Thames Rowing Club

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Thames Rowing Club
Image showing the rowing club's emblem
Thames Rowing Club, Putney Embankment (geograph 2106050).jpg
Image showing the rowing club's blade colours
LocationPutney, United Kingdom
Coordinates51°28′11.3″N 0°13′14.7″W / 51.469806°N 0.220750°W / 51.469806; -0.220750 (Thames Rowing Club)Coordinates: 51°28′11.3″N 0°13′14.7″W / 51.469806°N 0.220750°W / 51.469806; -0.220750 (Thames Rowing Club)
Home waterTideway
AffiliationsBritish Rowing
boat code TRC
Thames Regional Rowing Council, Remenham Club
Boustead Cup
Notable members

The Thames Rowing Club (TRC) is the joint third-oldest non-academic rowing club on the Thames and is in Putney, London. It was founded in 1860, the same year as Twickenham Rowing Club. The TRC clubhouse is situated on Putney Embankment and was constructed in 1879 with several later additions.

As at July 2019, Thames had won events at Henley Royal Regatta 80 times.

Thames is one of the founding clubs of Remenham Club; a social club for rowers, with a clubhouse and grounds on the Henley Royal Regatta course. Thames hosts Cambridge University Women's Boat Club for their winter Tideway training ahead of the Women's Boat Race, and on race day itself. Thames also houses the Boat Race's media centre and administrative office.

The club colours are red, white and black in stripes, the white stripe lying between the red and black and being of half their width.[1]



Thames Rowing Club was founded under the name City of London Rowing Club and according to its first rules, its objects were 'organised pleasure or exercise rowing'.[2] The earliest surviving minutes of a club meeting are dated January 1861 but are headed 'City of London Rowing Club. Founded 1860', and 1860 is commonly accepted as the year of foundation, the same year as Twickenham Rowing Club. Three academic institutions aside, this makes it the third oldest rowing club on the Thames.[3]

The initial members were chiefly clerks and salesmen working in London's textiles trade around Fore Street and St Paul's Churchyard. At least one of the early meetings is known to have taken place in the Lord Raglan public house in St Martin's-le-Grand. The club had boats at Simmons Boathouse (the building currently occupied by Chas Newens Marine) and a room at the Red Lion Hotel at the foot of Putney High Street. There were very few members at first, but the numbers rapidly increased, and in 1862, when club races were first started, the club numbered nearly 150.

In 1862, the club sought and gained the permission of Frank Playford, the only traceable member of "The Thames Club" which had rowed on the Tideway in the 1840s, to rename itself "The Thames Rowing Club".

Early successes[edit]

By 1864 a growing interest in competition led to the club’s first recorded win, in a four-oared race against the Excelsior Boat Club of Greenwich. The club also put on a crew for the Metropolitan Junior Eights, started in 1865, and followed this up the next year by securing the Challenge Cup for Junior Eights at the first Metropolitan Regatta.

In 1870 the Club won at Henley Royal Regatta for the first time, taking the Wyfold Challenge Cup from the Oscillators Club of Surbiton and the Oxford Etonians in a race that, according to the Rowing Almanack, was ‘a pretty hollow affair, the Thames crew winning as they pleased from first to last.’ Over the next twenty years, Thames had its first great flowering, with 22 wins at Henley by 1890, including four victories in the most prestigious event, the Grand Challenge Cup for eights.

In 1877 the Thames Boathouse Company (Limited) was formed for the purpose of providing a boat and club house for the club. Money was raised by means of shares, the club and the company being kept quite distinct. The construction of the present Thames boathouse on a site about 300 yards above that of London Rowing Club followed and the building was completed in 1879 at a cost of over £3000.

Thames, under its captain James Hastie, was now established as a mainstay of amateur rowing in London, and as a rival to its Putney neighbour London Rowing Club.[4] In 1879 Thames, like London, was one of the founder clubs of the Metropolitan Rowing Association which later became the (defunct) Amateur Rowing Association (ARA).

