December 2016 News

Above – Mercs Men’s Open Eight stride to victory in Head of the Yarra

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All news brought to you by your faithful correspondent, Trident.

Great youth camp at Nagambie

Published 19th December 2016

Brigette Carlile and John Saunders led a group of U21 athletes at camp in Nagambie. The camp ran from Tuesday 13th through to Saturday 17th December, the purpose of the camp was to set the training intent, establishing the “Mercantile Rhythm” and hone skills in selection boats (the eight and the pair). The athletes trained two to three times each day and covered around 180km on the water for the duration.

Needless to say that this is critical preparation for the youth eights which Mercantile wants to win again and be the basis of victorious Victorian Youth eights. Not many people realise that the winning youth eights at the Interstate Championships is an incredibly high standard, in most years, the winning crew would finish third in the King’s and Queen’s Cup! A great deal of careful preparation is required to reach this standard at such a young age.


Above: The youth girls training in pairs

These athletes that attended are the future of the Club and were:
Alexandra Legge
Alexis Hancock
Annie Anezakis
Clare Ward
Ellie Tomanavits
Gemma Sibillin
Georgie Gleeson
India Dempsey
Jess Brommeyer
Jess Evans
Kathleen Hanson
Kirstie Green
Michaella Ballas
Olivia Keppell

Alex Clarke
Alex Maycock
Alex Wolf
Ben Canham
Ben Keller
Charlie Perkins
Ed Gussman
Hugo Blomley
Hugo Van De Graaf
Jack Robertson
James Rook
Joel Cain
Lachlan May
Lennart Schiesswhol
Sam Lovejoy-Hall
Will Anders


Above: The youth boys training in Sean Colgan and Barry Gross

Thanks to Michael McNamara and Max Arundel for assisting with the rowing in the youth men’s eights, and well done to John and Brigette for facilitating a successful camp.

The David D Brown boat naming continues to figure in the press

Published 19th December 2016

This time it is the December edition of Air Force news. I hope that you can at least see the spread in this image. You will be able to read the article on a large screen. It is a great article and a great credit to both Arthur Atkins and David Browne.


Above the full page report on the naming of the David D Browne

New Mercantile Ties Available

Published 14th December 2016

Jenny Fraumano has arranged for the creation of new Mercs ties – see below. The ties are silk and are only $35 each. A perfect Christmas present for any Mercs member who wears a tie. Jenny is only too please to sell you one –


Above: The new Mercs tie

The intriguing story of the 1896 Olympic Rowing Trophy

Published 14th December 2016

There was an auction held in Melbourne on Thursday 8 December, The Martin Sheppard Collection of Olympic Memorabilia. The first item (sold to a Mercs member) was a trophy meant to be awarded at the 1 April 1896 Olympics – and for rowing no less.

What is fascinating is the trophy was not presented to anyone, as the event was cancelled. The story goes that this trophy cup was kept by a British Olympic Official and his family for more than 100 years.


It is a traditional cup held up by three oars.

So is this the holy grail of Olympic rowing?

Louis Petrin of Drummoyne Rowing Club in Sydney writes on the Hear the Boat Sing blog:

A little background: HTBS’s Greg Denieffe wrote in April about Berthold Küttner claiming he and his Bundesbruder, Adolf Jäger, were winners in rowing at the first Olympic Games held at the Port of Piraeus in Greece – see here. Were they the winners of this cup?

The weather that day was horrid, with high wind, almost freezing rain, and very rough seas. Sailing was cancelled but it was thought that maybe racing four-oared boats could continue. Whilst the two crews were on their way to the start, the weather worsened. The rowing events were rescheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The weather by then had gotten worse, and so all rowing events were cancelled.

