November 2016 News

Above – David Crawshay Olympic Champion 2008

Follow this link for past news

Follow this link for upcoming events.

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

Missed the Head of the Yarra? This is what happened

Published 27th November 2016

Why do we inflict ourselves every year to 30 minutes of misery? Because it is a great and iconic race and one deserving of our participation.

The club wore green ribbons in memory of the great Sarah Tait. Her last race was at the Head of the Yarra.

The Club won both the men’s Open and B eights and our lighties finished less than half a second behind in second place in the B eights. Our open women’s eight could not repeat the 2015 win and finished third and the B girls finished second in their race. Details below.

So how did the day unfold?


Above: The first crew off was a composite women’s masters crew


Above: The next was our F masters men’s crew


Above: The confusion of the start


Above: Our B women’s crew at Hawthorn


Above: Our B crew finishes strongly, less than 0.5 secs ahead of the lightweights


Above: The B men’s eight presentation


Above: The lighties showing the strain of the race


Above: The women’s open crew finish


Above: The open men’s eight finish strongly in the “David Browne”

The “David Browne” takes two wins from two starts.


Above: The open men’s eight finish

The men’s open eight race was a superb competition between Mercs and MUBC. University started in front and successfully held off our crew until the Scotch straight when University ran out of stream. It was fortunate that they got in front at that point because Uni got blocked at the next bridge by a tail end crew of the open women’s race.


Above: The men’s eight presentation


Above: Back at Mercs upon returning, the crews watch the replay of the race on the big screen

Head of the Yarra this weekend

Published 21st November 2016


Yes it is Head of the Yarra again and Mercantile is lining up with superb crews in the open men and women, B men (2 crews) and B women. Our crews performed with distinction at the Melbourne Head against the best of the local competition so let us look forward to defeating the Australian and New Zealand competition.

We also have four masters crews.

Our entries are:

Event Crew Athletes
FME8+ Mercantile Composite Pernette Wijnen, Lynne Charge, Christine Howgate, Kerry Morrison, Anthea Amos, Joanna Adamson, Valborg Dowell, Jennifer Williams, Derek Begg(c)
MMFG8+ Mercantile Peter De Garis, Andrew Phillips, Colin Kimpton, Andrew McDonald, Geoff Barden, Jeffrey Thompson, Euan McMinn, Mark Groves, Sebastian Jenner(c)
MME8+ Mercantile Composite Brenton Rasheed, Christopher Ratcliffe, Andrew Guerin, David O’Brien, Raymond Dawson, Gregory Hansen, Hamish Fitzsimmons, Hugh McVicker, John Leeming(c)
FB8+ Mercantile 2 Meghan Hester, Kirsten Green, Kate Duggan, Georgia Stewart, Gemma Sibillin, Amanda Bateman, Adriana Marulli, India Lissa Dempsey, Jeffrey Thompson(c)
MMD8+ Mercantile Rodney Nancarrow, Andrew Westacott, Norman Oke, Ross Rennick, Gregory Dudgeon, David Miller, Andrew Shugg, Cameron Williams, Eliza Hobba(c)
MB8+ Mercantile 2 Angus Maloney, Lennart Schiesswohl, Benjamin Canham, Angus Beckingsale, Alexander Kinsella, Alexander Clarke, Andrew Burke, Lachlan May, William Webster(c)
MB8+ Mercantile 3 Josh Bell,Michael McNamara,Carl Tomczak,Lennart Schiesswohl,William Legge,Jayden Grey,Redmond Matthews,James Wilson,Annabelle Orr(c)
FO8+ Mercantile 1 Madeleine Thomas, Addy Dunkley-Smith, Katrina Werry, Hannah Lewis, Jessica Morrison, Olivia Sibillin, Fiona Albert, Jennifer Cleary, Alexis Louise Hancock(c)
MO8+ Mercantile 1 Alexander Wolf, Callum Nott, Alexander Kinsella, David Crawshay, Tom Hunt, Josh Dunkley-Smith, Liam Donald, Angus Widdicombe, Annabelle Orr(c)

There are 255 entrants!! The first crew departs 10.30 am with the last at 2:21 pm.

