Jim Simpson and I paddled an event on the Yarra from Wonga Park to Princes Bridge in early 1957. I forget how long it took but we came second by 1 second. How did that happen you might ask?
We had come down through all the rapids, passed the canoe club and portaged around Dight’s Falls. The photo above is a newspaper shot of us coming through the rough water below the falls and just above Johnston Street.
Club member Ralph Brown was supporting us and from the footbridge upstream from Hawthorn Bridge, Brownie said, “The bar at the Hawthorn Rowing Club is open”.
It was a hot day and we were so far in front, we thought ‘we’re good’, and ran the boat up onto the Hawthorn landing, dived into their bar and downed a beer. Simmo said, “I could use another”.
Like the first, the second barely touched the sides. We paid and were back in the canoe in a flash, just as Peter White and Max Howgate from nowhere came into sight.
It must have got their adrenaline up as they closed the gap on us but we wouldn’t give up. We held our lead almost to the finish.
In the run to the line at Princes Bridge they were on the city side and we were skirting along just off the boat shed landing.
With just metres to go a large ferry passed between us and the wake picked us up and dumped us high and dry on the landing, a length short of the finish as Peter and Max claimed the honours.
You know there is no “if” – but if we hadn’t stayed for that second beer I think we could have won that race.
By Jonathan Mayne
Commentator to the Australian Sprint Championships
Multiple Aus Champ C1 and C2