Flutey's passion is winning the day

Last updated 05:00 26/12/2013
Kevin Flutey
TOP TEAM: Awarua rowers Kevin Flutey, left, and Rex Ryan on their way to winning the masters doubles sculls at the 2004 Southland Rowing Championships held on the Oreti River.

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Bluff rowing celebrity Kevin Flutey is facing his biggest challenge in the sport as he restores his beloved Awarua Boating Club to its former glories.

The modest 54-year old Southport cold stores supervisor, and father of three sons, knows he is facing an uphill battle but he remains hell bent on reviving participant interest and bolstering numbers at the Bluff club.

The winner of five FISA world masters titles and numerous national masters titles in all departments from singles to eights will give it his best shot to keep the club afloat.

He has toiled relentlessly over the past five years in fundraising attempts to buy good equipment and attract more young enthusiasts.

"The club has struggled for members but many sponsors, donors and wellwishers are getting behind us," he said.

"Health and safety are major considerations in all sports and we will confront that challenge by means of better equipment."

He said fish product not fit for human consumption was used as bait and was turning into a money-spinner for the Awarua Boating Club.

"If it wasn't for the supportive fishing concerns that donated it to the club to consistently sell to fishermen, then we would be under," he claimed.

Donations from various fishing concerns including Northland Deep Water, Dong Won and Juahm Fishing (Sanford Ltd) which were main donors of rejected fish.

"I took it off their hands and turned it into funds for the Awarua Boating Club to save it from going into recess," he said.

Old fishing nets had also been donated to the club which would try and convert them into silage pit covers for sale to dairying interests, he said.

The Awarua Boating Club was presently restricted to Masters but had staged an opening day promotion on October 5 this year that created interest.

Four girls were now training twice a week, a development that would hopefully lead to further involvement which would justify buying further top equipment.

Flutey and his former distinguished double sculls partner Rex Ryan recently went to Christchurch to pick up the club's latest purchase, a coxed four quad scull from St Margaret's Girls' College.

The club has also bought a new coaches boat. Ross Phillipson is coaching the girls with the assistance of Missi Russell, mother of one of the four girls attracted to the sport.

A core of loyal followers was encouraging for Flutey as he came to grips with the revival process of a club with a proud history.

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Ryan has shared a raft of notable triumphs on the water with him.

Frank Dean, Steve Sargeant, Kelvin Sim, Wayne Phillipson and Vicki Smith, who attended to secretarial and accounts matters, were true-blue backstops in the best Bluff traditions.

Firms Port Maintenance, Nicholson Engineering, Bluff Engineering and fishing companies that donated bait were contributing to keeping the club's head above water.

"Rowing and the Awarua Boating Club has been a burning passion of mine for years. I've got a lot out of rowing and I want to repay all that," Flutey said.

He enjoyed being a volunteer at the 2010 world championships at Lake Karapiro, taking three weeks off work in order to do his bit.

Flutey has spent virtually all his life in Bluff, including 10 years as an oysterman with his father Ian.

He had earlier worked for skipper and top mate William Calder for two years, moving on to two years with skipper Gordon Johnson on the Rita and six years on the Southern Enterprise with his father.

Other work stints included six years with the Bluff Fisherman's Co-op and a year with Sanford Fishing before settling with Southport for the past 15 years.

His association with the Awarua Boating Club traces to starting as a nine-year-old for a seven-year stint as a coxswain.

Rowing for him started seriously at 16, but he couldn't get into a team immediately.

"So I jumped into a single scull skiff and rowed for a few months along the Rock Wall stretch under the watchful eye of veteran stalwart Bill Burtenshaw who couldn't get rowing out of his blood."

Making the youth fours crew coached by Fred Ryan in the productive 1977-78 season marked by 43 starts for 23 wins and 14 seconds as bowman with Greg Fife (No 2), Steven Hawke (stroke), Ronald Rouse (No 3) and coxswain Harold Ryan was a springboard to various national titles.

Making the New Zealand lightweight colts fours that beat Australia 3-0 at Picton, Whanganui and Karapiro was an early feat hard to better, along with national double sculls gold with Rex Ryan at Karapiro in 1984 and New Zealand intermediate eights success at Ruataniwha in 1994-95.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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