The history of a London regatta
Hammersmith Amateur Regatta was founded in 1924 by a committee drawn from the many Hammersmith clubs that existed in those days. It has been held every year since then with the exception of the war years 1940 -1945, 2019 when it was cancelled due to high winds, and 2020 when the nation was under lockdown due to Covid-19.
The ‘Amateur’ in the title is a product of the strange three-way division that existed in rowing at the time. Then, a rower was either a ‘professional’, a ‘gentleman’ or an ‘artisan’. Before the First World War professional scullers were superstars of their day, as admired and recognised as any footballer is today. Prizes of up to £500, the price of a house, were not unknown. While the definition of a professional seemed clear, the definition of an amateur was not. The ARA insisted that no manual worker, even if they did not row for money prizes, could be classed as an amateur and so could not row against white collar workers. The result was that working men’s clubs raced in ‘town’ regattas such as Reading Town and Hammersmith Borough, while clerical workers and ‘gentlemen’ raced in ‘amateur’ regattas such as Hammersmith Amateur and Molesey Amateur.
Dr Furnivall (founder of what was to become Furnivall Sculling Club) and Rev Propert (founder of Auriol RC) formed the National ARA in opposition to this strange view of things and by 1937 both the original ARA and Henley Royal were forced to drop the manual labour clause and clubs and regattas became open to all true amateurs.
Over the following years the Hammersmith Amateur Regatta had its ups and downs but in 1975 the Chiswick brewers, Fuller, Smith and Turner sponsored the event and secured its future.