cooling the day.
After a healthy lunch provided by the WPS P&C committee, crews set off up the Darling to just past the 20Km river marker to Bob Hills’ property (same as past years) for afternoon tea, crew changes and/or rests and then the return trip to Wentworth to be cheered past the finish by supporters and other rowers. Many rowers and supporters visited our stall, set up in front of the WDRC shed, which sold produce donated by the Robinvale /Euston region community.
At the end of the day all participants and supporters enjoyed a delicious Survivors Roast in the WDRC boat shed which had been wonderfully decorated by the ladies of the Club. Speeches were made; trophies awarded and medals were presented to the successful crews and everyone had a most enjoyable evening.
The complete results can be accessed via the "Trophies & Results" page.
The 2014 Flying Doctor Rowathon was hosted by the Wentworth DistrictRowing Club (WDRC) at Wentworth, NSW, and was rowed mostly on the Darling River with a short piece, at the start, on the Murray River. There were approximately 90 rowers in 12 boats (1xscull, 1xDouble scull, 2xcoxless quads, 7x quads & 1xeight) from Vic, NSW, SA and the ACT representing 19 rowing clubs.
The weekend started on Friday evening with a bbq provided by the WDRC with all enjoying a beautiful mild evening sitting at tables on the lawns between the rowing shed and the Darling River.
Breakfast on Saturday morning started from 6.30am with briefing at 6.50 and boat launching from 7.10am. The first leg crews were sent down stream, through a cutting to the Murray River, down to the junction with the Darling River then back up the Darling past the WDRC and the official starter to head up to the morning tea stop just past the 20Km river marker. The lunch stop was a further 15Km up stream and due to the high temperature forecast it was decided that crews would proceed directly to the lunch stop rather than row to the 38Km marker and turn back to the lunch stop. This meant that the second and third legs were 15km each. After an enjoyable lunch catered for the the Wentworth Public School P&C committee, and a rest, boats headed back to the afternoon tea stop for a break and some crew changes before rowing back to the WDRC. There were 4 boats that did the total distance including sculler Flo Howard from the WDRC, a great effort.
Rowers, supporters and guests were treated to a special "Survivors Roast" in the WDRC boat shed with long tables which had been beautifully decorated by the club ladies. An auction of three donated items raised $2000 for the RFDS. This was followed by the trophy presentations with Ian Law presenting his trophy for the fastest boat with no crew changes to the "Twisted Puppies" composite crew. Sam Cross, Captain of WDRC presented the Col Rogers Trophy for the fastest crew with changes to the "Water Weavoars" from Hawthorn RC and Bob Symons, President of the Organising Committee presented the Jack Joel Trophy for the greatest contribution/fundraising to the Hawthorn Rowing Club.
With the exceptional fundraising by the participants and their friends and families, the total funds raised for the RFDS exceeded $51,000.
The Committee wishes to thank all involved in making the 2014 Flying Doctor Rowathon such a wonderful success.
The 2013 flying Doctor Rowathon was a great success with 118 rowers in14 boats rowing on the great Darling River. Rowers represented 18 clubs from 4 States, Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia and Tasmania, and the ACT. They participated in 2 double sculls, 10 quads, an eight and an octo scull. Due to the heat (32C) and the forecast wind, the course was shortened to 72Km by making the 2nd and 3rd legs 15Km each. This was appreciated by all rowers, in particular those that did the total distance.
The event finished with a wonderful Survivors Roast (dinner) in the sheds of the Wentworth District Rowing Club whose members and friends provided a delicious roast dinner. Trophies were awarded, an auction of 4 special items was held and everyone enjoyed a friendly social event.
Results can be seen on the "Trophies" page and a selection of photos can be viewed on the "Photo Gallery" page.
Total amount raised for the Royal Flying Doctor Service was over $27,000, thanks to the donations of rowers, their supporters, the local Wentworth, Robinvale, Mildura and Euston communities.
