Archive for month: November, 2014

Yabbaguru interviewed our own Luke Letcher in line with its goal of promoting ACT sport and athletes on a cross-sport platform.  Luke is an elite rower who started his rowing career at Radford College and was trained for some time by David Bagnall.  You can find his interview here.

If you have a rowing story that would like to publish, here or on Yabba, you can submit to




Lake Burley Griffin opened in April 1964 with tremendous excitement but few realised at the time how dangerous it could be.   The Sydney Morning Herald in 1965 was to refer to this ‘ornamental lake’ as an icy death trap.  That is what it was on 26 November 1964, 50 years ago.

The first rowing calendar included a ‘marathon’.  It never took place.

37 year old Col Panton and 35 year old Bruce Shields had been training for the event in a tub pair coxed by Col’s son Stuart.  Col had been in Canberra for less than a year while his family, including 9 year old Stuart, had been in Australia for only about a month.  Stuart could not swim and life jackets were not worn.

Bruce Shields account of the event was published in The Australian on 27 November.

“Mr Shields said they had been rowing for about six miles, and were nearing King’s Avenue Bridge when a sudden squall caught the craft.  They tried to beach the boat on the rocky shore of a nearby island, but then decided to head for calm water under the bridge.  Only 100 yards from shore the boat capsized.  Mr Shields said that the boy panicked and Mr Panton went to help him.”

At the Coroner’s hearing In December he gave a more detailed account of the day.  The tub apparently had been ‘shipping water’ for some time and they had stopped at Spinnaker Island to empty it.  It continued to ship water on the return and Stuart Panton was asked to bail out the boat using a can but this was lost overboard.  They went under Commonwealth Bridge and fatefully decided that it was too rough to attempt another landing to empty the boat.  The result was that the boat eventually sunk beneath them.

The boat then overturned and Col and Stuart Panton were separated from it.  Bruce Shields released one of the oars and used this to pull the Pantons back to the boat.   There was then a tug of war as Col Panton desperately hung onto the rudder and his son while Bruce tried to pull Stuart onto the upturned boat.  However, the Pantons could not hold on and they drifted away from the boat and drowned.

A bus driver, Bill Beadman, was driving over the bridge and saw the crew in difficulty.  He stripped down and rescued Bruce Shields.  Apparently, on reaching Shields, Shields simply said ‘I’ve had it’, exhausted as he was from the rowing and in his attempts to save the Pantons.  Beadman, however, managed to bring him to shore.  A woman, Mrs Vanlent, also dived in to help but was driven back by the waves.

An appeal was set up by the Burns Club, for whom Col and Bruce rowed, for Mary Panton and her two surviving children.  It topped over £1300 which was a considerable sum in those days, when a 3 bedroom house in Curtin could be purchased for around £6,000.


Rowers on Lake - 1964 - Kings Avenue bridge

Onlookers lining King’s Avenue Bridge in 1964 to watch rowers near the site of the impending tragedy.  Photo by courtesy of the National Library of Australia

The event showed the best and worst of human nature.  While Bill Beadman was risking his life to save the crew, someone stole his watch, a Christmas present from this wife.  Beadman’s said the thief had missed “I’ll bet he’ll be sorry when he hears that”.

There was a bizarre epilogue to this event reported by the Canberra Times.  On 5 February 1965, Bill Beadman was driving his bus in the City when he witnessed a smash between two cars.  He said “I saw a man get slewed about and finish up hanging out of one of the cars’.  He stopped his bus and ran around to help him only to find that again it was Bruce Shields.   In fact, there had been an announcement that very morning that Bill Beadman was to be awarded the British Empire Medal for gallantry for his rescue of Bruce Shields although he did not know that at the time.

The event spawned considerable discussion around Lake safety.  There was an immediate announcement of the extension of Canberra police patrols and installation of emergency telephones.  Editorials and letters to the editors varied but there was an underlying recognition that safety had to start with those using the Lake.  It was ironic that in March 1965 the only rowing eight owned by the ANU was wrecked when a police patrol, heading into the sun, ‘ran across the shell’.