There is also a growing number of Mercs masters crews. One of the problems of old age is that your memory fails to remember why you swore not to compete in this race again. What happens? Time and lack of memory cures all and we do it all again. Is this not  insanity?

The Club has come to save us all with drinks after the race and we look forward to seeing you there.


2015 Head of the Yarra women’s open winners

Missed Melbourne Head? This is what happened

Updated 20th November 2016

The Club had a great day at this regatta with our young rowers racing in singles and pairs then doubling up in eights. Our men’s masters were the fastest F division eight in the masters eight as well.


Captain Bill Webster supervises preparations


The warm ups in full swing


Final instructions from David Colvin


David Pincus checking the rig with his crew


Annabelle Orr was very focussed before her coxswain duties


And Alexis Hancock plays to the camera


The regatta scene

The small boat results were great. The women’s scull was won by Amanda Bateman with Madeleine Thomas second and Addy Dunkley Smith in third place. Other scullers finished in seventh, eighth and ninth places. Liam Donald was the best of our men’s scullers finishing third as many of our sweep rowers trying their hand at sculling.

The pairs were more predictable with the women taking second and third place and in the men, first to fifth places led by Tom Hunt and Callum Nott.

The eights were a lot of fun for our rowers with our crews racing well.

The women’s club eight was won our youth girls fresh from their studies and comprised:

Str: Annie Anezakis – 18
7: Georgie Gleeson – 18
6: Jessica Brommeyer – 18
5: Olivia Keppell – 19
4: Clare Ward – 19
3: Ellie Tomanovits – 18
2: Bella Logie-Smith – 17
Bow: Michaella Ballas – 18
Cox: Alexis Louise Hancock – 18

This is another strong intake of women into the Club.

In the women’s open division, Mercs finished first with our open crew and third with our B crew. The open crew contained three from the 2016 Australian Olympic team:

Str: Jennifer Cleary
7: Katrina Werry
6: Olivia Sibillin
5: Jessica Morrison
4: Hannah Lewis
3: Madeleine Thomas
2: Addy Dunkley-Smith
Bow: Adriana Marulli
Cox: Alexis Hancock


The Women’s Open eight striding to victory


Our women’s B eight racing superbly

This young crew contained:

Str: India Dempsey
7: Gemma Sibillin
6: Amanda Bateman
5: Kate Duggan
4: Georgia Stewart
3: Clare Ward
2: Kirsten Green
Bow: Meghan Hester
Cox: Roy Zhang

The men’s open eight won their division and the lightweights finished third, just ahead of the B crew in fourth place. The open crew contained 2016 Olympic silver medallist Josh Dunkley Smith and past Olympic Champion David Crawshay. It was great to see Crawsh and also Nick Purnell back in the boat. The crew was led by the youngsters, Gus and Liam:

Str: Angus Widdicombe
7: Liam Donald
6: Josh Dunkley-Smith
5: Tom Hunt
4: David Crawshay
3: Nicholas Purnell
2: Callum Nott
Bow: Alexander Wolf
Cox: Annabelle Orr


The Men’s Open Eight win comfortably


The lightweights seen above were a quality crew

The crew comprised:

Str: James Wilson
7: Redmond Matthews
6: Jayden Grey
5: Hugo Van de Graaf
4: Carl Tomczak
3: William Legge
2: Michael McNamara
Bow: Josh Bell
Cox: Jordan King

Hidden in this lightweight eight is a non-lightweight, namely Hugo Van de Graaf. Hugo is a visitor from Switzerland who arrived within the last month. He has been a member of the Swiss junior 8 at the Junior World Champs and will be with us until April while he takes a gap year before head to the US to study.