The 21st Flying Doctor Rowathon was held on Saturday October 6, 2012 on the Darling River starting at Wentworth District Rowing Club (WDRC), Wentworth, NSW. Crews arrived and rigged boatson the Friday evening with the Rowing Club bar being the focal point for introductions or renewing friendships and collecting name tags and t-shirts. On Saturday morning we were greeted by a thunder and lightening show at 6am followed by a brief shower which then cleared to give ideal rowing conditions for the morning. After a cooked breakfast provided by the WDRC, boats were launched and the first crew started at 7.20am. An "out and back" course of approximately 82Km was used with 4 legs of approximately equal length. Rowers headed upstream stopping for morning tea and crew changes at the property of Graham and Glenda Smith, with lawns flowing down to an ideal river bank siding and food and drinks supplied by the Wentworth Public School P&C Committee. The second leg took crews up to the 38Km river marker where there was a buoy to turn at and row back to the lunch stop on the river bank of the property of Janine and Rod Swadesir, surrounded by river red gums and plenty of room for a rest, lunch provided by the WPS P&C Committee and crew changes. The return to Wentworth was the reverse of the first two legs including a stop for afternoon tea and further crew changes at the Smith's then the final leg to finish the row to the acclaim of supporters and other crew members in front of the WDRC. Boats were de-rigged and drinks were enjoyed at rowing club bar. Unfortunately a head wind made the return legs more challenging and contributed to more blisters and tider bodies than for the first 2 legs but all rowers had looks of great satisfaction having participated in a great rowing event on a beautiful Australian river.
A highlight of the day was the enjoyable Survivors Roast provided by the WDRC in the rowing club room and boat storage area, all decorated with vines, citrus T candles and lanterns hanging from boats. They served a delicious roast and desert to 260 rowers and supporters who had a great time comparing blisters, sore body parts and rowing prowess. Fundraising auctions were held followed by the presentations of trophies to end a great the day. 205 rowers from 20 clubs including 2 schools, from 4 states; NSW, SA, Tasmania and Victoria; in 22 boats competed for the three trophies, with the Jack Joel Trophy being awarded to Yarra Yarra's Mighty Titil8 crew, the Ian Law Trophy to Pembroke Masters and the Col Rogers Trophy to Rick Kranen.
Results have been posted on the "Trophy" page and for photos, go to "Photo Gallery" and click on "Darling 2012"
Fundraising for the Royal Flying Doctor Service:
The aim of this event is to raise funds for the RFDS to help with their wonderful service to the country and "Outback" communities. The 2012 Rowathon raised over $70,000 for the Royal Flying Doctor Service with a significant contribution, over $47,000, from rowers and their friends donating through the "EveryDay Hero" web site as well as the very generous donations of money and produce from the Robinvale/Euston community. That amount brings the total funds raised to over $225,000 for the RFDS since the Rowathon started in 1991.
The 2011 Murray River Rowathon was held on Saturday October 8th on the Darling River (yes again) due to the Murray being in flood or at very high flow rates. We used an "out and back" course starting at Wentworth Rowing Club, stopping for morning tea and crew changes at the property of Graham Smith with lawns flowing down to an ideal river bank siding, then on to a lunch stop on the river bank at "Avoca Station" owned by Ian and Barbara Law. The return to Wentworth included a stop for afternoon tea at Graham Smith's. It was a long day with crews finishing the row at around 7pm with some drinks at Wentworth Rowing Club's bar. An enjoyable survivors dinner with presentations of trophies and a silent auction was held at the Crown Hotel in Wentworth.
In total the event raised over $13,000 for the Royal Flying Doctor Service with a significant contribution from the Robinvale/Euston community. That amount brings the total funds raised to over $160,000 for the RFDS since the Rowathon started in 1991. The RFDS site contains interesting stories of its work in outback Australia.
