Club History

Founded in 1899, we are one of the largest and most competitive rowing clubs in East Anglia.

We compete all year round at events of all sizes, including top class races like Henley Royal, Henley Women's, the British Rowing Championships and the various Tideway heads. We have reached the semi-finals of the Wyfold and Silver Goblets Challenge Cups at Henley Royal.

The boathouse is normally open for rowing and land training each weekday evening, as well as weekend mornings. Visits from prospective members are always welcome, however it is recommended to make contact with one of the captains before visiting. They will be more than happy to show you around the boathouse.

The club was formed at a public meeting held at the Mitre Hotel, Bridge Street on Friday June 2nd 1899 at which about 50 persons were present. The meeting had been called as a split had occurred in the YMCA. It was apparently over smoking and drinking on their premises, and many members had left and it was thought that a boat club independent of any institution should be started to keep former members of the YMCA together. A meeting was held on June 12th at which a set of Rules was accepted, many of which are basically unaltered more than 100 years later. The subscription was 2/6 (12.5p) for honorary members and for a rowing member 8/6. Crews had to pay for the damage they caused to boats. The members were told that the club’s headquarters were to beach dresses be at Winter’s Boat Yard (roughly where Queens’ College boathouse is now). The club was named in honour of the successful Cambridge crew which won the Boat Race that year after nine years of Oxford domination.

The club entered two eights in the Town Bumps in 1899 and on the first night the first boat made the first overbump in the Town races and later made two further bumps. They gradually moved up the river and in 1903 bumped Rob Roy off the Headship but alas only held it for one year. At that time the bumps boats were taken down and brought back by professional boatmen.

The Club very soon made its name on the social scene organising dinners, smoking concerts, dances, garden parties and a water party to Clayhithe. The biggest of these events was the 10th anniversary ball held in the Guildhall with over 250 present in March 1909.

After the Great War rowing started again on 18 May 1920, the outstanding fees to the CRA from 1914 were paid and the Prince of Wales pub (in Hobson Street) was declared the club’s town headquarters and a board to this effect was erected outside.

In the Bumps in 1922 we started 5th and with a young crew bumped every night to finish Head but lost it in the next year only to go Head again, with Wick in the crew, in 1924 our 25th year. In 1929 the club made a special effort to regain the Headship and so became the last crew to have names engraved on the actual Head of the River Plate.

In 1933 Guy Dale was elected President and held the office until he died in 1956, whereupon Wick Alsop having been secretary since 1923 took over, until his death in 1986. Roy Burrell joined the club in 1935 and was Captain for 17 years, when he died in 1954 the club purchased his scull for £86.

After the War in 1946 under the guidance of Wick Alsop, a ball was held at the Dorothy Café for 585 guests at 9/- (45p) a ticket. The event was so successful that in 1948 over 650 attended in the Guildhall with dinner in the Corn Exchange across the road. Such great social events were held for many years.

In 1949 to celebrate our Jubilee, the Club purchased from Banhams a Clinker VIII, this being the first new, rather than second-hand, boat bought by a Cambridge Town club. In 1958 the Club was able to buy our own boathouse at the end of Kimberley Road. This building was built about 1875 and made entirely of wood, except for the steel balcony which we had erected at the front. In August 1983 it was attacked by an arsonist and within an hour all that was left was a large pile of ashes being the remains of the structure and most of the boats and over 80 blades. The new boathouse was in use by the winter of 1984 and officially opened by the Duke of Edinburgh in July 1985.

Since the Second War we maintained our leadership in social events and although the rowing successes of the club have varied over the years we have always remained one of the top Cambridge Town (now City) clubs and have been Head of the River in the Bumps both in the men’s and women’s events many times. We have rowed at Henley and the National Championships, winning a medal there in 1984 and rowed in the Tideway Head of the River Race regularly and won the Jackson trophy for provincial Clubs in 1993.

By the hard work of all its members the club lives up to its motto of “Success is labour’s reward.”―John Jenner