This early period was the time of the great Victorian amateur. Many Thames members were keen on all sports and the club itself also had an influence beyond rowing:

In December 1867, Thames organised a two and a half mile handicap steeplechase or paperchase similar to a cross-country race around Wimbledon Common as part of the oarsmen’s winter training. These are generally accepted as the first open cross-country events to have taken place in Britain. One eventual result was the foundation of the Thames Hare and Hounds in October 1868, the first cross-country club, which would itself go on to an illustrious history.

Another addition to rowing training was boxing, with a ring frequently set up in the hall at the clubhouse. George Vize, a member of five winning crews at Henley, became amateur heavyweight champion of Britain in 1878 and a founder member of the Amateur Boxing Association. Boxing finally disappeared after the First World War, when the coach Steve Fairbairn ended it because of the damage caused to oarsmen’s hands.

From the 20th Century to the present day[edit]

From the late 1890s into the first decade of the 20th century, Thames suffered a decline but recovered as the decade wore on, notably through the efforts of Julius Beresford and Karl Vernon.

After the First World War, Thames came under the influence of the coach Steve Fairbairn. Fairbairn was an Australian graduate of Cambridge, with boundless charisma and innovative (and highly controversial) views on training and technique. He was one of the major influences on the club and on the sport in general, becoming generally accepted as the father of modern rowing. Under his tutelage in the 1920s, and that of Julius Beresford, Thames reached new heights. Fairbairn left the club for London Rowing Club in 1925. The precise reasons are unclear but undoubtedly a clash with Julius Beresford was partly at the root: the two coaches, despite holding similar views on technique, were unable to get on. Under Beresford, Thames won four events at Henley in both 1927 and 1928, something which no club replicated in the 20th century.

At the same time, Thames was home to Britain’s greatest ever single sculler. Jack Beresford (son of Julius) took Silver at the 1920 Amsterdam Olympics in an epic race with Jack Kelly, before going one better with Gold at Paris in 1924. He won the Diamond Sculls at Henley four times and the Wingfield Sculls for the Amateur championship of Great Britain a record seven times. Then, with Thames crews, he took three further Olympic medals: Silver in the eight in Antwerp, 1928, Gold in the coxless four in Los Angeles, 1932 and Gold in the double scull in Berlin, 1936. It would be 60 years before Steve Redgrave bettered his record.

Although never again reaching the heights of the late 1920s, Thames continued to be successful through the thirties and then, after the Second World War, into the forties and fifties. However, in the early sixties the club began to experience a marked decline in membership and standards. By the early seventies Thames had very few active members and came close to bankruptcy. The club went for 47 years from 1956 without a win by a men's crew at Henley Royal Regatta.

Finally in 2003, Thames achieved an emphatic win in the Wyfold Challenge Cup which was repeated in 2006. This success was further compounded in 2015 when Thames won the Thames Challenge Cup for club eights, the first time the club had done so since 1934. This was followed in 2016 by a win in the Visitors' Challenge Cup for intermediate coxless fours. In 2017, there was an unprecedented achievement: two Thames crews reached the final of the Thames Challenge Cup, with Thames A beating Thames B by 5 lengths. The following year, Thames retained the Thames Challenge Cup, and won the Britannia Challenge Cup for the first time in its history, setting a course record in the process.

In 1972, Thames became one of the first British rowing clubs to admit women and rapidly became the powerhouse of women's rowing, a position it retains to this day. Thames women have represented Great Britain at every Olympic Games since Los Angeles; most recently Elise Laverick won Bronze in the double scull at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the Athens Olympics in 2004 and sisters Guin Batten and Miriam Batten won Silver in the quadruple scull at the Sydney Olympics. Since the founding of Henley Women's Regatta in 1987, the Club has won there 55 times with the most recent wins being the elite lightweight pair and senior lightweight single scull in 2017.

Rowing by older oarsmen (and more recently oarswomen) has been a part of the club's activities throughout its history, but has increased since the 1970s in line with more national and FISA (international) Masters Competition now on offer. A group of casual and veteran men came into existence in the 1970s; separate groups of masters oarsmen and women of different ages have since arisen from time to time.


Thames Rowing Club on Head of the River Race day

The TRC clubhouse is situated on Putney Embankment between Rotherwood Road and Festing Road, approximately 400 metres from the Putney end of the Championship Course. Its neighbouring clubs are Vesta Rowing Club and Imperial College Boat Club. As such, the club's training water is the tidal stretch of the Thames (known as the tideway); the club commonly trains upstream as far as Richmond Lock and less commonly downstream as far as Westminster Bridge.

