St Patrick’s College have re-won possibly the most controversial Head of the Lake in its 105-year history. After first taking out the title on Sunday morning, word quickly spread among the crowd that the St Pat’s crew had been disqualified for their cox weighing in two kilograms below the required .weight.
With Ballarat Grammar set to claim the win as the original second placed crew, school principals quickly rallied to overturn the judge’s decision to call for a re-row of the Boy’s Head of the Lake yesterday (Wednesday).
In the first run of the race on Sunday, St Pat’s placed first, followed by Ballarat Grammar, Ballarat High, Ballarat Clarendon and Damascus.
It was only the minor placings that changed in the re-row with Clarendon placing second, Grammar third, High School fourth and Damascus unchanged in fifth.
Despite the controversy, the St Pat’s crew were the standout favourite leading into the regatta and few can now claim their win as undeserved after commanding performances at both runs of the Head of the Lake as well as lead up regattas. A few hundred dedicated enthusiasts lined the lake foreshore on Wednesday morning to see the St Pat’s crew of James Crilly, Ben Hutt, Isaac Pertzel, Ethan Lawler, cox Jackson Long and coach Brendan Scott win again in sunny, flat-water conditions.
In a hark back to the Head of the Lakes of last century, the crew was presented with the coveted Dowling Challenge Cup on the finish pontoon, allowing supporters and rowers alike to immediately move on from the controversy and celebrate the win. The revised presentation format also allowed the public to see the impressive sporting gesture of losing crews from Clarendon, Ballarat High and Damascus join the St Pat’s crew on the pontoon to congratulate the winners in a move that spectators hope can be repeated in the future. St Pat’s were also a dominant force among the junior and open boys ranks on Sunday winning eight other events to claim the Boy’s Premiership. Ballarat High, Damascus, Ballarat Grammar and Ballarat College claimed one win each among the boys on Sunday.
Who was in charge of the Head of the Lake boat race?
It was a race; otherwise it would have been called ‘The last one to the other end of the lake is a rotten egg!’
This brought back memories of an incident at a race meeting in Broken Hill many years ago. Two mates, who were inseparable, had a great idea when they entered their horse at the local race meeting with a horse that was so good there was no doubt it would be odds on, and it was. There was nothing unusual about the race day, the trainer/ owner (let’s call him Bluey) arrived at the races, as usual, and went about his business. As his race drew near the whispers started in the betting ring but the old adage odds on, look on, no money came for any horse in Bluey’s race .
Bluey saddled up his horse and went into the parade ring while the jockey went to the scales to weigh in. The jockey went to the horse Bluey and his mate were holding and as Bluey legged the jockey onto the horse he grabbed him by the arm to bring him closer and whispered , “when you get around to the starting gates, slip the lead bag off and leave it there”.
Bluey’s mate recalled the jockey was distressed and said he would not do it, but after Bluey told him that he would take the blame for not securing the lead bag on and promised him that a considerable sling of money would come his way, the jockey reluctantly agreed. Within minutes the race was on and as predicted it was a ho hum affair, Bluey’s horse winning as he please and the second horse, which they backed, came in second, the plan executed perfectly. At the end of the race the head steward had a visitor from a bookmaker before correct weight was called, in fact before the jockeys dismounted. The bookie told the steward that a lot of money was laid on the second horse at the last minute before the horses jumped, and the bookmaker suspected it all came from Bluey’s stable. The jockeys lined up and started to step on the scales for correct weight and one by one they all went through. The head steward came out of the weighing and lifted his hand up declaring correct weight!
Bluey’s best mate recalled that there was a lot of anticipation and anxiety running through the three men: Bluey, his mate and the jockey, but what was to happen next by Bluey was the icing on a conman’s cake, he actually went to the steward and said, “I just heard from my jockey that he lost the lead bag, I should be disqualified!” The steward looked at him like only a steward can and said, “I called correct weight, do you want to go on with this or take your loses and your horse home? Bluey and his mate decided to go home – broke.
I suppose the moral of this story is: Someone has to take charge. Not the owners not the jockeys but an official, this race was not run two days later because of the weight factor, but because there was a good man in charge a great decision was made and justice was served.