By Steve Carlin Wett Ones began in 1991 on the initiative of Bob McInnes. At the time IGLA and Gay Games were organising international petitions, and Team Sydney had clubs for other sports, but Sydney still lacked a gay and lesbian swimming club. Bob was swimming with Mi Weekes and Lyn Stanley at North Sydney Masters swimming club (Lyn was president and a coach there), and so the three got together at Mi's place to discuss the possibility of starting up a group. Bob realised that they would have to secure a training pool before they could begin to collect a team, and fortunately Mi was working at Rozelle hospital at the time so they were able to get use of the 25m pool there.
Bob advertised a public meeting through the gay press, to meet on Sunday 13th October 1991 at the Gay Centre, Chippendale. The turn-up was surprisingly large, about 30, and so with that support base the first swimming session was organised for the following Tuesday. The team then swam (twice weekly with Lyn as coach) through the summer, until the Rozelle pool closed for winter. At a first club meeting on 1st December, it was agreed that the group members should individually join Team Sydney, to have an umbrella organisation. Training was extended to 3 times weekly. Several names were proposed for the group, including 'Wet Ones'.
No place like home
Training moved to Heffron Park and Auburn (Lidcombe) pools for winter 1992. The club was doing well, with around 30 regular swimmers, a decent bank balance and a formal membership of 53. Wett Ones was unofficially taken as a name, and the 'splashy' logo was adopted by the end of the summer season, but the club still lacked official status. In June they applied for a training slot on Saturdays at Sydney Uni (Noel Martin) pool as the Rozelle Masters.
The first AGM was held on October 25th, 1992, at which it was decided to affiliate with AUSSI Masters Swimming as Wett Ones (pink cap, blue logo) based in Rozelle. A constitution proposed by Peter Lindhe was adopted. Membership for the first full year, 1993, was $40.
Weekday training returned to Rozelle for summer 92-93, but then had to move again to Auburn pool for April. Summer training moved briefly to Prince Alfred Park in November 93. The changes in pool venue and time were taking a toll on membership, as participation would drop at each change then slowly rebuild.
In December 93, Wett Ones made two important changes which increased the club's security: swimming slots were secured at Sydney Uni and Boy Charlton pools, and a coaching fee was agreed of $20 per session to maintain the high coaching standard. Members paid a $2 session fee. For a short time all training (3 times weekly) was at Boy Charlton (while Noel Martin was re-tiled), but the routine of Tues/Thurs/Sat was established. For summer, Monday and Saturday swims were included at Boy Charlton.
Gay and Lesbian swimming competitions in Sydney pre-date Wett Ones. Barry Webb from Southern Cross Outdoors Group (SCOG) and the Sydney Gay Sports Association organised the first Mardi Gras Swimming Carnival for February 22nd, 1985. From the start it was an evening competition, outdoors at Andrew Boy Charlton Pool. The first carnival was a success, with 300 spectators and 80 competitors, although small compared with future years. By 1992, the crowd had grown to 1476, with 160 swimmers. The Mardi Gras carnival continued until Boy Charlton pool closed for rebuilding in 2001.
Although the Mardi Gras carnival was a great success, it was designed as a fun spectator event as much as a swimmers' carnival. For example, 200m and 400m events were dropped as they were seen as too time-consuming and boring for spectators. Wett Ones wanted a masters-style swim meet, for which another issue was the number of non-registered swimmers. Consequently, Wett Ones organised their own competition, which came to be held about a week apart from the SCOG carnival, and the first was held on 25th February 1995 at Sydney Uni Pool.
Another stimulus for forming Wett Ones came from the need to have club status at international G&L meets. Individual swimmers from Sydney had competed at various international competitions, including the San Francisco and Vancouver Gay Games. By the 1994 New York Gay Games, Wett Ones were able to organise a touring team of nine.
In April 1995 it was proposed that Wett Ones have a women's training session. A few different session times were tried, but participation proved too small and the sessions ended in March 1996.
Wett Ones were early starters in websites and e-mail communication, largely through the efforts of Marcus Tate, Bob McInnes' partner and an early Moist One. Marcus set up a Wett Ones web page well before such things were widely used, and then showed it to IGLA to demonstrate the concept. They were convinced, and included a Wett Ones page in their website in 1995.