The 2009 Murray River Rowathon was a challenging one given that our event competed for rowers with the World Masters Rowing regatta, Penrith, NSW, however, it was successful and raised over $13,000 for the RFDS SE Section. We had 52 rowers, from 7 clubs, including 2 Learn to row crews, junior rowers from Essendon, and our regular single sculler, Ric Towns. There were also 13 or more support people following the rowers, some on bikes. The day was extremely hot, at approx 42°C with a slight breeze to give some cooling. All crews performed well, managed the row safely, and were ably supported by the local SES and volunteers in tinnies. An "out and back" course from Euston was used and the last leg was shortened due to the conditions making the total distance approximately 72Km.
The local committee lead by Lee Mann and Col Rogers organised excellent morning and afternoon teas, and lunch which rowers, support crew and volunteers appreciated and enjoyed.
Over 100 people then enjoyed the Survivor’s Supper held at Robinvale Golf Club with a delicious buffet, entertaining auction, conducted by Bill McHarg, and successful fund raising raffle.
We thank the Robinvale committee for their hard work, organisation and support. We also thank the local businesses for their support with equipment and donations.
Thanks also go to the rowers and supporters for their donations and for organising sponsorships.
The 2008 RFDS Murray Rowathon was held in fine weather on Saturday 4th of October. With a low Murray it was decided to row an out and back course from Euston Sports Club with the first two legs up river to the original lunch spot and the third and fourth legs back to Euston, stopping for morning and afternoon teas at the old afternoon tea stop. The course went around Bumbang Island both ways but it gave the option of shortening the last leg for slow crews by returning via the cutting to Robinvale then on to Euston. The total distance for the full course was 82Km in the day. There were 68 rowers, 9 boats representing 10 clubs from NSW, Vic, Tas and the ACT. The day meals were provided by the Robinvale Committee and the dinner was held in the Robinvale Golf Club with the usual raffle and silent auction. Canberra won the Ian Law trophy and the Cardinals won the Jack Joel trophy. The total amount raised for the RFDS South Eastern Section was $13,000 of which $3000 was raised by the Robinvale Committee.
2007 Due to a very low Murray River and it being deemed dangerous to row from Boundary Bend to Robinvale with many snags in the water, the Rowathon was cancelled.
Thank you to Ian Law for the year by year summaries below and in particular the very beginning of the Murray Rowathon starting with an exploratory row in 1990.
2006 Jack Joel Trophy won by Capital Lakes RC (ACT).
2005 Saturday 1 October. 92 km down the Murray, from Boundary Bend to Robinvale. Jack Joel Trophy and Ian Law Trophy won by MUBC/Banks 2X. RFDS staff members attended the dinner.
2004 Saturday 2 October. 92 km down the Murray, from Boundary Bend to Robinvale. A record 177 rowers from 15 clubs rowed 21 boats including the first octoscull, from Essendon RC. Over $15,000 was raised, bringing the total raised to more than $75,000. The Jack Joel Trophy was shared between Alan Mitchell (Old Wesley) RC and Melbourne RC. Inaugural Ian Law award was won by Essendon RC 2X. Dunlite power generators purchased the naming rights and the event was titled the 2004 Dunlite RFDS Murray River Rowathon.
2003 Saturday 1 November. 92 km down the Murray, from Boundary Bend to Robinvale. Rowers, clubs and boats? Jack Joel Trophy won by Melbourne RC. Roger Boyce of Caulfield Grammarians RC joined the committee in July. He advised that Cowling had suffered a stroke and was recuperating in the Kingston Centre. Within a month Cowling was living with his daughter and recovering very slowly. Fortunately, Boyce, encouraged by the committee, assumed the role of Convenor, began to computerise the data provided by Cowling, and created the first rowathon website. Cowling continued to serve on the committee.
2002 Saturday 2 November. 92 km down the Murray, from Boundary Bend to Robinvale. About 54 rowers from 9 clubs rowed 9 boats. The Jack Joel Trophy was won by the Vintage Vikings (‘Humbuggers’) who raised sponsorship and towed their eight and tinny all the way from Brisbane and back for the event! Collier Jardine sponsored the rowathon ex gratia. RFDS Victorian Branch staff members came up from Melbourne and assisted during the day. Cowling broke down whilst compering the Presentation Dinner, suffering a recurrence of depression. His recovery could take months.
