New South Wales was treated to plenty of rowing and sculling contests during the nineteenth century. Rowing matches were conducted in Sydney from 1805 between visiting ships and this sport became very popular throughout Australia.

The popularity of this sport was enhanced in 1876 when sculler Ned Trickett became the first Australian to be a world champion in any sport. Between 1876 and 1907 Australia provided the world champion for 22 of those 31 years, two of who were from the Shoalhaven.

Rowing regattas were staged annually but no formally constituted club existed. A meeting of interested persons would be called and from that meeting a committee would form and a program arranged.

The Shoalhaven River was the scene for various regattas’ from the 1850s but because no newspapers were published in the district prior to 1856 the date of the first regatta is not known. Information has been taken from the diaries of Bernard Brown who was the local police constable from 1849 to 1862. He wrote he had attended a regatta on the 26th January 1855.

The Shoalhaven Regatta Club held a regatta on the 26th January 1856 and the main event was won by a local combination of Zaccheus Bice, Janes Kennedy, William Kennedy and Angus Munro.

The Shoalhaven Regatta Club conducted events at Numba with rowing, sculling and sailing from 1856 through to 1885. Closer to Nowra the Greenhill Boating Club was formed in 1879. In 1881 the Greenwell Point Regatta Club was formed with regattas held at Greenwell Point and in 1885 the Nowra Regatta Club was formed. The first meeting of the Nowra Regatta Club was held 9th November 1885. The last regatta held on the river was in 1888.

A ROWING CLUB FOR NOWRA – In 1891 the Shoalhaven Rowing Club was formed. There were 25 active members with some 15 more expected to join. A search of newspapers has found only three regattas being held during the next ten years, one in aid of funds, to help James Stanbury with his training expenses for the upcoming Championship of the World. Through out this period the Shoalhaven produced two world champions, James Stanbury and John McLean.

John Mclean was born at Crookhaven in 1856. In 1890 John defeated Peter Kemp on the Parramatta River and became World Sculling Champion. The following year 1891 he lost the title to the up and coming James Stanbury.

James Stanbury came to Terara in the early 1870s from Broken Bay. He had his first race in 1885 and in 1891 he defeated fellow Shoalhaven rower John Mclean to win his first World Championship. This title he held through to 1896 where he lost to CR Harding in England. Stanbury regained the title again in 1905-06.

In the 1920s the Shoalhaven Rowing Club was reformed and a number of regattas held at Numbaa and Greys beach. In 1926 a Back to Shoalhaven Week Regatta was arranged for October 23rd. The Shoalhaven Rowing Club held annual regattas in the area through to 1941.

The Second World War caused the suspension of many sporting events and the Shoalhaven Rowing Club went out of existence. The Government impounded all boats and in the Shoalhaven all boats had to be taken to Burrier and moored in the river. The Shoalhaven Rowing Club committee decided the boats would deteriorate beyond use and were given away to be dismantled and the timbers used else where. When the war ended boats were too costly for the club to buy and no one would promote the re-forming of the club.

In October 1977 the Shoalhaven Rowing Club was reformed to promote the once popular sport in the Shoalhaven. It was sponsored by the Nowra Jaycees. The clubs first regatta was held 28th October 1978. The club has successfully hosted New South Wales Rowing Association Regattas from this time.

In 2000 a new rowing shed was constructed on the southern bank of the Shoalhaven River as a base for the Belarus rowing team to train for the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The Shoalhaven Rowing Club acquired the premises at the completion of the games and continues to promote the sport of rowing in the Shoalhaven.

Reference: Shoalhaven River Regattas 150 years – 1855 to 2005 by Robyn Florance.