Dartmouth ARC’s 140th Anniversary

DARTMOUTH’S oldest club has celebrated its 140th anniversary with reminiscences of a proud history. Dartmouth Amateur Rowing Club was established on Monday, 22nd March, 1869.

Rowing races had been held on the river Dart for half a century prior to the rowing club being formed and the first recorded races were held in the 1820’s which led to Dartmouth Regatta being established in 1834.

A report at the time of the formation of the rowing club concluded, "Dartmouth has long felt the want of a rowing club which want we hope will now be supplied. The club has been formed by a few energetic young men of the town, who did not see why this town, which possesses such advantages, should be so far behind other places."

"They held their first meeting on Monday, 22nd March, when they came to the conclusion that it might easily be formed, and maintained if the public would come forward with voluntary subscriptions and otherwise assist them in the support of the same. A deputation was formed to wait on Mr C. Chalker to invite him to stand as Captain, which he kindly consented to do, and no doubt with such a Captain as Mr. Chalker, the club will be in a position to compete for several prizes at the forthcoming Regatta."

By June 1869 the club purchased a 40 foot fine four-oared gig and had paid on account £6 for a 36 foot gig. The club entered their new 40 foot gig, Star of the Dart, in ‘The Dart Purse of Ten Sovereigns’ race at the 1869 Dartmouth Regatta winning the event but not without protest. Gazelle, the second boat to finish the race, lodged a protest that Star of the Dart had not rounded the course properly. The Regatta committee decided that the two boats should row half the course for the first prize which Star of the Dart won easily.

When the West of England Amateur Rowing Association was formed in 1896 Dartmouth was one of the eight founding clubs, three of which no longer exist. Dartmouth also provided the first Chairman and Secretary of the Association.

The club has spawned some incredible rowing crews down the years and has a proud record of results second to none in the West of England but the golden era was without doubt during the 1930’s. In 1933 the club won the West of England ARA Championships for Senior, Junior and Under 20’s but an even greater achievement was to follow. The Senior and Junior crews combined to form an eight to take on other crews from around the country and went on to win the National ARA race for Champion eights of England, rowed annually on the river Thames, to lift the Lord Desborough Cup. Two years later in 1933 the Senior four became the National ARA’s Champion four of England winning the Daily Herald Cup.

The amalgamation of the national associations to form the ARA also saw the inception of the South Coast Championship Regatta in 1957 with Dartmouth hosting the third Championship Regatta in 1959. This brought more success for the club with the Senior crew winning the South Coast Championship at that 1959 regatta and repeated the success at the 1962 Championship Regatta.

The year 1969, the club’s centenary, was eventful with the Senior crew winning all eight West of England ARA regattas to win the Association’s Championship with the club’s B crew runners-up. The club also staged the South Coast Championship Regatta for the second time.

Through the 1970’s women’s rowing became the fastest growing sport in the country and again the club had its share of successes at Senior Ladies both at West of England level and at the South Coast Championships with wins in 1980 and 1982.

It is estimated that over the years Dartmouth Rowing Club has won over 2,000 trophies which includes the West of England ARA Men’s Senior coxed fours Championship on 35 occasions. There have many other landmarks such as becoming the first club to win all of the West of England ARA Men’s Championships in 1994.

Junior (Under 18) rowing has come to the forefront in the past decade and Dartmouth has had its share of West of England ARA Junior Championships and with the inauguration of the South Coast Junior Regatta at Dartmouth in 2006 success on a wider stage. In 2006 the club won four events and in 2005 at Dorney Lake, the venue for the 2012 Olympic rowing events, they went one better with five wins. These successes were surpassed in 2008 at Plymouth with the Juniors winning six events and the newly installed points trophy for the South Coast Junior Regatta.

Hilary Bastone, Dartmouth ARC

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