An old hand puts his oar in at boat club


“If ever there was a sport where you get back what you put in, rowing is it.” These were the wise words uttered by Boat Club’s new Head Coach, Callum MacDonald. His judgement is correct but does not reflect the value a coach brings to a sports club.

It had been the goal of many Club committees past to hire a permanent coach. Unbeknownst to a bystander, rowing is actually a very complicated sport. To achieve perfect synchrony of four or eight human beings with different flexibilities, strength levels and attitudes takes much practice and effort. Rowers need criticism from the outside to improve – someone in a motor launch hurling a mixture of profanity and goodwill. Previous to Mr MacDonald’s appointment, the Club had relied on students with rowing experience from school to coach and lead performance at race time.

MacDonald’s predecessor was an Honours Philosophy student and actively rowed in the 1st IV. As a result, there was little continuity between sessions and a general lack of planning. Although his intentions were good; the mixing of coach, friend and rower was never going to produce outstanding results. Despite meagre resources and much better funded competition (Edinburgh had a GB Olympic coach for the period), the Club demonstrated the wealth of talent within its ranks by winning the championship fours category (the highest of the three classifications in rowing) and placing second in the championship eights at the Scottish University Championships 2012. However, we are yet to medal at British level.

It is clear that a coach would enhance Club performance significantly. Mr MacDonald possesses the skills and background to do this. Having been involved with the sport since 1977 as both rower and coach, he brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the Club. Crucial to the functioning of Scottish Rowing’s Strathclyde Park facility since its opening in 2002, he set his talents to work at Newcastle University Boat Club for one season as Head Coach. Newcastle won 5 medals total with 3 coming from championship level at the British University Championships (BUCS).

As if this wasn’t a high enough accolade, his junior crews would later go on to win the Prince Albert Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta. MacDonald then assumed a coaching position at Clydesdale Amateur Rowing Club in Glasgow producing winning crews at novice, intermediate and championship level. He is accompanied by an American Postgraduate student, Lambert de Ganay, as Assistant Coach. Mr de Ganay bridges the gap between off and on water sessions offering advice and help where needed on the rowing machine and in the weights room.

The question is: where does the Boat Club go from here? With multiple new boats on order and the potential for a boathouse at Perth, the future is bright. Under the guidance of our new coaches, we aim to medal not only at Scottish level but to finally conquer the dream of St Andreans past – a medal at BUCS!


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