Getting to Know the Cambridge Rowing Club
To honour the history, dedication and current initiatives of each rowing community, Row Ontario will be producing a series of profiles on member clubs across Ontario. Today we get to know more about the Cambridge Rowing Club!
Cambridge Rowing Club
Location: Cambridge, Ont.
Members of the Cambridge Rowing Club have been rowing down the scenic Grand River since the club was first founded in 1987.
The club was founded by local veterinarian Bruce Holliday and a small group of enthusiastic rowers who had a vision of starting a community-based rowing club in Cambridge to promote the sport of rowing. The beginnings of the Cambridge Rowing Club were humble, as Holliday and the small first group of members set up shop in an old wooden garage at the Riverbluffs Park on the banks of the Grand River in that first year.
Over time, the club worked with the city of Cambridge to establish a more suitable building to house the club, first using a tractor trailer donated by Koch Transport after the first few years in operation to accommodate their growing fleet of rowing shells. Two other key members in those early years who helped Holliday found and build the club were Mike Elmitt and Bill Ingraham. Elmitt had a tremendous background and knowledge in rowing as he rowed at the Marlow Rowing Club England during the 1960’s.
Since the beginning, the Cambridge Rowing Club has had a focus on sculling and currently run both competitive and recreational programs in addition to introducing the sport to new rowers each year through their learn-to-row program.
“We might have some pair riggers gathering dust somewhere, but by and large the CRC is a sculling club,” said David Coode, the Cambridge Rowing Club’s current Vice President and a member since 1998. “We have a masters program which is primarily recreational, and we run learn to row programs in a typical year, where we provide a coach and usually get around 40 people who participate. We divide our programming up into recreational and competitive with all ages participating in both. We have members who want to work on training and racing, so they get together and train competitively and we provide some coaching for them. And then we have people who want to enjoy the sport at their own pace, so we have a pretty broad range of members which is great.”
The club’s competitive members typically travel around to attend Ontario regattas throughout the summer months, making regular stops at the Row Ontario regattas as well as the Masters Championships. While the competitive masters program at the club is relatively small, it’s been a strong program for many years thanks to a number of former national team athletes joining the club following the conclusion of their elite careers.
The club has had numerous contributors in recent years who have helped keep the club running and moving in the right direction. For many of the past 20 years Hans Hansen was always there to help out and had been the first person to volunteer to fix anything that needed repair. Alan Willemsen, who is the current Club Captain, and Brian Waddell, who oversees the coaching programs, are currently doing a lot of work to help reinvigorate the nearby University of Waterloo rowing program.
The bulk of the Cambridge Rowing Club’s membership, which is typically between 100-120 people in a given year, resides in the Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge Tri-Cities area, but they do draw members from as far away as Hamilton. Like most clubs in the area, they typically get onto the water in April and pull the docks in early or late-November depending on the weather.
“I think what is special about our club is it’s the most unstructured club in a good way,” said Coode. “Aside from learn-to-row programs which are more structured, if you’re an experienced rower, you can come in, pay your membership fees, and you can row when you want and in what type of boat you want. It’s a wonderfully relaxed experience and we have some of the lowest membership fees for a club in all of Canada. I think we offer a really compelling value proposition and we’re proud to offer that to our members.”
It’s that type of atmosphere that has led the Cambridge Rowing Club to the success they’ve had over the years. They are now in their 34th year as a club and show no signs of slowing down in the future.
Thank you to David Coode and Gord Lemon for their generous contributions and help in completing this profile. Photos are property of the Cambridge Rowing Club.