The cancelled marathon, which is run over about 9 kms, was run in subsequent years and it is now known as the Col Panton Memorial Marathon.  One of the Rowing Association’s boats supervising rowing in the ACT is, fittingly, called the Beadman.

This is an extract from Vince McMahon’s January 2011 History of the Black Mountain Rowing Club in the Context of the ACT Rowing Community.





Lake Tuggeranong Rowing Club hosted the third annual staging of the Tuggeranong Festival Cup Regatta in the best conditions we have seen so far for this event. Twenty three quad sculls competed this year over the 750m course in various categories. Each category winner then competed in a handicapped grand finale to determine the winner of The Cup.


Cup winners for 2014 were the women’s quad entry from Canberra Rowing Club (Carla Borg, Sorelle Bowman, Sara Zanetti and Louise Parry). Other category winners were:

Mens – Nick Latimer, John Southwell, Jeff Hart & Tom Trobe from Canberra Rowing Club.

Schoolboys – Henry Bowyer, Alex Grzeskowiak, Byron Hewson, Geordie Carscadden and Yolanda Patterson (cox) from Capital Lakes Rowing Club.

Schoolgirls – Eliza Burton, Emma Stanton, Tiffany McCormack, Rebecca Hyslop and Lucy Egan-Richards (cox) from Capital Lakes Rowing Club.

Mixed crew – Judith Abercromby, Kathy Howard, Leigh Gordon and Geoff Ellacott from Black Mountain Rowing Club.

Almost Champions were the Harris, Wyles, Caroll, Cardone, Thomas, Hart crew from Marist College Rowing Club.


This event highlighted to all our visiting rowers how picturesque Lake Tuggeranong is with all clubs looking forward to participating in this event again next year. Congratulations to all our winners and thank you to all the officials and volunteers who assisted in the running of this regatta.


ACTAS will be conducting the second of its monthly NTC Time Trials this Friday and Saturday mornings. Details below


Friday Time Trial – Small Boats:

Start – 7:00am

Course – Participating athletes will be trailing from the white poles (finish of the Winter TT Course) to Kingston Harbor between 7:00am and 7:45am.

Saturday Time Trial – ACT Crews in Big Boats:

Start – 7:00am

Course – Participating athletes will be trailing from the white poles (finish of the Winter TT Course) to Kingston Harbor between 7:00am and 7:45am.

Following on from the first two regattas, Rowing ACT has decided that the deadline for regatta entries will move to 5pm on the Friday 8 days before the regatta. This will enable more time to prepare the draw, and distribute the draw in a timely manner.
The association has been made aware that there appears to be some ignorance regarding the status and eligibility of novice rowers. Competitors can only compete as novices in the 12 months from when they are first registered to compete. The association will fine clubs who flout this rule. It is important that folk in their first season have fair and appropriate competition.

A third issue that needs addressing is megaphone noise. The association received a complaint about a noisy coach near the Kingston foreshore Development, early one morning in the last week. It is important that coaches are not pointing their megaphones towards the residential blocks, particularly prior to 7am. We should be aware of local community sensitivities and self regulate megaphone usage, and not aggravate local residents. In Westlake (SA) and Mosman (Sydney) megaphone use is banned.

After a very blustery start to the Regatta season, which forced  our first Regatta to be brought to an early finish, Regatta 2 ran under calm conditions.  Temperatures were also moderate just missing the heat wave conditions on Friday.


A short photo gallery of the event is online.   It features some of our hard working BROs on which all of our regattas rely.

The presentation for the Head of the Molonglo will be held at Canberra Rowing Club after 9:30am. All are welcome to attend.

On Sunday 16th November the Head of the Molonglo will commence at 8am from the Molonglo Reach.

Our normal lake traffic rules will not apply in the period 8am to 8:30am as crews will attempt to row the shortest route and will therefore be travelling on the southern side of the lake while travelling east past the National Library, and through Commonwealth Avenue Bridge.
We ask all clubs to notify their members of this change to our traffic rules and ask that all rowers avoid going near the competing crews.