The History of Rowing in the UK – Part 2

Previously we learned many interesting facts about how rowing developed in the UK and around the world. And dipping our oars into the water once again, we continue to splash about picking up more information how this great pastime evolved and grew.

The First Competitive Race

There have been people rowing boats crossing stretches of water for thousands of years, and it is widely recognized that people first started rowing purely as a mode of transportation to get them from A to B where water was involved. Information is rather sketchy about when we first started to row as a leisure activity. The earliest recorded boating event that was not held purely for transport is in 1430 BC Egypt. Funeral carvings still exist depicting a boat being used to celebrate the Pharaoh Amenhotep II life, as he was recognized as one of the great rowers of the time.

The Lagan Head of the River

One of the oldest boat races in Britain has been taking place on the River Lagan in Northern Ireland. The River Lagan is the most important waterway in the Province, and many boat clubs have used it for holding regattas and races, including the Royal Belfast Academical Institution, Queen University Boat Club, and the Methodist College Boat Club. The oldest and most famous race on this historic river is called the, Lagan Head of the River. And this takes place where the river flows through Belfast.

Lagan Dragons, Belfast’s only breast cancer survivor dragon boat team set sail on two new dragon boats at the Awakening The Dragon ceremony on 1 September 2018. Lagan Dragons recently received a generous grant from breast cancer charity Walk The Walk in order to purchase new dragon boats for the team.

The Ladies Take Charge

Originally rowing as a sport was male dominated, but women were finally allowed to compete at the Montreal Olympics in 1976. There is evidence however, that women were rowing as early as the 15th Century. In the late-1400’s a regatta was held in Venice, and an Italian duchess witnessed over fifty ladies taking part in the rowing events, most were peasants who had learned to row as a way of getting around. But is was not until the 19th Century that women competed in modern rowing events.

British Amateur Events

Many amateur rowers were taking part in regattas and events in the UK as far back as the mid-1700’s. This came about when public schools such as Eaton and Harrow developed their own boat clubs. And similarly the big universities at the same time were rowing against each other in competition. The oldest rowing university competition took place in Oxford where Jesus College took on Brasenose College.

With or Without a Cox

Not all boat races have to take place with a coxswain in the boat. The Olympic Games has introduced coxless events even for boats as big as fours. The courses pit crews to race side by side in an attempt to keep them straight and row a narrow path. Of course, lane markers also help, but it is a very difficult skill rowing hard and keeping track of the direction you are going in. There is no doubt as an Island Nation that rowing and other sailing activities is in the blood, and every sort of boating activity can be enjoyed on the waters of the British Isles.