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Australian Rowing History

Henley on Yarra Trophies

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The remarkable collection of historic challenge cups of the Melbourne Amateur Regatta Committee


Follow the links below to find out the history and details of the following great trophies.


Melbourne's Henley-on-Yarra Regatta was modelled on England’s famed Henley Royal Regatta. They were an annual high point of colour and activity from 1904, and attendances peaked at over 300,000 in 1925. They waned after 1945, but are now undergoing a resurgence.

Scene from 1908 Henley on Yarra

One of the objects of the Melbourne Amateur Regatta Association was to provide Challenge Cups for perpetual competition at Henley-on-Yarra along similar lines to the Henley Royal "Henley-on-Thames" Regatta. The Grand, Stewards', and Yarra Challenge Cups were those originally purchased by MARA in 1903, and competed for at the first Henley-on-Yarra in 1904. The Ladies' Challenge Cup was on the programme for the second Henley in October of that year. The Elswick Challenge Cup dates back to the first Melbourne Regatta in 1860 and was the trophy for the principal race, the Challenge Fours.

Through the proprietors of The Argus and Australasian, Mr. Henry Woolnough presented the cup to the Melbourne Amateur Regatta Association in 1905. In 1912, the Founders' Challenge Cup for Junior Eights was established to commemorate the names of the men who founded Henley-on-Yarra: Mr. A R Blackwood, Mr. G Fairbairn (later Sir George) and Captain W C Rivett.  A pair of silver oars, the original challenge oars trophy for scullers at the first Melbourne regatta in 1860, were presented to the MARA in 1914 by Mr. Charles Tuckett, whose brother, Mr. Arthur Tuckett, of Banks Rowing Club, had won them outright in 1880 following three wins of the event. The sculls now go with the Yarra Challenge Cup under the name Yarra Challenge Cup and Silver Sculls. Over time the list of permanent trophies has been increased by others including the Lord Mayor's Challenge Cup, which is competed for by Maiden Eights, the Executive Challenge Cup for Women's Masters Eights, the International Challenge Cup for Men's Masters Eights, the Old Oarsmen's Challenge Cup for the men's masters four and the Brian Doyle Challenge Cup for Under 21 Men's Eights.

The Custodians of the Challenge Cups have been:

Mr D W Todd (1982 till his death)

Mr R H Richardson (1982-2003)

Mr P J Ainsworth (2003-2009)

The Association's archivist and curator of the Challenge Cups is Mrs A B Ainsworth.

The Ballarat Gold Museum kindly stored the trophies for many years. The Melbourne Amateur Regatta Association is indebted to the Ballarat Gold Museum for the maintenance, preparation, storage and exhibition of the Australian Henley Challenge Cups over many decades.

The Association acknowledges the following people who thoroughly catalogued the Challenge Cups:-

Silver smithing descriptions - Mr D W Todd

Provenance - Mr R H Richardson, Mrs R A Richardson

Collation and additional descriptions - Mrs R A Richardson

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