The year was 1993 and a group of friends from Wisemans Bridge Inn, Pembrokeshire had a cunning plan. Pub teams that play unsociable games like darts and pool within the confines of their favourite drinking establishment could breed resentment amongst their non playing partners, so the group of regulars from Wiseman’s Bridge Inn decided sea rowing might provide them with the suitable recreation their other halves would approve of and still allow them to get together afterwards for a refreshment in arguably the best pub in Pembrokeshire.
So, in the spring of 1993 the friends bought a second hand Pembrokeshire longboat and some tree trunk like oars and from there Wiseman’s Bridge Rowing Club (WBRC) was born.
Since the early days the club runs and ethos that rowing is a social activity with the accent on fun and team work, and over the years many pub regulars and locals from the local village of Saundersfoot have tried their hand at “feathering” and heard the words “Long & Strong” shouted at them. Some grew to love the exercise, while others preferring the cold beers afterwards sat in the beer garden looking at Monkstone Point in the distance.
The club acquired its first Celtic Longboat as a result of a disaster one evening whilst rowing in the bay.
Some of the regulars had taken their Pembrokeshire Longboat out for a row around the iconic Pembrokeshire landmark Monkstone Point when a freak wave swamped them and the boat sank without trace. Thankfully with the assistance of the floating tree trunk oars and teamwork everybody was eventually accounted for and all the crew were pulled from the water safely. Also fortunately for the club the boat was insured, so with the insurance money, their own funds and some additional grants the club purchased one of the first new styles of Celtic Longboats, brand new out of the mould at Dale Sailing marine ship builders. She was christened “Ready Oar Knot” No.5 and the club was about to embark on the next chapter of their story.
Since then the clubs fortunes have fluctuated with members coming and going, but always there to keep a steady hand on proceedings was one of the founding members and the clubs chairman Phil Griffiths. Without his unflagging enthusiasm and care the club would have certainly struggled to survive the lean years.
In 2007/2008 with membership and enthusiasm at an all time low, the members had the discussion of turning “Ready Oar Knot” upside down and calling it a day for the season, but it was decided to give the club one final chance and WBRC started out on a recruitment campaign to re inject the club with some fresh faces, enthusiasm and ideas. Slowly over the following 12 months, helped by its reputation of being a “Fun”, “Sociable” and family friendly club WBRC began to attract Husband/Wife , Boyfriend/Girlfriend members who significantly brought the clubs average age profile down.
In 2009, with membership up and an exciting buzz within the club, on club nights there were people waiting on the beach for the “Ready Or Knot” to return so another crew could go out, it was decided to purchase a second Celtic Longboat from another local club who’s membership did not require the 4 hulls they had in their yard. Due to the club not having sufficient funds at the time several members purchased shares in the new boat and “Oarsome” No.32, joined Wiseman’s Bridge “Rowing Family” .
With Wiseman’s Bridge now attending the Welsh Sea Rowing Association League races again around Wales and challenge races, the first piece of silverware for over a decade came in July 2010, when a mixed crew came first in the inaugural “Milford Marathon” 23mile race.
Success brought further enthusiasm and excitement throughout the club and with the addition of some key new members WBRC decided to enter an entire Wiseman’s crew in the legendary Celtic Challenge Race, a 96 mile rowing event, from Arklow in Eire to Aberystwyth in Wales. Even though throughout the years members have completed this challenge by rowing with other clubs in Wales, never before had Wiseman’s been in a position to field a strong crew of 12 rowers and support crew capable and enthusiastic enough to attempt this gruelling challenge. With every possible thing that could go wrong, before the race starting on that May weekend in 2012 did go wrong, but with shear determination and team work the Wiseman’s crew left Arklow with 23 other boats and experienced some of the worse weather in the Celtic Challenge history with only 11 boats actually making it to Aberystwyth, and our Wiseman’s crew coming in 9th overall in a time of over 25hrs. Since then another Wiseman’s crew took part and successfully completed the 2014 Celtic Challenge and in doing so set another club record for a sub 24 hour crossing.
WBRC now has an additional 2 hulls in the Wiseman’s fleet, with Celtic Longboat “Dirty Gertie” No.30 and “Dirty Dick” Pembrokeshire heritage longboat being resurrected by club members from the hedgerow where he had gone to rot. It is quite a sight seeing all 4 boats heading across Saundersfoot Bay towards Monkstone Point on a summers evening.
The past season, has seen for the first time WBRC bringing junior crews to the water with great success and they bring freshness to the club, which is important for the clubs future and ongoing development. There are not many team sports where both genders of all abilities and ages from 12 to 112 can interact together as a team.
Indoor rowing has also become an important part of the clubs winter programme, bringing members together for a social get together and chat through the long winter months, whilst also improving fitness and rowing technique at the same time.
In 2016 Wiseman’s Bridge Rowing Club will be the first sea rowing club in South Wales to offer sea rowing to young adults with disabilities through the Disability Sport Wales programme “InSport” . As part of this British Rowing used Wiseman’s Bridge Rowing Club to host their level 2 coaching course in November 2015 with rowers from all across Wales attending to complete their coaching accreditation.
Not bad for a social club of pub regulars who happen to own a few rowing boats. We all owe those locals from the original crew back in 1993 a pint or two.
Keeping it “Long & Strong”