Bill Mallon and Ture Widlung in their book The 1896 Olympic Games, Results for All Competitors in All Events, with Commentary, listed the following events to be rowed, along with the participants:

  • Single sculls over 2,000 meters – one known entrant, Berthold Küttner, Germany
  • Double sculls over 2,000 meters – one known boat entered, Berthold Küttner and Adolf Jäger, Germany
  • Coxed pairs over 2,000 meters – one known boat entered, Piraeus Rowing Club, Greece
  • Coxed fours – two known boats entered, Hermopolis Rowing Club, Greece, and Panhellenic Club of Athens, Greece.

Aside: Mallon & Widlund listed the clubs with German names – Ruderklub Piraeus, Ruderverein Hermopolis and Panhellenischer Turnverein, who knows why? Also, The Official 1896 Report lists the Nautical Club of Syra rather than the Hermopolis Rowing Club.

It is interesting that in Denieffe’s story, Küttner’s writing 40 years later seems to suggest the Germans were the only ones who turned up.

Mallon is a leading authority on the history of the Olympic Games, and so it is interesting that he lists so few entrants, taken from the written records by officials. Why was this? Rowing in this period was not some obscure activity but rather had many participants and followers. This was of course the first time the Olympics were held and so many of the top rowers from around the world probably did not deem it worth the effort and expense to race at some unknown event all the way in Greece.

It should be remembered that at that time, 14 nations attended, with 241 athletes participating in 43 events in nine sports, so it was not large but it was a beginning. In 2016, the numbers were 205 nations, with 11,544 athletes participating in 306 across 28 sports. So even though Pierre de Frédy, Baron de Coubertin modelled the International Olympic Committee on the Henley Royal Stewards, and was known to go out for a paddle in a scull himself, rowing was not top of the list.

So Küttner may have been able to lay claim to being the first winner because he turned up, ready to race. The rules for the rowing at the 1896 Olympics were to be those of the Rowing Club ltaliano. Although I do not have a copy of their rules, typically even if there is only one boat in a race, it must cross the finish line to be declared a winner, a row over. So Küttner can tell the same story many have, “I could have won if only … ”. Sounds like many a Masters Rowing Regatta. So I would say there were no winners for rowing at this Olympics.

Now, back to the Cup just sold at auction. There seems to be no provenance for this item, only the fact it was held by a family of a British Olympic Official all this time. It would be helpful to know who the British Official was that took this home. Maybe someone out there knows?

How did this official come by the cup? Participants for the rowing event were meant to be from France, Germany, Greece and Italy, no one from England.

The officials for the rowing event are listed in the Official Olympic Report, the umpires were: Prince George; Captain Boudhouris; Captain Duboury, commanding a man-of-war in the French Navy; Mr D. Kyriakos; and Mr I. Ipitis, acted as secretary – once again, no Englishman.

The official awards of the 1896 Olympics were a silver medal, crown of olive branches, and certificate for first place; a bronze medal, crown of laurel, and certificate for second place; and a commemorative medal for each athlete who competed. So this cup would have had to be donated by someone other than the Olympic Committee. But who?

Thomas Weil posted on the same blog:

It was not uncommon for there to be “supplemental” prizes (i.e. beyond a medal and a certificate) for various sports in Olympic Games through at least the 1920s, so it would not surprise me, especially given the claimed provenance (“the fact it was held by a family of a British Olympic Official all this time” does, indeed, constitute provenance), that this might be a genuine survivor.

The cup follows a not uncommon style of rowing award dating from the late 19th century through the mid-20th century, that of a goblet in which the bowl is supported by three crossed oars resting on a base, which is sometimes shaped as a boater.

As with other prizes of this nature, the object may be made of anything from a base metal composite to gold. There is no doubt in my mind that this item lies in the base metal category. While such pieces of lesser value often bear maker – or vendor/distributor – marks (the pewter pots made by Dixon and marketed by Rowell are classic examples), they often don’t, so that should come as no surprise

Michael McNamara breaks Australian Indoor Rowing Record

Published 10th December 2016

Michael McNamara broke the 500m lightweight 19-29 age group record at the Australian Indoor Rowing Championships last week. He clocked 1:23.9 which no doubt pleased his father Patrick who was a Victorian sprint sculling champion in his heyday. Not to be outdone, Patrick won gold in the one minute race for 65-69 year olds at this years Australian Indoor Rowing Champs.

