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Logan's Way Boathouse Opening Speech

Speeches for the opening of the New Logan's Way Boathouse by Bill Key, President Cambridgeshire Rowing Association (Friday 28th August 2017)

For a considerable period since the CRA was formed over 150 years ago local clubs relied heavily on the use of boats owned by the various colleges.

Due to these arrangements the majority of the clubs weren't able to start their season until after the University May Races. Many a  member of my club, Cambridge Scouts', could be seen lurking in the shadows of the boathouse in June, breathing in the air from the Cam with eager anticipation.

In this short season the CRA organised the Time Race, the Town Bumps and Regatta.

Although the Time Race has only been held since 1930 the Bumps will be 100 years old next year.

The number of crews that rowed in the Town Bumps remained almost constant during the 1960's and 70's. Their were two divisions of 18 crews some of which were from colleges and all were mail participants.

Compare this with last week in which 113 crews took part nearly half of them women.

Although Cambridge '99 and the City of Cambridge have had their own boathouses for many years CRA had been continually looking for boat storage of their own as most of the clubs still relied very much on the use of college boathouses.

In 1977 negotiations took place between Pye of Cambridge and the CRA and resulted in the Association purchasing the freehold of Banhams Middle Yard for £7,500 together with it's antiquated buildings. This at last gave the Association its own boathouse.

By good  fortune Cambridge University Press donated their wooden office building (previously used by Churchill College as a canteen) and it was moved section by section to the Middle Yard. Some was used to form a sculling shed at the back, of the existing wooden building and the rest stored in a ramshackle building known as “The Hovel”.

At the same time negotiations had been taking place to lease land from the City Council, downstream of where we are now, to build a boathouse complex and a sketch of the proposed building appeared in the Cambridge Regatta programme in May 1980 and an appeal was launch.

Peter Fairbairn, the Boathouse Secretary, favoured selling off the freehold site in Kimberley Road   and develop the proposed site as it offered room for expansion in the future.  His vision, however, was brought to an abrupt halt when at 11 pm on the 31st August 1983 the CRA Boathouse and Cambridge '99 Boathouse were destroyed in a spectacular fire kindled by wooden buildings housing wooden boats.

Many boats belonging to CRA clubs were destroyed despite heroic attempts to save them.

After discussions the CRA Trustees decided to build a new boathouse on the Kimberley Road site as no land deals would be necessary and housing for boats was paramount.

Ironically the site in Logan's Way is now a overgrown with trees and vegetation and has been classified as a Wildlife Park so is lost to rowing forever.

The Kimberley Road Boathouse was designed and built in double quick time.

It was a functional building and is capable of supporting a second floor.

It is far from elegant due to the planners who insisting on breeze-block walls rather than bricks.

In 1992 an extension was added at the back to hold a large number of small boats and a disabled toilet and changing room facility though the new planning regime were of the opinion that we should pull the existing building down and start again.

The CRA still didn't have sufficient space for boat storage and continued looking for options. Around 70 boats were either in college boathouses or stored beside.

Around 2010 Camrowers were in negotiation with Combined Colleges to lease land from them to build a boathouse and at this stage the CRA in conjunction with the President of Camrowers agreed that this land was too important to be lost for ever from the general rowing community as the new agreement would be on a 100 year lease. With the blessing of the  City Council and agreement of the Combined Colleges the joint project was entered into.

It was 5 years ago that we started with the idea of a single bay for the CRA and “a bit on the side” for Camrowers. By persuasive discussions it was finally agreed that the width of the CRA could be made wide enough to take an additional moveable centre rack which gave a capacity for ten eights and ten fours and the “bit on the side” would be able to meet the Camrowers needs for boat storage as well as training and changing facilities. We had regular discussions with the bursars of the Combined Colleges and the City Estates Management all of whom were on our side.

The most difficult aspect of the project was the complex lease arrangements which were eventually amicably agreed but not without some ticklish negotiations.

We were fortunate to engage Saunders Boston as architects. John Blair a director of the company was later joined by Vickie Hallam who had recently qualified and apart from designing a most attractive building have seen the project through from start to finish and ensured its smooth running.

Paul Austin of AFP Structural and Civil Engineering Consultants and Jeremy Cram of Sherriff Tiplady Associates Ltd were later joined by Harry Mills (site manager) and Simon Beverley of Millcam Builders joined the team that has been a delight to work with.

We should not forget the hard work put in by principle members of the Camrowers and CRA and in particular I must mention Simon Merrington of Camrowers who put in so much effort from the start and shared with me much of the responsibility.

Bill Key

President, Cambridgeshire Rowing Association

 

GRAND OPENING

 

Conducted by Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner and

Chairman of British Rowing, Annamarie Phelps CBE

 

Bill Key introduced Annamarie Phelps:

Whilst studying Geography at Cambridges she started rowing with Lady Margaret Boat Club though missed her first bank-tubbing session as she was unable to find the boathouse.

Once she got her act together she was soon being coached by Roger Silk who set her on her way as an outstanding International Rower.

As a lightweight in world championships she won Gold in1993 at Roudnice, Silver at Indianapolis in 1994 and became World Ergo Champion.

She then moved out of lightweights and in 1996 rowed in the Great Britain eight in Atlanta.

Since then she has held a number of important posts in rowing culminating in her present position a Chairman of British Rowing.

Paul Ray, Chairman Camrowers gave a speech on behalf of his club and introduced Daniel Zeichner.