COASTAL ROWING AND RACING FOR OVER 150 YEARS
The Solent is one of the busiest channels in the World with craft ranging from fishing boats and yachts all the way up to continental ferries, cruise liners, cargo & container ships and soon huge naval aircraft carriers. The Southsea shoreline can also make for some interesting weather conditions and also has a strong tides too…but in that mix you’ll often see the small, wooden boats from the historic Southsea Rowing Club getting involved.
Southsea Rowing Club was founded back in 1860, with a small wooden hut on Southsea Seafront the club’s first home. History of rowing in the area goes back further with Portsmouth rowing regattas back in 1839 but back in 1860 a group of four local amateur rowers came together to create the club. Racing against other clubs around the Solent began soon after and by around 1872 the hut was replaced with a proper wooden boathouse, with wood thought to have come from the dockyard. In the then new boathouse 4 x four oared boats were added and in 1875 2 pair oared boats and 2 skiffs were added. Around this time too the club became one of the most successful on the south coast with the 1875 crews winning 16 out of 17 events.
Southsea Rowing Club was founded back in 1860, with a small wooden hut on Southsea Seafront the club’s first home…
Launching from the beach, in a suit and tie
The old Southsea Rowing Club bus
Disaster struck on the 30th June 1959 when the original and much loved boathouse, plus all the boats and equipment, were destroyed by arson…
Southsea Rowing Club continued through the First and Second World Wars and in 1946 the clubhouse was de-requisitioned from the MOD after being used as an officers mess by some of the large Ack Ack Battery on Southsea Common through the WWII. The clubhouse was in a poor state of repair, After a meeting at a cafe in Broad Street it was decided to continue with the club and Robin Thomas, who had been shot down in a Mosquito and taken prisoner of war, offered to use his RAF back-pay to help with repairs until the club’s claim of compensation came through. The club had one boat at the time ‘Carrie’ a racing four with borrowed blades from other local clubs. The clubhouse was officially re-opened by the Lord Mayor in 1946.
Through the 1950s the club grew in members, crews and craft plus the return of the Southsea Regatta and it was decided that the wooden boathouse from the 1870s should be replaced in 1960 to mark the club’s centenary. Disaster struck on the 30th June 1959 when the original and much loved boathouse, plus all the boats and equipment, were destroyed by arson. Despite the devastation, the club fought on with a temporary wooden boathouse on the Hover-Travel site and help and support from other local clubs. The new clubhouse design was modified and the building quickly constructed on the original site and then opened on the 17th September 1960. The club has seen many other changes through the recent years and is now has a long, proud tradition of offering the thrill of coastal rowing, from complete novices to experienced oarsmen and women.
Southsea Rowing club is affiliated to British Rowing, the National Governing Body for rowing. As the club is situated in Portsmouth, the club has the privilege of belonging to both the Hants and Dorset Amateur Rowing Association and the Coastal Amateur Rowing Association (CARA). The crews from the club compete in regattas all along the south coast, as far west as Swanage and as far east as Dover. The club is thought to have on of the toughest racing courses with the crews racing along Southsea Seafront.
The club is thought to have on of the toughest racing courses with the crews racing along Southsea Seafront
The blades of the oars are painted in the traditional club colours, the sky blue, white and navy…
The Southsea Rowing clubhouse sits unassumingly between Mozzarella Joes and the Hovercraft on Southsea Seafront, and has been on the same site launching it’s boats for it’s 150+ years history. The clubhouse itself has the boathouse below, home to the many wooden boats used by the crews. Each boat has a name (often the name of a well respected club member) and goes through stages of repair done on site. The craft go through a lot of racing and on rough & ready courses like the Solent it can result in these light but strong well designed boats taking a bit of a beating. The blades of the oars are painted in the traditional club colours, the sky blue, white and navy.
The craft go from coxed fours to pairs to singles, with beginners starting out in fours and over time becoming experienced to then transition to pairs and then on to singles.
Many of the members train once a day or even twice a day, with very early starts on cold winter mornings…
You’ll often see the crews out on the water training in the summer evenings and in the winter months the clubhouse becomes a hive of activity with fitness training for the club members ranging from the obvious rowing machines through to weights and strength exercises plus endurance too. Many of the members train once a day or even twice a day, with very early starts on cold winter mornings.
The members are a very friendly group with a real mix of ages and backgrounds, with junior and senior crews, men & women crews and a contingent of current and alumni Portsmouth of University students. The older members have decades of experience in rowing and racing and the younger crews bring energy and enthusiasm to the club too.
Each summer Southsea Rowing Club welcomes clubs at the club’s annual Southsea Regatta, the largest on the south coast. The regatta this year took place earlier in the summer and sees the beach by Canoe Lake filled with craft ready to race offshore in heats in classes for different cups. The classes go from sculls, pairs and fours and include juniors, seniors and veterans and saw Southsea Rowing Club crews compete against crews from Worthing, Shoreham, Bexhill, Deal, Dover, Eastbourne, Folkestone, Southampton, Lymington, Hastings, Ryde, Bournemouth and many more clubs from the south.
The regatta this year took place earlier in the summer and sees the beach by Canoe Lake filled with craft ready to race offshore…
Team Great Britain and Northern Ireland had a fantastic Rio Olympics, with exciting races in all classes and many medals won resulting in the team coming top of the rowing medals table. If you are interested in rowing and trying it out on open water Southsea Rowing Club can help you learn and develop your rowing skills, from complete beginners wishing to try it out through to competitive & experienced racers. Club membership means you can take part in rowing, training and also enjoy the club bar and the many social events that also take place.
To find out more about membership contact the club’s Membership Secretary at [email protected] and if you wish to find out more about the club visit their Facebook page, Twitter (@SouthseaRowing) and also their website at:
(Regatta photos by Jane Maxwell)