This weekend’s 78th Head of Harbour Regatta at Lake Pupuke will showcase action from the upper North Island’s leading rowing schools as they do battle for a podium finishes in the various events. Westlake Boys High School will defend its 2013 title of this prestigious annual event which started in 1936 as a school race along Tamaki Drive over approximately 1800m. Rough and exposed Waitemata Harbour conditions forced the regatta to move to Lake Pupuke in the 1960’s and it proved to be a highly successful move which cemented this unique 1000 metre championship regatta into the history of Auckland schools’ sports. Once dominated by Mt Albert Grammar, Sacred Heart College and Kings College, Westlake Boys High School, under the tenure of the great Olympic coach Eric Craies, arrived as Auckland champions in their inaugural year in 1965. They remain a rowing powerhouse to this day winning many Head of Harbour Championships over the next 20 years.
One of our school’s many successful rowers who experienced winning the Head of Harbour title in 1974 and 1975 first hand is Westlaker Mike Stanley. Mike, one of four brothers who went to Westlake, was at school from 1971-1975. He was a sporting all-rounder captaining the 1st Rugby XV for three years and he was a member of the Senior Rowing Eight in 1974 and 1975. On leaving school it was in rowing that he went on to make his mark, representing New Zealand at a number of World Championships, winning a couple of gold medals along the way as stroke of the New Zealand Men’s Eight in 1982 and 1983 and finishing fourth at the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984.
Mike has fond memories of his time at Westlake. “The 70’s were pretty laid back but we took our sport seriously. I was fortunate to play and row alongside some very talented guys and be coached by two colourful, influential men in long serving staff members Alf Butt and former Olympic rowing coach Eric Craies. Thought very different in character, both men were driven and hugely committed to Westlake’s success along with a sense of humour and empathy hidden beneath pretty formidable personalities.”
Mike was formerly on the staff at Westlake from 1988-1994 and found having to enforce the hair policy a little hypocritical. “Here I am in front of a picture in the school hall, including me with hair halfway down my back, telling some poor lad that he had better get a haircut because it was touching his collar. Some of the braver ones I counselled pointed out the irony with great mirth.”
Mike thoroughly enjoyed his time on the staff and greatly admired the dedication, passion and friendship of Westlake stalwarts Peter Rea, Brett Hart, Simon Smith and many others. “They and other long serving staff members have given the school many years of excellent service and have helped create a legacy and culture that is widely admired.”
During his stint as Westlake’s Sports Master, Mike coached the rowing team to win the Springbok Shield in 1989 and 1991, with second placings at the Maadi Cup at Lake Karapiro in those same years. He returned to coaching at the school in 2004 and has coached the Senior Eight since 2008, which has had five podium finishes since 2009.
To date, Mike has enjoyed a wide ranging career in sports management and is currently the CEO of AUT Millennium and President of the NZ Olympic Committee as well as a Board member of High Performance Sport New Zealand. He was formerly CEO of Rowing New Zealand, a team selector for New Zealand Olympic and Commonwealth Games and was on the Board of the New Zealand Olympic Committee, the New Zealand Academy of Sport North Island and the New Zealand Rowing Association.
When time permits, Mike enjoys outdoor sports and developing a lifestyle block with his wife Jane. They have 3 children – Cameron who attended Westlake from 2001-2005, Leah who went to Westlake Girls and Jordan who was at Westlake 2005-2009 and was a member of the Senior Eight which finished a close second in the Maadi Cup in 2009.
Westlake Boys acknowledges the considerable commitment and dedication displayed by Mike as both a student, a staff member, a school parent and a key member of our rowing coaching staff. Contributions such as those displayed by Mike are what frames the school as we know it today.
If you hear any news of Westlake Old Boys or former staff or if you are interested in supporting Westlakers events and activities, please contact Mrs Christine O’Dowd at school on 09 410 8667 or by email [email protected].