There was not much in the margin with B crew above and the lighties

This crew comprised:

Str: Lachlan May
7: Angus Maloney
6: Alexander Clarke
5: Benjamin Canham
4: Angus Beckingsale
3: Bronson Hooper
2: Jack Lawrence
Bow: Alexander Kinsella
Cox: James Rook


Our men’s F masters crew


Also seen at the regatta was one of senior members Garth Manton, 1956 medallist and soon to turn 87


And Kate Duggan introduces her new pup to the regatta scene

Our paddlers excel at the King Valley Challenge

Published 18th November 2016

The 7th edition of the annual King Valley Challenge saw competitors face some of the most challenging conditions in the race’s short history.  Set in the King Valley, this multisport event is a continuous race comprising of an undulating 15km run following the upper King River and crossing a number of it’s tributaries, 12 km kayak around Lake William Hovell, 39km road cycle down the King Valley and then climbing up to Whitlands before finishing with a 4km run to Power’s Lookout.  The 70km course has an overall elevation gain of just over 1000m.   The event is open to individual and team entries.

This year’s event, held on Saturday October 22, featured cold conditions, rain and a persistent and gusty 30-50km/h southerly wind blowing of the nearby mountains and directly down Lake William Hovell providing challenging conditions during the kayak leg and a cracking tail wind for the first 20km of the road cycle leg.  The rough and windy conditions on the lake no doubt provided an advantage to the experienced kayakers in the field including Mercantile Kayak Club members Marlena Ahrens and Stewart Bennett, both competing in their respective solo categories.

In the women’s solo race, Marlena started with a strong run entering the transition to the kayak in 3rd place before dominating the paddle leg as the fastest female on the water and opening up a lead of over 10 minutes over her closest competitor.  She then maintained her position out in front with a strong ride taking more time on her rivals with the fastest individual female road cycle time.  Marlena raced away over the final 4km run leg winning in an overall time of 4 hours 40 minutes 50 seconds and an impressive 13 minutes clear of second place.


Above: Stewart Bennett

In the men’s solo race after a good run, Stewart entered the water as the first placed individual and extended his lead during the kayak leg to begin the road cycle comfortably clear of his competitors.  He then extended his lead during the road cycle and final run legs crossing the finishing line in a winning time of 3 hours 44 minutes 51 seconds, with a comfortable 15 minute gap to second place.

There were mixed scenes of joy, relief, pain and hypothermia at the finish line at Power’s Lookout as competitors re-warmed and recovered from what was a challenging, cold, and for some a simply brutal day out running, kayaking and riding.  A successful day was had by the Mercantile Kayak Club members who enjoyed the benefits of maintaining a training routine through the winter months.

Rescue at Sea

Published 18th November 2016

The following article was published in the American rowing magazine and has been reproduced with permission of the author Andy Anderson. The story involves life member Sean Colgan.

