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History of NSW Combined High Schools Rowing Regattas

NSW Combined High Schools Rowing History

1964 - CHS Rowing Established

The origins of CHS Rowing were outlined by the inaugural convener Sid Hawkes in his foreword to the first annual rowing championships in 1965:  

“CHS Rowing began as a small after School group in the Winter of 1962, at Narwee Boys High School. The following Summer it was admitted as a recognised sport. The following year, both Ibrox Park High School and Mosman High School made their appearance at regattas. 

In 1964, The CHSAAA decided to officially adopt the sport giving Mr S Hawkes of Narwee High the authority to act as convener on their behalf”

At that time, school events in eights, regulation fours and tub pairs were included on the programs of many Sydney metropolitan regattas. Government school crews were eligible to compete in these events but were outclassed by the more experienced GPS crews. In the first season of CHS Rowing, separate CHS events were conducted at a limited number of regattas for CHS crews in regulation fours and tub pairs. The season culminated in the CHS Championships with the title of Champion School decided by a pointscore covering all regattas that included CHS events. In the 1964/65 season, CHS events were raced over half a mile compared to one mile for the school regulation fours. Following that first season, race distances went metric with CHS tubs over 500 metres and CHS fours over 1000 metres compared to school regulation fours over 1500 metres.

1965 - The First CHS Championship Regatta

The first CHS Championships were conducted on Saturday 3rd April 1965 as part of the Metropolitan Regatta hosted by Sydney Rowing Club on the Parramatta River at Abbotsford.  Fifteen schools participated with ten schools from metropolitan Sydney, three from the North Coast Region and two from the ACT. As the schools of the ACT were under the directorship of the NSW Department of Education at the time, schools from both NSW and the ACT were eligible to participate in CHS events. Competing schools: Cleveland Street Boys HS, Drummoyne Boys HS, The Forest HS, Homebush Boys HS, Hunters Hill HS, Ibrox Park Boys HS, Narwee Boys HS, Newtown Junior Boys HS, Sydney Boys HS, Vaucluse Boys HS - Grafton HS, Lismore HS, Richmond River HS - Narrabundah College, Telopea Park HS. 

Four events were conducted in 1965 with the inaugural winners being: First Four (Champion Four) - Lismore HS, Second Four - Ibrox Park Boys HS, First Tub Pair - Homebush Boys HS and Second Tub Pair - Richmond River HS. Homebush Boys HS won the title of Champion School with 42 points ahead of Narwee Boys HS on 36 points.

Finish of the 1965 Champion Four - 1st Lismore HS, 2nd Narwee Boys HS, 3rd Richmond River HS

1966 & 1967 - The Second and Third Championships

The second and third seasons of CHS rowing competition followed the same format as the first, with CHS events included at club regattas around the harbour and championship events conducted at Sydney Rowing Club’s Metropolitan Regatta. The increased prestige of CHS was shown on the cover of the regatta program with “C.H.S. CHAMPIONSHIPS” given the largest font on the page.

Although Sydney Boys HS had entered crews in the first championship regatta, these had been junior crews only. This attitude changed for the second championship regatta in 1966 with the convener’s foreword stating “Sydney High has realised our worth by offering us their very best Fours to compete against.” The Sydney High crews lived up to their reputation, winning both the First and Second Fours and taking the trophy for Champion School.

Program covers for the first two CHS Championship regattas

The Champion Four event at the 1967 regatta was a close tussle between the two schools from Lismore; Richmond River HS and the 1965 winners Lismore HS. A member of the winning Richmond River crew was Islay Lee who was to go on to become an Olympic oarsman, CHS convener and president of the Australian Rowing Council. In the First Tub Pair event, Homebush Boys HS’s win made it three in a row for the school which they backed up by winning the Second Tub Pair as well. Although North Sydney Boys HS had not featured strongly in the championship placings, their performances at lead up regattas won them the title of Champion School.

Sponsor Clubs 

During the early years of CHS rowing, the schools were totally dependent upon the sponsorship of rowing clubs which provided the boats and coaching expertise. Although Sydney Boys HS had an established fleet and boatshed at Abbotsford, no other Sydney school owned boats. The situation was different in the North Coast Region where Maclean HS and Grafton HS had established their own fleets decades before. Vaucluse Boys HS was the first Sydney school to buy a boat which they used successfully to win the CHS First Four in 1968. Later that year, Homebush Boys HS followed suit, having a regulation four built with poppets in place of swivel gates, the only boat in Sydney to use that outdated technology. The following year, the “controversial poppets” were replaced with orthodox swivels. This boat enabled Homebush to win two CHS First Fours in the early 1970s. However, the convener’s statement of 1967 held true for all schools: “Rowing in the C.H.S. Schools could not exist except for the generosity of the Clubs in making both equipment and coaches available and for this we extend to these Clubs our sincere thanks.”

1968 - CHS Rowing “Arrives”

The convener’s foreword in 1966 had included the statement “With two years of good competitive rowing behind us, we can look in the near future to the time when a C.H.S. eight-oar race will be rowed. Then we shall have arrived!” 

The eight arrived in 1968 as the fifth event of the championship regatta, the first title going to Canberra’s Telopea Park HS. The First and Second Fours went to Vaucluse Boys HS and North Sydney Boys HS respectively while the Second Tub Pair had been converted to a Third Four won by Narrabeen Boys HS. Another change for 1968 was the venue, with the CHS events held in conjunction with club events on Iron Cove. The race distance for fours was extended from 1000m to 1500m while the tub pair remained at 500m. Telopea Park HS won the pointscore for Champion School. 

A lightweight four was added as a sixth event in 1969, for oarsmen of not more than 10 stone 2 pound in weight with a crew average not more than 10 stone. Drummoyne Boys HS won the inaugural Lightweight  Four event with Sydney Boys HS first in the Eight and Manly Boys HS winning the First Fours. Unfortunately other details of the regatta have yet to be uncovered.

Telopea Park HS – winners of the first CHS Championship Eight event.
Jack Cannock (coxn), Steve Bisset, Chris Slater, Gary Napper, Jeff Pollard, Stan Bakker, Peter Harris, Pete Thompson, John Engeldow.
Inset Nigel Murray-Harvey (coach).

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