Rowing Program

Ballarat High School: A Rowing School


Current Program:

Rowing at Ballarat High School caters for rowers from Years 9 to 12 and coxes from Year 7 upwards. Training takes place at school during Term 3, with on water training added Term 4 and Term 1.  This usually occurs on weekends.

Current Program Administration:

Rowing Director:  Robert Simmonds

Boat Club President:  Paul Bilson


From its earliest years, Ballarat High School has boated rowing crews. In the 1940’s, the School formally joined the Ballarat Public Schools’ Association (now BAS) and has competed very successfully in the annual Head of The Lake regatta and various club regattas over the years. In 1960, the School built its own Boat Shed on Lake Wendouree. This has now been extended three times, the most recent extension completed in December 1998.

In 1974, the Ballarat High School Boat Club was formed, drawing upon the support of parents and former students. This resulted in a resurgence of rowing at the School, particularly evident throughout the ‘80s, where the School won several premierships in the annual Head of The Lake regatta, including Boys’ Head of The Lake wins in ‘83, ‘84 and ‘87. This success has continued throughout the ‘90’s with similar 1st crew wins in ’91, ’93, ’96, 2000 and 2014.

The Boat Club is currently responsible for the raising of some $30,000 a year. This has resulted in a fleet of seventeen IV’s, one VIII and four sculls. The School is unique within the State Secondary School system in having its own Boat Shed and such an expensive fleet of shells and ancillary support equipment. This is in no small measure due to the dedicated efforts of the Boat Club, parents and former students.

In 1980, girls’ rowing was introduced. The girls’ 1st crew has won the girls’ Head of The Lake in 1986 and 1991, including the girls’ premiership in 1980 and 1991. There are now eight premiership girls’ races and potential for up to 12 crews competing in the annual Head of The Lake regatta.

The School usually enters its 1sts and sometimes 2nds crews at State and National Championships, travelling to such places as Perth, Brisbane, Sydney (Penrith), Adelaide and Tasmania’s Lake Barrington. The School has won the National Boys' School IV oared Championship in 1986, 2002 and 2009 and placed second in 2005 and 2006, and third many times in both boys’ and girls’ races. The School has won many State Championship races.

Former rowers from the School include Gary Gullock (silver medal in the Olympics), Tim Wright (World Championship gold in 1997) and Amy Pearce, Stephanie O’Neill, Bec Robison, Emma Bandy, Lachlan McKenzie, Nic Moran and Nicole Hirst have been State Representatives. The School’s exceptional success in rowing led to setting up the Specialist Sports’ School program in 1995. The program seeks to not only provide expert coaching but also to support the academic and social development of students. Working closely with State and local sporting associations, it is now possible to provide a “pathway’ for talented sporting students through to elite levels.

The School’s rowing program is fortunate in being able to rely upon a highly talented pool of volunteer/unpaid coaches, most of them former school rowers, whose training schedules and rowing programs are closely monitored by the Director of Rowing and the senior coaches. If our junior coaches move to Melbourne or Geelong for university or employment prospects, they are readily taken on as coaches in the AGSV or ACS Schools, and this of course, in a relatively highly paid capacity.

The lack of water in Lake Wendouree from 2003 to 2010 meant the annual Head of the Lake race was shortened in 2003 and the regatta moved to Lake Nagambie from  2004 to 2007. In 2008 to 2010, the Principals decided to move the race to Geelong, which is closer but not the traditional 2000m, being only 1500m. The regatta has also moved from its traditional Saturday to Sunday, even mid week to appease the Principals’ concerns of the difficulty for spectator students on the day of the event.  All training ceased on the Lake in December 2005 due to the low water levels. For the program to continue, crews travelled for training and regattas to Barwon, Yarra, and Maribyrnong Rivers and Lake Nagambie. Travelling meant a lot of time was consumed in loading trailers, rigging boats and travel. This also increased the cost to rowers and their parents. Most on water training occurred during holidays and on weekends. The coaches responded to the challenge of finding new ways to prepare crews to a high standard. The Ballarat rowing community was commended by Rowing Victoria, Ballarat City Council and the School Community for the massive effort and for maintaining a National level program while coping with this adverse situation.

Fortunately rowing is now back on Lake Wendouree and the course is back to the traditional 2000m.

Aims and Objectives

To develop qualities of leadership:

  • to inspire and enthuse younger rowers and peers
  • to demonstrate initiative
  • to take on responsibility 
  • to work co-operatively with others and
  • to instill a tradition of pride in one’s School and develop a sense of service in respect to assisting with the rowing program.

To introduce students to the sport of Rowing. This includes not only the technical skills of actually rowing, but also a strong sense of sportsmanship, as well as the obvious enhancement of physical attributes which would contribute towards a competitive edge at an elite level.

In the short term, to prepare students across a range of twenty crews, such that they might compete favourably in the BAS annual Head of the Lake regatta and all associated lead-up regattas, including club qualifying regattas and State Championship events. With our senior crews, both boys and girls, to compete not only favourably in the Head of the Lake Regatta, but to challenge for the National IV oared School Titles at the National Rowing Championships.

In the long term, to facilitate a “pathway” for our most promising student rowers, such that they might have a reasonable chance of gaining selection in State and National categories.