In the Atlantic, a story of loss and coincidences.
Earlier this month I received an email from one of my most faithful correspondents, Sean Colgan. Longtime readers will know that Colgan, an oarsman who has made it was alerting me to a particular piece of rowing drama that took place on the high seas.
Since finishing his elite competitive sweep career in 1980 when he and his boat mates in the U.S. eight, like all American athletes, were prohibited from participating in the Moscow Olympics, Colgan has pursued a business career. He founded and is currently chairman of International Minerals, Inc. (IMI). It was in this capacity that our story came to his attention.
Ocean rowing is the extreme version of our sport. While we race for between five and 18 minutes over distances that may vary from 1,500 meters to four miles, ocean racers row in contests ranging from a few hours to up to 90 days. Not all of ocean rowing is racing. The first duo to successfully row across the Atlantic Ocean, Norwegian immigrants Samuelsen and Harbo, rowed a standard two-man boat from New York City to the Isles of Scilly in the English Chanel in 1896 in 55 days.
Where there are races, there are also men and women who will cry to set speed records. And this is where our story begins. The four-minute mile of ocean rowing crossings is to row from Gran Canaria island off the coast of Spain to Barbados, a voyage of 2,598 miles in under 30 days. The fastest crossing so far has been 31 days and change. An intrepid crew of eight rowers-five Brits, two Zimbabweans, and one Frenchman-were determined to break the record chis February. Several of the crew were real oarsmen, having rowed in international events in racing shells. The others were adventurers, that particular breed of athlete who looks for epic challenges. Ocean racers are proud of saying char fewer people have rowed across the Atlantic than have climbed Everest.
In 2012, a Cambridge oarsman, Toby Wallace, who had won the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race in 1998 and 1999, was part of a crew on the “Titan” chat crossed the Atlantic in a respectable 34 days. The 6’7″ Wallace was an inspiration to many ocean rowers, but sadly died in 2013 when he was hit by a truck while attempting to break a record biking from Land’s End in southwest England to John O’ Groats in northwest Scotland.
The boat’s owners,, rechristened it the “Toby Wallace” It was this boat that set out to break the 30-day mark. At the same time, a sister boat, the “Fire Ant,” was crying to break the women’s record of 45 days. On February 13, because of broken oars and faulty navigation equipment, the crew of the “Fire Ant” had to abandon their effort and were picked up by a passing ship.
The “Toby Wallace,” with its eight oarsmen taking two-hour shifts at the oars, was making good progress across the Atlantic when they saw the “Fire Ant” stop. They kept on rowing despite ominous seas that put them three hours behind record pace at just over half of the 2,600 miles. Then disaster. In the early hours of February 15, a wave swept across part of the rowing deck and Michael Johnson, 21, was swept off his seat and into the sea. The wave was so strong that it caused his safety leash to snap.


Above: The Toby Wallace
With the wind howling, the waves pushed Johnson away from his boat. The crew tried to row the boat toward where their friend had disappeared, but because of the rough seas and the darkness, they could not find him. They triggered their emergency position information reporting beacon and contacted the British coast guard by satellite phone. The crew also deployed their life raft as a sea anchor to slow their progress in the hope that Johnson would drift to their position.

The Portuguese coast guard requested that any ship in the area aid in the search for the man overboard. And it is here that Colgan’s relevance to the story comes in.
His company had chartered the ”M/V Sea Pearl” to transport iron slag, which can be recycled to make cement, from Amsterdam to Manaus, Brazil, a city more than 1,000 miles up the Amazon River. The shipbroker who matched cargo to ship was also an oarsman, Steve Simpole, who rowed on the British lightweight team back in the 1970s.
“International maritime law says that a ship must respond to a mayday call,” he told me. So the “Sea Pearl” changed course and headed to the location, 2,500 kilometres southwest of the island of Sao Miguel, Azores. They searched all day until the light faded, but finally had to abandon the search. Michael Johnson, one of the crew’s two men from Zimbabwe, had been lost.
The “Sea Pearl” rescued the other seven men. The crew of the “Toby Wallace” were loaded onto the vessel and taken to Brazil, where they were put ashore at the Port of Macapa. The captain, Krzysztof Polowiec, and his crew did heroic work rescuing the seven oarsmen on the high seas. And the coincidence of a ship chartered to an oarsman’s company by an oarsman rescuing oarsmen? As the saying goes, truth is stranger than fiction.

Melbourne Head Entries

Published 18th November 2016

The Melbourne Head Regatta will be the first opportunity of the 2016/2017 season for our competitive group to race, athletes will race in a combination of small boats (singles and pairs) in the first bracket and eights in the third bracket.  The open eights are comprised of some the very best athletes in the country and it is great to see David Crawshay and Nick Purnell back from retirement to race with some of our talented younger rowers. Also of course from our current Olympians, Josh Dunkley Smith, Jess Morrison and Jen Cleary.

