It is a bit sad how so many in canoeing know so little about the ‘C boat‘ history of our club. When I joined Fairfield in the early 50’s we only had touring canoes and the men would race 17 and 18 foot canoes. There were no kayaks. I well recall seeing my first kayak, a “Max Anderson” from Sweden as one of the club hotshots swaggered down the path declaring, “I’ve never seen the boat I couldn’t sit in.” He lasted about 4 seconds. In fairness, back then a Peterborough canoe was deemed ‘tippy’. My father Roy fell out of his regularly.
There came a time when Fairfield became the ‘high castle’ of Australian ‘C boat’ sprinters. Adrian Powell who paddled C1 at the Rome Olympics before competing at four more Olympics and another as coach. Fritz Wasmer and Vid Juriskay paddled C2 at Tokyo and Ivan Gaal made that team but had to decline as there was no financial support for him. It has certainly been a long time between drinks.
If anyone took a count of the Australian titles won in ‘C boats’ it would run into hundreds. Tom and Rueben Collins, Keith Jackson, Peter Mahler, Joe Cabelka, Tom, John and Peter Ohman, Bass and George Wakim, Frank Lambert, the Kerekes brothers, Nick Richards, Kevin Hannington, master technician, Helmut Rietmuller and me. Fairfield was often the top points club of the Australian Sprint Championships. In fact three Fairfield paddlers have been the only paddlers to clean sweep the Australian sprint titles with gold in the 500m, 1000, and 10,000m singles and doubles (all six medals) . . Tom Collins, Bass Wakim and myself and, in company with Bass as his doubles partner, I won 3 gold and 3 silver in C1 with Bass at 21 and me, 42 years of age.
Our club has a proud history and now that the new ‘C boats’ have been introduced to the sport without the width regulation (and the weight has just been dropped to 14 kg) they are viewed as very sophisticated canoes and the people who paddle them are gaining a level of respect which has previously been missing. Women now paddle ‘C boats’ Internationally and Olympic ‘C boat’ paddlers are National heroes in other countries. C boat paddlers were at the cutting edge of the Red Cross Murray Marathon for many years on and off the water and we dominated the marathon scene for many years.
We should acquire a couple of C1s and C2s and tap into the vast bank of experience available within our club and make it happen once more. I am busting to take a crack at our new C4 and I can paddle either side kneeling.
(I did paddle a kayak once . . but it’s OK . . I don’t think anyone saw me.) (The old C4 is Bryan Harper, Kev Hannington, Graeme Cleminger and me as stroke in the mid 60s.)