The sport of rowing lost another one of its great rowers and coaches on Tuesday 3 January 2017 when Peter Philp sadly died from cancer after a prolonged illness.
Peter commenced his rowing at Scotch College where he stroked their first crew in 1963 and 1964, winning in 1963. He was a strong, technically good and aggressive rower and very perceptive about who and what made a boat go fast. Those who rowed with him described him as a fighter and a winner.
He was not a big person, but he successfully matched it with those far larger than himself. Whilst only two years out of school, he raced in a very successful four of similarly minded and strong rowers with David Palfreyman, Richard Garrard and George Xouris. This four represented Australia at the second World Championships in Bled in 1966. Interestingly all these rowers went on to be excellent coaches and rowed for far longer periods than their peers.
Even though he was still rowing, his reputation as a perceptive and innovative rower led to him being sought out to coach a similarly talented group of rowers of Cam Johnston, Andrew Michelmore, Geoff Rees and Colin Smith. This lightweight crew went onto win Australia’s first gold medal in sweep oared rowing at a FISA World Championship. It also heralded the beginning of the golden age of lightweight rowing in Australia with numerous gold medals being won during the seventies and eighties. This victory must have been very sweet for Peter given his advocacy for the introduction of lightweight rowing at FISA Championships.
AOC President John Coates AC added that “Peter made a massive contribution to our sport and will always be remembered as our first coach to win gold in the modern era with his lightweight four at the 1974 FISA World Championships.”
It was during this time that a big change in Australian rowing occurred, the appointment of Reinhold Batschi. Whilst the credit for this appointment rests with others, Peter was at the genesis of the idea whilst on tour with John Coates in 1975. Discussions between Coates as team manager and the team coaches, particularly Peter, led to the realisation that a revolutionary change in the sport was required to achieve consistent success.
Peter also was appointed an Australian women’s selector at a time when a new approach was required. Rather than single crews from one club being selected, the best from Australia were combined to improve standards. His contribution was significant.
Peter always loved his rowing and continued to row successfully throughout his life. His rowing did not change. He remained a strong, technically sound and fierce competitor who appreciated rowing with similarly minded individuals.
Even in his work as an insurance broker, he was always supportive of rowers and rowing clubs.
Our heart-felt condolences to his wife Annette, son Alastair and sister Rosemary.