Congratulations Michael (and Patrick).

Also Gus Widdicombe won gold in 19-29 age group with a time of 1:16.5.


Above: Michael in the two seat of the lightweight eight at Head of the Yarra

Masters hold Christmas celebrations at Club

Published 10th December 2016

About 50 of the Club’s masters met at the Clubhouse on Thursday night 8th December for a row and festivities afterwards. Your correspondent left at 8.30pm and there was no sign of the fun ceasing as he departed. Jenny Williams organised a great spread, a big step up from our usual sausages and bread!

The masters group are looking forward to a great 2017 with events such as the State and National Championships, both at Nagambie, and also World Masters in New Zealand.  Some are also looking further forward to the World Your in Italy.

Gus Widdicombe invited to the National Training Centre in Canberra

Published 7th December 2016

Club member Angus Widdicombe, who had a great under 23 season last year, has been asked to step up to the senior ranks and train in Canberra for the next four years in preparation for the Tokyo Olympic Games.


Above: Gus stroking the Club’s open eight to victory at the Head of the Yarra

Gus was a member of the Australian under 23 eight last year along with three other Mercs members and also won National Championships in under 23 sweep. He is an outstanding athlete who will do well in the national training centre environment.

2017 International Season

Published 7th December 2017


With many of our senior rowers taking a year away from Australian teams, the Club is hopeful of having some crews racing for Mercs in Europe this winter. So confident are some members that they have booked accommodation and travel to Henley Royal Regatta.


Above: Mercantile at HRR in recent years

More news on this story as the season unfolds.

Reinhold Batschi awarded FISA Distinguished Services to International Rowing Award

Published 7th December 2016

Many of our members are very close to the great man Reinhold Batschi, who has done so much for Australian rowing. Our President was coached to Australia’s first sweep World Championship in 1986 and Life Member Andrew Guerin was team manager to Head Coach Reinhold Batschi in those great years when Australia was on top of the world. Despite Australian Rowing imploding in 1995, the 1996 teams made Australia the most successful nation at the Olympic Regatta and also most successful nation across all World Championships that year.


Above: Reinhold Batschi, with Club member and fellow 1996 team members Noel Donaldson and Andrew Guerin luxuriate in the sweet smell of success in Atlanta in 1996.

It appears that his services for rowing internationally are now also being recognised with this most prestigious award. To Reinhold our heartiest congratulations.

When Reinhold first came down to Mercantile in 1979, he was befriended by fellow Romanian Ted Sorani. Until that time we all thought that Ted was Italian!!

David D Browne – two wins from two starts

Published 7th December 2016

The new Empacher eight named the David D Browne which was kindly donated by Arthur Atkins, has now had two wins from two starts. It is the way to becoming a very successful boat.


Above: the David D Browne

Member Profiles

Republished 3rd October 2016

Olympians v3

The number of member profiles has now well exceeded 100. The first 100 down the next 1,000 to go. We wish to record profiles of all current and past members so please submit others to Subject to editorial review, they will be published with the author’s name and date.


Thursday Masters Nights

Republished 2nd November

Reminder that all masters rowers are welcome for a row on Thursday nights followed by a sausage sizzle and refreshments. Row at 6pm and sausage sizzle at 7.30pm. All welcome. Please call Andrew Guerin on 0417 554799 to get put on the weekly email.


Thursday nights after the row

Saturday Morning Breakfasts

Republished 2nd November 2016

The breakfast Mums are always looking for new people to assist them on a Saturday. Any volunteers would be most welcome and should call Jenny Fraumano on 0438 324307.


 Mercantile Mums at work


Above: Breakfast on Melbourne Head day

 Updated Events

Updated 7th December 2016

Please go to the Events tab for details on forthcoming events.