2001 Saturday 3 November. 92 km down the Murray, from Boundary Bend to Robinvale. 80 rowers from 12 clubs rowed 10 boats. $6,000 was donated to RFDS. Former jumps jockey Rick Towns of Endeavour RC, Newcastle, drove his wife and two dogs down in their campervan on Friday, sculled the course, won the Jack Joel Trophy and returned home on Sunday! He continued to participate in the Murray and Grafton’s Clarence River rowathons for years.
2000 Saturday 4 November. Transferred to the Darling, 73 km from Ellerslie to Wentworth. 86 rowers from 14 clubs rowed 14 boats. Presentation Dinner at the Captain Sturt Hotel. Caulfield Grammarians won the Jack Joel Trophy. $6,000 donated to RFDS. 1997 FISA Tour participants Warwick Marler and Bob Lack were the first Queenslanders to participate in the rowathon. They drove overnight from Brisbane with their sculls on the rack, and completed the course with sore necks due to the number of bends and snags along the way, but they thoroughly enjoyed the row and soon returned with a double scull to conquer the 92 km course along the Murray. Former Australian oarsman Ian Macdonald of Sydney University RC was another 1997 FISA Tourist who loved the experience and came back to row the Murray.
On 9 April 2000, at the first meeting of the committee Law announced that he and Barbara were moving before Easter, to live at Wentworth. IT specialist John Reddaway of the Cardinal RC attended and joined the committee but was unable to take on the position of Convenor. However he strongly recommended that the event be computerised. Jim Squire volunteered to be chairman, with David Cowling as Convenor/Secretary, Geoff Code as Minute Secretary, Don Douglas as Treasurer and Chris Roff (RFDS) on Committee.
Cowling did a wonderful job but became stressed when with six weeks to go, he received a message from an Eric Taylor of Waterways Authority of NSW advising that, despite the safety record for eight events, the event would not proceed until (a) he received and approved a written programme of safety procedures to be put in place for the event and (b) an Aquatic License be purchased. With about three weeks to go, the busiest time for him, the Murray was closed to all boating so he then had to transfer the event to Wentworth on the Darling.
Brian Vear, having been supportive of Law’s desire to develop Leisure Rowing Australia (the term had been in use since the lead up to the FISA Tour), initiated the formation of Leisure Rowing Victoria as a sub-committee of Victorian Masters Committee. As chairman, and with David Cowling as Co-ordinator and Kathy Wilmot as Secretary, they established and published a calendar of events which they distributed to the clubs, but despite their combined promotional efforts the response from clubs and rowers was not what they had anticipated.
1999 Saturday 30 October. . 92 km down the Murray, from Boundary Bend to Robinvale. $7,000 was paid to RFDS. Cowling was an outstanding assistant, displaying initiative and tremendous enthusiasm.
1998 Saturday 31 October. Saturday 1 November. 92 km down the Murray, from Boundary Bend to Robinvale. 98 Rowers from 16 clubs rowed 12 boats. Net profit was just over $4,000. Brian Vear was the first Olympian to row in the event. During the year David Cowling rang Law to volunteer his services. He had learnt of the event through his involvement with a fund-raising auxiliary of the RFDS and had rowed at Scotch College and Mercantile. David began his two-year rowathon apprenticeship, spending time with Law during the months leading up to the event which he witnessed for the first time.
1997Saturday 1 November. 92 km down the Murray, from Boundary Bend to Robinvale. 36 rowers from 9 clubs rowed 4 boats. Over $5,000 raised. A German couple participated and went on to compete in the World Masters in Adelaide before participating in the FISA Pleasure Rowing Tour through the Riverland SA, from Renmark to Waikerie. The RFDS benefited from the Tour of which Law was Convenor. He was subsequently invited to attend meetings of the Australian Masters and selected officials of Rowing Australia. Apart from Warwick and Bronwyn Marler, who have participated in nearly every annual FISA Tour since and organised the second Australian FISA Tour in Brisbane and Noosa in 2010, Brian Vear was the only other official to become seriously involved, in 1999.
