Fred Strachan’s built an unparalleled legacy within New Zealand rowing and with the many athletes, coaches, volunteers  and officials he’s befriended over the years.

Here's how some of those people wanted to mark the occasion of his 100th Birthday.

“Unquestionably my success in the sport was largely due to the foundation that Fred instilled during my formative years. It didn't really matter what your level of talent was, he was always ready and willing to match and then magnify any passion you showed for the sport. That is what he did for me and countless others. He was tough and uncompromising but managed to care deeply at the same time.”

Hamish Bond
CNZM, 3-time Olympic Gold Medallist


Hamish Bond and Fred Strachan. 

“I’ll never forget Fred asking me why I was lying down on the ramp after the second of a back-to-back outing with a 10-minute turnaround at my first trial aged 18. Not having the benefit of some years of conditioning, I was completely out to it. But clearly from Fred’s tone and comment, this was all just another day at the office. Certainly upped the expectation somewhat!

Chris White. Holder of a record 38 Red Coats, Olympic Bronze medallist, 2-time World Championship-winner Men’s Eight.

"Fred was one of a few individuals that had a profound effect on my life which I have thanked gratefully over the recent years. His gym sessions in the 1970s were something else. I still have copies of the programmess that I utilise with the rowers I coach today. I haven’t come across anyone of the past 40 years that could push themselves the way Fred motivated us in the 70s"

Dave Lindstrom. 2-time World Championship medallist, coaching legend.

"My last time out in New Zealand in October 2022, I called by his Twizel house unexpectedly, knocked on his door, no answer. His neighbour said, ‘Go in, he’ll be in there somewhere’. I found him in the kitchen, cooking his breakfast.

“Hi Fred, it’s me," says I. “Who’s that? Come closer so I can see you,” grunts Fred. "Bloody hell,” says Fred. "Tony Brook...I heard you like Harry Mahon more than me.” We had a good laugh and I shared his breakfast.

Tony Brook. Bow Seat, New Zealand World Championship-winning Eight, 1982

"It took me a while to fully appreciate Fred's dry sense of humour. As an athlete you miss most of it floating across the water but when you spend more time with him it’s apparent how quick-witted and dry he is.”

Lauren Farnden. World Rowing Umpire and Deep South Rower

"In the 60’s and 70’s when I was rowing,  it  was generally understood that the indomitable and formidable Fred Strachan, was a confirmed bachelor. However, this situation was not to last! Kate Gow, as member of our Auckland University Women’s Rowing Club, decided to relocate to Christchurch and lo and behold, what does she do? She snaffles Fred Strachan! Wow! Shock! Wonder! Delight! The wedding was a grand occasion in Dunedin Cathedral. (I was fortunate to be a bridesmaid!) The Rowing Wedding of the Year!"

Lesley Milne. Bow Seat, New Zealand’s First Ever Women’s World Championship Crew, 1974.

Fred and Lauren

Fred, Hamish Bond and Lauren Farnden taken at NERC 125th. Photo: Sharron Bennett Photography. 

"When I first started rowing at age 19, Fred had only just returned from Christchurch and I knew nothing about him. We were a novice four and had just got last out of 13 crews at the Lake Hayes regatta and were about to flag it. The older rowers that knew Fred's history and referred to him as GOD, said if we did what GOD says we would win. We had a meeting, decided we would give it a go. Went on a 10-day training camp at Ruataniwha and won every race for the rest of the season. A believer was born."

Kelvin Maker. Twizel Rowing Club Head coach.

"Fred is always willing to share his knowledge. When I accepted my first Head Coach role he turned up at my work with handwritten notes on technique plus land-based training sessions to give me. He was always there to use as a sounding board to discuss crew selection or seat racing sessions or just provide general advice on how to assist my rowers with technique."

