Yesterday I settled my bet with the UK Sports Minister, Hugh Robertson. Placed in Melbourne earlier this year in the spirit of the fierce sporting rivalry between Aussies and Brits, the bet was which country would win more gold medals at the Olympics.
Needless to say, we all know TeamGB clocked up more gold, often at our expense. To honor my bet I would be rowing the Eton Dorney course, where the Paralympic and Olympic Regattas were held….In TeamGB kit, which duly arrived in a box at my hotel a few days before, with a lovely note from the British Olympic Committee.
So in my bright red, TeamGB-branded, Stella McCartney-designed kit I completed my row and was rewarded with a glass of champers from the UK Minister! I also want to sincerely thank Howard and Kay Croker and their band of volunteers who put in hours to prepare a scull for me to row. Apparently it needed a lot of work! I was using Croker oars of course! Croker Oars are one of 46 Aussie companies who are contributing significantly to the London 2012 Games. I have summarized a bit of the amazing company history of Croker Oars below. It is a great story.
I should mention for the record, the alternative outcome of the bet had the medal count gone the other way…. Minister Robertson, being a former hockey player, would don a Kookaburras shirt and dribble a hockey ball around the footpath perimeter of Australia House, the Aussie High Commission building, located on the Strand, in the very centre of London.
That said, The UK Minister could not have been more gracious is collecting on the bet, acknowledging the multitude of roles Australians and Australian companies have played in delivering a successful London 2012 Games. We have both reflected on the strong bonds and deep friendship and cooperation between our two countries.
A special edition of the Australia Unlimited iPad magazine app celebrating Australian contribution to the London Paralympics & Olympics can be downloaded here. This app is free and is a ‘who’s who’ of the Australian major sporting event industry. The app tells the story of contemporary Australia through the achievements of its people at home and abroad.
I have put this together using text from the Austrade and Croker Oars websites……
In the early 1960’s, Howard Croker began his apprenticeship in boat building. As Howard mastered the skills of his chosen trade, he recognized an untapped market for good quality crafted oars. An ex-school boy rower, Howard felt he knew how to design sleek curves and lines to make any vessel travel faster through the water. Upon completing his apprenticeship, Howard went with his instinct and established Croker Oars. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Croker Oars moved from Sydney to Oxley Island Taree in 1977 and is still situated on the 70 acre property affectionately known as “REMO”, which is Spanish for rowing. Situated on the Manning River, “REMO” has seen Croker Oars go from strength to strength. In 1982 Croker Oars was making 400 oars a year between two oarmakers. It took each craftsman one day to shape a perfectly weighted wooden oar. It was around this time that technological advances in glass composites introduced a revolutionary new material to the industry – carbon fibre.
Investing many hours carrying out research and development into materials, tools, design and technology, Croker Oars began moving their oar expertise into carbon fibre. Launching their first carbon fibre oars in September 1990, Croker Oars soon proved themselves as a force to be recognized in the global market. Today Croker Oars make over 15,000 oars a year with a workforce of 25. A far cry from the “oar a day” of yesteryear.
Howard Croker still has a strong vision driving him: “We keep innovating. I can recall Milan, before Athens, we made an oar there. Then we raced it in Athens, and the only thing that was the same from two years before was the handle. The shaft, the blade, the sleeve, everything had changed. So we just keep a little bit here, a little bit there. Right now the French are using a new blade shape for us for London,” he said.
Eighteen months ago Croker Oars launched a computerised oar at the World Rowing Championships in New Zealand. “That’s an oar that will tell you every stroke you’ve done, how you’ve taken the stroke, how you feather, the horsepower and grunt on the oar.
“Our dream eventually is to have eight oars racing and you could then come in and download and you’ll really find out who’s pulling their weight and who’s not. That’s our dream. It’s going very well,” said Mr Croker.