1996 Saturday 2 November. Transferred to the Darling, 73 km from Ellerslie to Wentworth. Presentation BBQ Dinner at WRC clubrooms. Special thanks to Stan Wood and Rotarians. 80 rowers from 16 clubs rowed 10 boats. Over $5,000 was raised. RFDS Victorian Branch staff members assisted during the day.
1995 Saturday 4 November - 92 km down the Murray, from Boundary Bend to Robinvale. The annual report is missing but 24 boats were launched: 7 sculls from Barwon, Mildura (2), Perth, Sydney, Wentworth and Yarra Yarra; 2 double sculls from Footscray and Hobart; 1 quad scull + from Hawthorn; 6 fours + from Mildura (2), Riverside, Torrens, Wentworth and Yanco (in their surf boat); and 8 eights + from Alan Mitchell, Footscray, Robinvale, Sale (2), St Kevins College and SCEGS (2). 100 rowers and supporters attended the Presentation Dinner in the dining room at the Sports Ground. First presentation of the new perpetual Jack Joel trophy which was won by Hawthorn RC. The trophy is a red gum cup mounted on a mallee root base. The trophy and base were hand crafted and donated by Chris Bogemann of Robinvale, together with three small red gum cups for the winners of the 1993, 1994 and 1995 rowathons, and eight goblets beautifully crafted by Chris from the timber of various fruit trees, all donated by Jack Joel. Chris made the set assuming an eight would win the event so he made one for each rower. The cups were put aside, to be presented from time to time to selected participants in recognition of their special performances. The fund-raising surplus was $6,253.
1994 Saturday 29 October - 92 km on the Murray, from Boundary Bend to Robinvale. 96 rowers from 7 clubs rowed 11 boats. $7,000 was raised. Spit roast and camp oven vegetables at tables outside the rowing club, under the stars.
1993 Saturday 6 November. Transferred to the Darling, the eight launched at ‘Bellevue Station’ and cruised 53 km to Wentworth - 14 rowers from 5 clubs rowed an eight, a four+ and a scull. Raffle introduced which raised $1,500 for RFDS. Generous camp oven dinner and hospitality courtesy of Bob and Rose Lochhead of ‘Netherby’ Station. Special thanks to Orm McLeod and Stan Wood.
The 1993 RFDS ROBINVALE ROW-A-THON promotional sheet, above, courtesy of Roger Wilson.
1992 Law, an inexperienced oarsman, put the proposal to, and sought the support of, the HRC Committee, initially requesting the use of their letterhead to add weight to his communications with clubs and their rowers, potential sponsors and so on. Some committee members were interested but the use of the letterhead was denied. He then convened a meeting with Life Member and former President Geoff Code and Secretary (later President) Dr Denis Bourke, and they agreed to support the project as a triad.
A suitable course had to be found and a trial row of an eight down the course had to be held before ‘Operation Pelican’ could be officially launched. Ideally the course should be roughly equi-distant from Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne, but after researching the Murray from Albury down to Swan Hill, a course could not be found which satisfied all the requirements. During his annual Easter Tennis trip to Tooleybuc, Law spoke to Swan Hill dentist Mike Franzman who suggested he contact John Marr, President of Robinvale RC. Law and Bourke (he also played in the tennis tournament), rang Marr who advised that a Robinvale crew had rowed from Boundary Bend to Robinvale without any trouble and that the course of 93 km would be quite suitable for the proposed event. Bourke drove Law to Boundary Bend and they found a most suitable location with plenty of space for parking, camping, unloading and launching several boats. There was no need to check the Robinvale end as they were confident that Marr’s mail was accurate and that they could now proceed to organise a trial row down the course.