Lauren Farnden. World Rowing Umpire and Deep South Rower

Women’s rowing has much to thank Fred for – he, along with the 2 other national selectors Don and Rusty, were always open to “giving us a go”. For example, when Elizabeth Cato won the Australian National Singles Championships in the early 1970s, she was ineligible to row as Australia at the European Championships (no World Championships then), and as she was rowing in Europe, she put in a bid to the selectors who were in Europe at the time, to row as NZ. This she was granted. Our first women’s single sculler on the World Stage!"

Lesley Milne. Bow Seat, New Zealand’s First Ever Women’s World Championship Crew, 1974.

"One day we were training out at Henley, on the Taieri River. An English Professor of Psychology was in the crew and his in-laws were over visiting and wanting an early supper of which he yelled this out to Fred as only an English Professor of Psychology could. As we approached the junction of the river the coxswain looks back to Fred asking ‘Left or Right?’. Right goes to Waipori arm, a shorter row. Left goes towards the Taieri mouth where the river meets the Southern Ocean. The only thing that turned us round that day was the crashing of the waves breaking on the beach, we could row no further."

Kelvin Maker. Twizel Rowing Club Head coach.

As a rower vying for selection Fred was a fearsome presence. In rowers' minds he held their selection hopes in his hands. He was a man of few words, inscruitable, calm, measured and professional.

In the late 1960s he set about reforming how our rowers were assessed, selected and coached. He interviewed world leading coaches and sport scientists and applied the learnings in developing the system that led to over two decades of success and created a legacy that remains today.

Fred, thank you for the opportunity of being part of such a winning system and for your passion to see Rowing NZ succeed at every level. We are all indebted to you." Mike Stanley, stroke, 2-time World Championship winning NZ Eight.

Mike Stanley. Stroke, 2-time World Championship winning NZ Eight. 

"Fred is an encyclopedia of rowing knowledge, constantly producing random printouts and photocopies of East German training philosophies. If it was written, he had read it.

Hamish Bond. CNZM, 3-time Olympic Gold Medallist

"Dear Fred, on behalf of World Rowing (I am sure you prefer FISA), his President Jean-Christophe Rolland, the Council and above all the worldwide rowing umpiring community, we sincerely wish you a 'Happy Birthday - Ra whanau' and good health in the next 'Century'."

Patrick Rombaut.  World Rowing Executive Committee Member

“Fred has left an indelible mark on so many rowers over the years. It is remarkable even today how the mention of Fred brings grown men/women to tremble and then proudly state that “I was coached by Fred Strachan."

David Meates. Rowing NZ CEO

"Dad was staying with us in Northcote, Auckland, a couple of months back. He’s very good at entertaining himself whist I’m at work and his grandchildren Oscar & Gus are at school. He said he’d catch a bus into downtown Auckland, look around, maybe go to the Maritime Museum, have lunch at Commercial Bay.

While Dad’s waiting at the Northcote bus stop he starts talking to this ‘whipper snapper’ (60+ something year-old-man) who asks Dad how old he is and is taken aback when Dad says 99. “How do you get to 99.” he said. “Rowing” said Dad. “Ah", said the whipper snapper; I have a family member that rows. He’s not too bad; he’s won New Zealand titles, represented NZ at a couple of Olympics Games & even won Gold.

So, Dad’s looking twice at him now as the whipper snapper carries on, “Born in Indonesia, of Dutch parents”. “Wybo!?“ says Dad. “That’s right, Wybo Veldman” says the whipper snapper. “I selected him!,  first back in 68!” says Dad.

Dad’s connection with rowing takes him everywhere and anywhere and he is overwhelmingly positive. Ha! A chance meeting at a bus-stop, two gentlemen realising they share something in common that spans 55 years. Their encounter very much brings a smile to my face."

Emma laseto. Fred's daughter.


Andy Hay

Andy Hay is a freelance producer, writer and rowing coach. He was cox of the world champion New Zealand eight of 1982 and '83. He is NZ Olympian #446.