A place to call home marks the beginning of an exciting era for Sydney University Boat Club (SUBC), writes Laura Hanlon.


The new “Thyne Reid” Sydney University Boatshed at Burns Bay, Lane Cove, has been completed nearly eleven years after the previous boatshed, which served for 42 years, was destroyed by fire in March of 2006. No longer will SUBC crews be considered the ‘Gypsies’ of the rowing community.

This colossal re-build has been a labour of love for those involved. Despite the extra-long course, with many obstacles, there was never thought of bailing out. Former President and New Boatshed Fundraising Committee member, Chris Noel, is one of those in the engine room of the redevelopment. Along with many others, Noel also strived to ensure the Club remained operational and a highly competitive force since the devastating fire, which destroyed not only the boatshed but all club boats and ancillary equipment.

Through the intervening years SUBC accessed facilities at the University of NSW boatshed on Parramatta River, while the then Sydney University Women’s Rowing Club operated out of a boathouse at Blackwattle Bay. The training courses are too short for elite preparation at Blackwattle bay and the river conditions are very rough at the UNSW sheds.

The old Burns Bay shed was a large A-frame building with just two boat bays and very limited change, shower and exercise areas. Built only for the men’s club, even when reconfigured to accommodate a women’s change area, it was woefully inadequate.

The long delay in replacing the boatshed enabled a thorough review of rowing and what the sport sought to achieve in the future. SUBC aspires to be, “the best rowing club in Australia, providing opportunities and experiences to student rowers, alumni and the general university community.” Determining the infrastructure requirements to champion such an aspiration was one of the key challenges.

Consultation was led by former rowing Blue Mike Wiseman. Mike interviewed the management and coaches of the men’s and women’s clubs about the ideal requirements of a shed that would support the current programs offered, allow new categories to be catered to and foster a large increase in the number of students participating in rowing at Sydney University.

The resulting fleet necessities were then projected into the new facility and it was conceived to cater for the numbers and programs envisaged.

Mike worked closely and collegially with Campus Infrastructure Services (CIS) to agree on the scope of the building and then consulted through CIS with the university appointed architects, Hill Thallis.

The result is a new boatshed, with four large boat bays facing in a southerly direction down Burns Bay, so boating traffic moves directly from the bays to the boating apron, then onto the pontoon and straight down Burns Bay into the Lane Cove River.

State-of-the-art features include:

  • The shed sits on 38 piles punched into the bedrock of Burns Bay. Each pile is concrete and reinforcing steel covered in a polyethylene sleeve.
  • The construction employs non-combustible materials.
  • The shed floor extends onto a large apron, 350 square metres, where boats can be rigged or washed.
  • A gangway off the apron connects the shed to a floating pontoon. The pontoon has two telescopic piles connected to its underside which enable it and the gangway to rise and fall with the tide. The pontoon allows up to two eights or six to eight sculls to launch simultaneously.
  • A small crane that can lift coaching boats out of the water and onto moveable dollies to store in the boatshed.
  • The boat storage space is airy and light-filled with high quality racking from Lowe and Hennessy.
  • The upper level integrates a large tallowwood deck, change and shower rooms, kitchen, toilets, air-conditioned large multipurpose room, coach’s office and communications room.
  • A unique winged-profile roof line offers shelter to a large portion of the generous balcony.
  • Vehicle entry and parking to ensure safe and convenient access off Burns Bay road plus high quality landscaping to the public park and a public jetty to provide access to the water for small water craft.

Finance was a partnership through Sydney University; Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness (SUSF); The Student Services and Amenities Fund and The Alumni of SUBC.

CIS managed the project and the builder was ADCO Constructions.

The Boat Club and Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness wish to acknowledge the assistance and collaboration of many people in bringing this project to fruition. In particular, The Vice Chancellor, Dr Michael Spence; The Head of CIS, Greg Robinson; CIS Project Manager, Scott Biggs; SUBC’s project coordinator, Michael Wiseman; SUSF Operations, Property & Projects Manager, Ed Smith and SUSF Executive Director, Rob Smithies. Thanks also to Chris Noel who led the fundraising team and worked with the University and SUSF on the contribution agreements for the building. From here it’s all oars in the water as SUBC, one of the oldest rowing clubs in Australia, is back bigger than ever.