Another early advance was the compilation of an e-mail registry, at a time when e-mail was still mainly for communication with work colleagues. A second club website was set up around 1996 by Alexander Susan, who managed it for several years and added new features as they became available, then passed it back to Marcus, who passed it on to Bill Dunk when he left to work in Paris.
Bill then organised the club e-mail list server, which became the communication hub and appeared in January 2001. The e-mail server (groups.yahoo.com/wettones) has operated in parallel with the club website (eventually wettones.org) since. The e-mail server brought in a new phase for the club, as by then most members had e-mail access, and communication across the club became dramatically easier. Another advantage of the online club was that the newsletter which had been regularly prepared and posted out with great labour and some cost by Wayne Sherson could be replaced by online bulletins. These were supplemented by co-president Peter McGee's 'Bleatings from the Bunker', succeeded by Megan McLachlan's 'Mew from the Pew'.
A recollection from Lyn Stanley, Jan 04.
Lyn was one of the three club founders and was initially the club's sole coach.
"[Bob] had a vision as a keen swimmer himself, that the community needed a club that catered for primarily gay swimmers. He then approached Mi and myself to assist as we knew each other from swimming circles.
Against a backdrop of very noisy planes in Mi's back yard we got together to formulate his plan. At that time Mi was working at Roselle, I think from memory it was Callan Park Psychiatric (appropriate really as it might have been a nutty idea) who had a pool that was rarely used to its potential and there we started, with me as the coach, the other two as motivators and committee and a small handful of swimmers from various sources and of dubious standards. We did, however, manage to have a few fasties who encouraged the others. Bob, Mi and I had met previously at North SydneyAUSSI where I was the President for three years and occasional coach. I also coached at Lane Cove for Ken Meredith.
Many a night I looked at that 25m rather murky pool and warned them "Well I wouldn't get in it but I'm happy to coach". That was about 11 years ago and everyone survived and learnt something (I think).
Well Bob was right --- from those simple beginnings we grew. We always seemed to have more guys than girls but that hardly mattered.
As we outgrew Rozelle we were fortunate to have a very sympathetic Pool Super at the University of Sydney, Ray; so with his encouragement we started there. As fate would have it, he and his wife Joyce transferred to the Gold Coast a few years ago to live just near me. Joyce passed away but not without me telling her how grateful we were for their support. We also swam with a sizeable squad at Boy Charlton, so our humble beginnings were beginning to be a dim memory and, as the club grew, so did the committee.
I always made it clear that if I was approached on pool deck about the club I would always state that it catered primarily for the gay community but as a coach I would not be party to any form of discrimination towards other swimmers.
During the time I coached I had this theory that exercise and lifestyle contributed to the wellbeing of those who were HIV positive and, to my knowledge, in my time we never lost anyone. I always thought this would make an interesting study.
In the true spirit of AUSSI we, at that time, catered for swimmers of most standards providing they could swim around 100 metres. This might have contributed to the Committee feeling they should become affiliated. At the time of my leaving we were becoming more competitive and more people were showing an interest in coaching. We took quite a large team to the Gay games in New York. The club was on a roll."
"During the period I was co-chair (2001/2/3), I saw an enormous change in the way the club functioned. We appeared to develop a maturity that was evidenced by free contribution of ideas, the support from various people for different activities, by volunteering to raise money, and assist with specific tasks, leading to an overall sense of commitment to the club. We expanded our activities in water, such as by encouraging ocean swimming and supporting aerobic swims. The club also supported the formation of L & G diving and water polo teams. The club saw several members train to become coaches (see below), officials in Masters Swimming, and the many participants in carnivals included people who never think of themselves as talented or competitive.
The 10th birthday celebration (AGM 2001) was an acknowledgement of our maturity as a club and recognition of the progress L & G swimming had attained over the years in Sydney. We confirmed the importance to support G & L people, whatever their abilities, to swim and encourage others to attain their personal goals. These developments indicate that the contribution by members goes way beyond basic train and swim activities. It also indicates the enormous potential within the club."
Lyn moved to the Gold Coast and coached the Miami Masters club there for four years.
Past committee member records
We are proud of past and present committee members, and thank them for all the work have done and continue to do to make our club what it is. Click here to download the record of previous committees.