Saturday 31 October (Cup Week-end) was chosen as the day to trial the course and check out rest stops along the way for access for rowers and vehicles. When Law began to extend invitations to rowers to fill the eight, he expected an enthusiastic response, especially from his own group of leisure rowers at Hawthorn, but it was not to be. The club captain approved the use of the ‘John Campbell’ which was thoroughly inspected and brought up to scratch by John Campbell and Bill Goodwin, and John Carver gave us the use of his car with which to tow the boat trailer. All gave moral support, two or three wanted to go but couldn’t but in the end Law was the only rower from Hawthorn in the crew of pioneers which finally met and gathered on the highway at Boundary Bend. He was joined by the ever reliable elder statesman Geoff Code who acted as minute secretary, kept his eye on protocol and logistics, and offered sound advice for 10 years.
For weeks prior to the row Law visited all the Melbourne based clubs and extended invitations to rowers and with ten days to go we had six rowers less two scratchings, reducing us to four rowers, two from Old Xaverians, and one each from Alan Mitchell (Old Wesley Collegians) and Hawthorn. Then Barbara Law received a phone call from the wife of popular Robinvale identity, Carlton FC champion and Brownlow Medallist John James, expressing concern for our safety as the Murray was very high, running fast and still rising. John however was of the view that we should “have a go”. Marr maintained that we would be OK provided we stayed in the centre of the river and he had arranged for the voluntary SES boat crew to accompany us down the course in contact with their voluntary radio operator based at Robinvale. With just days to go, Mildura dentist David Tankard of Mildura RC rang offering three rowers and himself if required. That made eight rowers and a makeshift cox. The Melbourne contingent stayed at Tooleybuc on the Friday where the river was in flood and moving rapidly.
Saturday 31 October. Tankard rang early to apologise but he had to scratch! We drove to Boundary Bend, saw the awesome river in flood and were greeted by the three smiling, friendly Mildura rowers walking towards us on the highway. After sorting out the numbers we decided to leave the 3 and 4 seats vacant to keep the balance, and rest a seventh rower during each stage. Geoff Code was very nervous when the ‘Campbell’ was launched just off the highway and made its way in the hands of a makeshift cox, past big river red gums to reach the river proper. Code, with decades of rowing experience behind him, later admitted he envisioned his club’s eight being captured by the swirling water then pinned against a tree and snapping in two halves. The day was an exhilarating and memorable experience for the pioneers, paving the way for many years of pleasure for rowers, supporters and volunteers from the local communities. RFDS Certificates of Appreciation were sent to participants and volunteers together with reports on HRC’s letterhead and signed by the Honorary Secretary, Denis Bourke.
1991 Saturday 19 October. As above. Law wondered whether the rowing fraternity had ever organised a similar event for rowers, and reckoned that it would be desirable for rowers to develop a partnership with another good charitable institution apart from the paddlers and Red Cross. Moved by an excited neighbour who had just joined a fund-raising ladies’ auxiliary of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, he submitted a proposal to the Development Officer of the RFDS, Wilson Barr, seeking secretarial assistance, and code-named the project ‘Operation Pelican’. (The pelican was sourced from Graham Pizzey’s ‘Field Guide to Australian Birds’ illustrated by Roy Doyle.) Wilson recommended the plan to the Manager, Group Captain Chris Roff who gave it the green light. Chris later volunteered, joined the Organising Committee and was the senior official timekeeper for several years!
1990 Saturday 20 October. Ten recreational rowing members of Hawthorn RC including instigator John Burgess and Ian Law are permitted to row with paddlers in a lead-up 50 km mini-marathon down the Murray, from Barmah to Echuca. The event was provided each year by organisers of the highly successful and competitive five-day Red Cross Murray Marathon (Yarrawonga to Swan Hill, commencing on Boxing Day) as a workout for paddlers preparing for the main event. The club’s 4-ply timber tub fours ‘G. Code’ and ‘L. Malkin’ successfully completed ‘The Barmah Descent’ and all participants were presented with medals and the week-end was enjoyed immensely by all.