Men’s Open A 8+
Racing in the David Browne

Cox: Annabelle Orr
Str: Angus Widdicombe
7: Liam Donald
6: Josh Dunkley-Smith
5: Tom Hunt
4: David Crawshay
3: Nick Purnell
2: Callum Nott
Bow: Alex Wolf

Women’s Open A 8+
Racing in the Dr Bibi Colgan

Cox:  Alexis Hancock
Str: Jen Cleary
7: Kat Werry
6: Olivia Sibillin
5: Jess Morrison
4: Hannah Lewis
3: Madeline Thomas
2: Addy Dunkley-Smith
Bow: Adriana Marulli

Men’s B crews Hwt and Lwt

Barry Gross            Sean Colgan
Bow: Burke             Legge
2: Lawrence            McNamara
3: Canham              Hooper
4: Beckingsale        Grey
5: Kinsella               Van de Graaf
6: Clarke                  Tomczak
7: Maloney              Matthews
Str: May                  Wilson
Cox: Rook               King

Women’s B crews Hwt and Club

John Burford                 Dr Bibi Colgan
Bow: Hester                   Ballas
2: Green                          Logie-Smith
3: Ward                           Tomanovits E
4: Stewart                       Brommeyer
5: Duggan                       Keppell
6:Batman A                    Green
7: Sibillin G                    Gleeson
Str: India Dempsey      Anezakis
Cox: Zhang                    Hancock

For the first time we have got three masters eights racing, one composite crew for the women and two men’s crews racing in the E and F divisions. The crews are:

Cox: John Leeming
Str: Hugh McVicker
7: Hamish Fitzsimmons
6: Gregory Hansen
5: Raymond Dawson
4: David O’Brien
3: Andrew Guerin
2: Christopher Ratcliffe
Bow: Brenton Rasheed

Cox: Sebastian Jenner
Str: Mark Groves
7: Euan McMinn
6: Jeffrey Thompson
5: Geoff Barden
4: Andrew McDonald
3: Colin Kimpton
2: Andrew Phillips
Bow: Peter De Garis

Cox: Derek Begg – (Richmnd)
Str: Jennifer Williams – (Merc)
7: Valborg Dowell – (CaulfGrmns)
6: Joanna Adamson – (Merc)
5: Anthea Amos – (Richmnd)
4: Kerry Morrison – (AlanM)
3: Christine Howgate – (YrraYrra)
2: Lynne Charge – (Carrm)
Bow: Pernette Wijnen – (Merc)

Night of Excellence was superb

Published 16th November 2016

It was a great night at the Club on Staurday celebrating our 2016 Olympians and also the retirement from international competition of David Crawshay, one of the greats of our sport.


The evening started with drinks downstairs.


The mood was enhanced with jazz musicians on the balcony


After dinner we heard from our current Olympians interviewed by immediate past Captain Robyn Selby Smith


And of course Crawsh shared his memories from a long career prompted by Captain Bill Webster

It was a superb evening and thanks to the organisers led by Hannah Lewis and Bill Webster.

ABC picks up the Atkins/Browne story

Updated 6th November 2016

Club member Hamish Fitzsimmons is an ABC reporter and has put together a superb TV and also an online story of Arthur Atkins and the boat he donated to the Club which is named the David D Browne.

The television story on Arthur Atkins was on Australia Wide initially this morning on News24 11.30am, repeated at 9.30pm tonight, and on ABC1 Sunday 10.30am.

For those who missed the program, you can watch it on-line at:

It is the third story and it is great.

Here’s the online version:


Happy viewing.

Welcome home to our Rio Olympic and celebration of the outstanding career of David Crawshay

Republished 2nd November

Please join us all at the Clubhouse on Saturday 12th November 2016, 7pm for 7.30pm to welcome home of Rio Olympians and also celebrate the outstanding career of David Crawshay.


