13 years ago, Steve Redgrave won his 5th consecutive Olympic gold medal. In last year’s Olympics, Britain collected a medal in 9 of 14 rowing categories. It’s quite clear that our country has a special relationship with the water-based sport. Here’s what you should know and where you should visit to learn more about one of our nation’s favourite sports:
Rowing is possibly the oldest known sport
As far back as written records exist, which is even before 1000 BC, some form of rowing has existed and been treated as a sport. While rowing boats was mainly used for transport and warfare in early records, racing “regattas” were held in Venice as early as the 13th Century.
The first modern rowing races happened on the River Thames
Boats on the Thames were used as taxis in the 1800s but watermen started holding after-hours races which led to people placing bets on who’d win. Slowly, the races began to formalise, drawing large audiences and large sums of prize money.
Eton College had one of the first rowing clubs
Eton’s rowing club was established prior to the 1790s and the school’s enthusiasm for he sport has continued since then. Our Windsor Central hotel is just a short distance from what is now the biggest boat club in the world. Dorney Lake. This magnificent club is the school’s new purpose built rowing venue where the London 2012 Olympic races were held. It’s full of state of the art technology and cost upwards of £17 million to develop.
Henley Regatta is often considered the world’s most important rowing event
Any rowing enthusiast should visit and explore the stretch of the Thames that passes through this Oxfordshire town. Henley Regatta attracts hundreds of boats and crews from around the world as well as thousands of spectators who come as much for the social life as for the sport. Stay in our Reading Central hotel to have a look around the famous town. You could even rent a boat and get out on the river yourself.
Over 15 million people tune in to watch the Oxford and Cambridge boat race
The rowing competition between the two prestigious universities, known simply as The Boat Race, is the event that sees the most energy and involvement from spectators. Whether they have any affiliation to the competing teams or not, viewers the world over pick sides and cheer fiercely during the race which has been held annually for over 150 years. Book to stay in our London Fulham hotel and walk along the banks of the Thames to get a sense of the area. Be warned though, the streets will be packed come race-day.
It’s only in the last 15 years that women have been given full access to the sport
In 1997, one of the world’s oldest rowing clubs, Leander Club, finally permitted women to join. Since then women’s rowing has been increase in popularity dramatically, particularly demonstrated by the equal celebration and support given to men’s and women’s medals achieved at the Olympics.