The clubhouse itself was constructed in 1879 with several later additions.[5] In 2005, the club opened a new building behind the clubhouse, named in memory of former Club President and benefactor Alan Burrough, providing additional training facilities and boat storage. In May 2011, work began on substantial alterations and improvements to the clubhouse.[6] These works were completed in November 2011.

Current activities[edit]

Thames Rowing Club's stated focus is on racing and competition but it is also open to complete beginners. Thames appears to have one of the largest active memberships of any UK rowing club; this membership being split approximately equally between male and female.

Since first admitting women in 1973, the club has gained a strong reputation in women's rowing, with over 50 wins since 1988 at Henley Women's Regatta, most recently Elite Lightweight Coxless Pair and Senior Lightweight Single Scull in 2017. Thames has also frequently won pennants in the Women's Eights Head of the River Race. Thames' men's squad have also performed strongly in recent years, with wins in the Club and Intermediate events at Henley Royal Regatta and two wins of the Vernon Trophy at the Head of the River Race for the fastest tideway club. Thames also has a junior squad and additionally provides facilities to London Youth Rowing. Masters (Veteran) Rowing at Thames is very strong, at all such levels, both men and women, regularly competing and winning at the FISA World Masters Regatta.

As at July 2017, Thames had won events at Henley Royal Regatta 78 times. The most recent wins were the Thames Challenge Cup for men's club eights in both 2017 and 2015, the Visitors' Challenge Cup for intermediate men's coxless fours in 2016, the Wyfold Challenge Cup for men's club coxless fours in 2006 and 2003, and the Remenham Challenge Cup for women's open eights in 2005. The club also had a member in each of the composite crews which won the Remenham Challenge Cup in 2008 and 2009.

The current Head Coach is Sander Smulders, who took over from former Head Coach, Ben Lewis, in the season beginning in 2019. Under Sander, is the Men's coach, Jeroen van der Kall, who joined from Okeanos R.S.V.U. at the start of the 2019 season, and Women's coaches, Jamie Low and Ellie Garratt-Smith.

Thames was one of five clubs which retained the right until 2012 to appoint representatives to the Council of British Rowing. The others were Leander Club, London Rowing Club, Oxford University Boat Club and Cambridge University Boat Club.[7]


Wins at Henley Royal Regatta[edit]

(Composites marked with an asterisk)

Wins at Henley Women's Regatta[edit]

Recent wins at the Head of the River Race / Women's Eights Head of the River Race / Fours head[edit]

Recent wins at British Rowing Championships[edit]

(Composites marked with an asterisk)

Olympian members[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 29 May 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ Page, Geoffrey (1991). Hear The Boat Sing. Kingswood Press. ISBN 0-413-65410-9.
  3. ^
  4. ^ Sport, ancient and modern: Pastimes, A History of the County of Middlesex: Volume 2: General; Ashford, East Bedfont with Hatton, Feltham, Hampton with Hampton Wick, Hanworth, Laleham, Littleton (1911), pp. 283-292. Date accessed: 8 October 2008
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 30 August 2011. Retrieved 29 May 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 29 May 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ "Corporate Governance Structure". British Rowing. Archived from the original on 20 January 2013. Retrieved 31 January 2013.
  8. ^ "National Championships". Times Digital Archives.
  9. ^ ""The Daily results service." Times, 23 July 2001, p. 10". Times Digital Archives.
  10. ^ ""The results service." Times, 22 July 2002, p. 26". Times Digital Archives.
  11. ^ ""The Results Service." Times, 19 July 2004, p. 28". Times Digital Archives.
  12. ^ ""Nautilus cruise." Times, 18 July 2005, p. 53". Times Digital Archives.
  13. ^ ""Rowing." Times, 17 July 2006, p. 57". Times Digital Archives.
  14. ^ "2007 archive of results". Web Archive.
  15. ^ "2008 archive of results". Web Archive.
  16. ^ "2010 Championships - Results of Sunday Racing". British Rowing Championships.
  • Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of the Thames, 1881

External links[edit]