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Australian Rowing History

Significant Events in Australian Rowing




Stephen Gard in his book Port Jackson Pullers records that: "The first Sydney newspaper appeared in 1803, just four pages of letterpress: that this slender journal found space to report boat-racing suggests that the pastime was of much interest to the citizenry. Paragraphs about rowing suggests that the pastime was of much interest to the citizenry. Paragraphs about rowing matches 'on the tapis' and the later the results, appeared among other items of colonial significance: list of escaped convicts, the price of bread, a murder or two, Proclamations of His Excellency, executions, pompous letters to the Editors, news from Home, lashings. The chief interest in rowing was gambling."

The newspaper recorded in 1805 of a race between two whale boats from two ships, the Brothers and the other the Honduras Packet.

30th October 1815

First recorded boat race in Van Diemen's Land between Mr Peter's boat and Mr Gordon's boat for 50 guineas. In Sydney (NSW), George Town (TAS) and in Hobart Town (TAS), several boat races took place at this time. Boat owners wagered significant sums on their professional crews who provided the muscle.

16th May 1818

Often regarded as the first record of a proper boat race at Sydney, when Captain John Pipers' crew and several crews from three British ships the Batavia, the Guilford and the Minerve, rowed a race. The crews covered the 3 1/2 miles from Bradley's Head to Sydney Cove in about 15 minutes.      

8th Jul 1819

Captain Pipers' "crew" beat a "crew picked out of crew of U.S.A. ship General Gates." Sydney won the first international boat race rowed in Australia.


Mr Loane won a bet for 20 guineas that his boat would beat Captain Apsley's boat in a race from Ferryman's Landing to Hunter Island and back in Van Dieman's Land.

25 Nov 1820

Captain Piper's crew "pulling four oars" defeated a a gig from the ship Regalia "pulling five oars".

6-22 March 1824

Three races conducted on the Derwent River in Hobart Town, the first of them attended by Lieutenant-Governor Sorell. 

4th Nov 1824

Captain Piper imported a boat for racing; named Lady of the Lake, 43 feet long, rowed with four oars.

John Piper

Captain John Piper

28th Apr 1827

First regatta held at Sydney. Rowing and sailing races were conducted before a significant crowd.


Earliest account of a rowing race in Launceston. By this stage boat races were commonplace in capital cities between crews from visiting ships. One of the more celebrated races in Hobart Town occurred with the arrival of the HMS Rainbow which boated a gig that had never been beaten. The challenge was taken up by a locally born crew of a locally built whaleboat. The wagering on the race was intense. The local crew won and a new challenge was issued. The local crew won again with the local press gave them great praise. 

24 February 1831

A group of six gentlemen amateurs who rowed a boat called the Arrow arranged Hobart Town's first extensive rowing and sailing regatta. It was well patronised with eleven boats and a huge crowd of spectators. 

24th Jan 1832

Four Sydney "Gentlemen" easily defeated four seamen from the ship Strathfieldsay over an eight mile course.

31st May 1832

Two naval officers beat two Sydney "Gentlemen" pair oars. This is the first record of an amateur race at Sydney.

21st July 1832

Mr Thomas Oliver, of H.M. Customs, won "Amateur Single Sculls in wherries, prize £20."

2nd Aug 1832

Successful regatta at Sydney.

9th Nov 1833

Sydney beat Hobart Town in whalers, "a very popular race; caused a great stir." Was the first Inter-colonial race.

17th Jan 1834

Cockle Bay (Darling Harbour) Regatta.

9th Aug 1834

Badester, a London waterman, rowed and beat a local fisherman.

8th Oct 1834

Great six-oared cutter race for prize of £60.

20th Nov 1835

Boat club formed at Sydney for both rowing and sailing boats.

18th Feb 1836

"Sydney" Regatta held.

26th Jan 1837

Regatta held "to commemorate the foundation of the settlement at Sydney." This was so successful that it was decided to continue the regatta annually.

April 1837

First recorded WA rowing race, off Fremantle, between two whale boats from competing bay whaling companies.


First Hobart Anniversary Regatta, held to commemorate discovery of Tasmania by Tasman in 1642. A £30 prize was offered for the main race comprising 15 whaleboats. The first Tama REgatta followed one month aftre the Hobart Town regatta.

17th Oct 1839

Four-oared gig race. Three crews competed for £50 per boat sweepstakes. The race was won by an "amateur" four, all of whom were 16 years of age or under. The boat was 33 feet long, 4 feet beam, 18 inches deep, and called Fly by Night.

13th Nov 1839

Sir John Franklin organised a regatta at Hobart. It is stated that in the previous year the regatta had £1,000 funds. The regatta included a sculling race for the first time for licensed watermen.

26th Jan 1840

Name of Sydney Regatta changed to "Anniversary," and the prize money was £500. Mr. Harpur's crew won the Gentlemen's Four-oared Gig Race.

29th April 1840

The famous "Boys' Crew" beat combined crew of officers from merchant ships.

1 June 1840

Six-mile WA race among five whaleboats around a circular course on Perth Water. Won by boatbuilder Thomas Mews’ Radical.

12th Jan 1841

First regatta held at Melbourne.

8 December 1843

First regatta held at George Town Tasmania.     

20th Oct 1845

Regatta held at Maitland (Hunter River).

12th Nov 1845

Regatta held on Upper Hawkesbury River at Windsor.

19 February 1846

First regatta held at New Norfolk Tasmania. A sculling race for gentlemen amateurs was conducted.   


First regatta at Geelong, Victoria.

1st January 1849

The first Sandy Bay regatta in Tasmania was conducted. 

9th April 1849

First regatta (at Ryde) on the Parramatta River.  P. R. Holdsworth's crew won Amateur Gig Race.

30th Nov 1849

Balmain Regatta first held. J. Green's crew won "All Comers Fours."


Seven rowers die at the Hobart Town Regatta. John Petchey's boat capsized, drowning Petchey and six members of his crew.

1st January 1850

First regatta conducted on Huon River at Shipwright's Point. This regatta was largely for professionals.     

December 1850

First recorded WA gig race, over five miles on Perth Water. Won by waterman Frederick Caporn’s Native Chief.

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