Drinks and canapés on arrival followed by formal dinner – evening to conclude at 11:00PM
Lounge suit
Club blazers appropriate
$137 available via
Bookings open until 5 November 2016
Hannah Lewis
0404 399 448

Shunyi, CHINA. AUS M2X, David CRAWSHAY and Scott BREEAN Gold medalist men's double sculls, at the 2008 Olympic Regatta, Shunyi Rowing Course. Sat,.16.08.2008. [Mandatory Credit: Peter SPURRIER, Intersport Images

David Crawshay and Scott Brennan Gold medalist men’s double sculls, at the 2008 Olympic Regatta, Shunyi Rowing Course. Sat,.16.08.2008. [Photographer: Peter SPURRIER, Intersport Images]

This an important event so please make sure that you can attend.

Who saved my dog?

Published 2nd November 2016

The Club has received an email from a grateful member of the public whose dog was saved by a Mercs pair. The email reads:

I would like to thank the two young men rowing as a pair on Monday 24th Oct at approximately 6pm.
They saved our family pet dog, Digger, from the Yarra River.
I’m not sure of their names, but please pass on my most sincere thanks. The 2 men will know what I’m talking about.

The chase is now on to credit this kind crew of crafty canine capturers who conspired to combat this crisis.


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.


From the Archives

Published 2nd November 2016

This month we go back 120 year to the Club’s first senior State Championship. Mercantile was formed in 1880 and it was not until 1895 that the Club won the Champion Four of Victoria. The following is extracted from the Club’s history.

The season 1894-5 was a time of severe financial depression. Yet although the merchants were struggling, Mercantile was flourishing.

A most significant event in the story of the club was the success of Syd Edwards in prevailing upon Alex Sloan and Stephen Morell to leave Electric Telegraph and join Mercantile. Sloan had won the Junior Pair for Electric Telegraph at Melbourne Regatta in the previous season and had rowed in the Inter-colonial Eight. Morell and Sloan had both rowed in Electric Telegraph’s winning Maiden Four at Upper Yarra and at Warrnambool in 1892.

Electric Telegraph had never been a particularly successful club. It had suffered a severe setback with the Greenlands fire in 1885, had no clubhouse of its own and had difficulty in maintaining continuity with frequent transfers of its members by reason of employment. It offered little future for men like Sloan and Morell. It looked like folding up, and, with the loss of its two outstanding junior prospects, it had little future success before it disbanded.

Despite some opposition from within the club, the two seat of the Senior Four, which had been rendered vacant by the transfer of Strelitz to Western Australia was immediately filled by Sloan as Edwards had planned. He fitted in splendidly. However, during the course of training Davis had to quit for a time and the crew thus lost its stroke. Frank Gibbs was brought up from the juniors into the two seat and Sloan moved up to stroke!

The setbacks could not be quickly overcome and the crew was beaten by Wendouree after a great race in the Champion Fours. Mercantile won a fortnight later at Upper Yarra, but Wendouree did not race.

Davis then returned to the stroke seat, Sloan went back to No. 2 and the stage was set for the “race of the century” against Wendouree at the Ballarat Regatta.

The race attracted immense interest. No-one from Ballarat would hear of Wendouree being beaten. There was a big attendance and much excitement. Wagers were high. The race itself was magnificent. Nothing separated the crews as they raced up the old Ballarat Regatta course towards View Point, but Mercantile got up in virtually the last stroke to win by 2 1/2 feet.


Above: The Club’s first State Champions
R.E. Dawson (Bow), A.B. Sloan (2), H. Lindgren (3), W.H.T. Davis (Stroke), V. Jones (Cox), Syd Edwards (Coach)

The picture is as interesting as the story. The picture is taken on Brickmakers Swamp with St Kilda Road in the background. This swamp was filled in with dirt taken from the river improvements undertaken after this photo was taken which straightened out the Yarra River to its current course. The reclaimed land is now the area on which the boathouses are now situated and also the gardens behind the sheds.

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 2nd November 2016

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

Past news can be found through this link.