Don't Rock the Boat

The story of restarting women's rowing at CRC

Well it all began during the winter of 1978. I had spent the previous 2 years as a social member of the rowing club. This entailed going along to a few local regattas.

Having always enjoyed sports I really fancied having a go. I watched other clubs entering the women's fours and became increasingly frustrated that Christchurch did not have a women's section.

I chatted to a few other females who came along to the regattas, either as long suffering rower's wives/ girlfriends or social members like myself and felt there was a definitely sufficient interest to “give it a go”.

What I had not appreciated , and soon became aware of, was the deep-rooted “anti” camp. During the 1950's and up until the mid-1960's, the women had been very successful. This all turned sour and eventually the women were ousted from the club. It was obvious that some serious lobbying would be required to stand a chance of getting this off the ground, and bring about a revival.

I finally put pen to paper and appealed to the executive committee that we be allowed to use the club equipment i.e. a boat and whatever limited exercise equipment the club possessed. The meeting took place and we “won “ by one vote. As you can imagine that meant there were a lot of members who were not in favour of us rowing, so we had to be on our best behaviour at all times.

Our motto should have been “Don't Rock The Boat”!

So we started training under the watchful eye of our very own coach, Steve Shuck, . Steve was as hard as nails, but he thought the world of us, and we built up a powerful bond that would see us through many ups and downs.

Having got the go ahead, in principle, to reform the women's section, the next step was to have a meeting with the Captain, Mike Devall. We were well prepared and very determined. Our plan was to train hard and compete in our first regatta at Swanage in July, 1978. This took Mike by surprise, as his idea was of us perhaps rowing once a week and “ see how it goes”. We went quietly about our business, the original four being Barbara Docherty, Caroline Loader, Louise Radburn and myself.

And so to our first regatta , Swanage 1978. Glorious sunshine. We could not have wished for better conditions. And the result....yes, Christchurch women recorded their first win. It was the most fantastic feeling in the world- it made all the training, the slogging up and down the river, the bad vibes at times from those still “anti”, all worthwhile. And I believe that one result, together with our dedicated, professional approach, sent the right message to all doubters. In years to come, even those who did not want us to row, came to respect us. And dare I be so bold as to suggest, treat us as equals. The women's section has continued to expand over the years and be a force to be reckoned with, both within the Hants and Dorset Association and further afield.

Other names to mention who featured in those early days are

Bev Johnson ( nee Miller), Ann Ryan ( nee Newman), Cecelia , Terri Fox, Lara Holmes (cox), Jacque Chandler ( cox), Wendy Pierce ( nee Chandler), Barbara Docherty, Julie Hudson, Caroline Loader, Janet Allen ( nee Ashford) & Mercy.

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