In the beginning...


Recreational or competitive rowing made its appearance in the 1800s, but classical texts mentioned rowing for exercise, transport and commerce as early as 1274. In 1805, the first known boat-race was held in Australia. The first college boat club was formed at Oxford University in 1815 and eight years later the U.S. formed their first boat club, called the Knickerbocker Club. In 1852, Harvard and Yale competed against each other in an eights race, marking the first ever intercollegiate competition in America. Throughout the rest of the 1800s, rowing grew in popularity abroad, as boat clubs were established in Austria, Italy, Switzerland and South Africa. Rowing gained popularity in the U.S. as well, specifically in the northeast. In 1875 the first U.S. women's rowing program was founded at Wellesley College, and in 1892, FISA, the first international sports federation was founded.

The 1900s

The Paris Olympics in 1900 included six rowing events, and the first Olympics eights race was won by The Vesper Boat Club, which is still one of the largest and most prestigious boat clubs today. In 1914, Harvard became the first U.S. team to win the Grand Challenge Cup and 50 years later, every member of the crew came back for a reunion row.


In 1927 the first Stotesbury Cup Regatta was held as a competition for high school students. This race is still held today on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. In 1963, Harry Parker became the head coach at Harvard, where he remains today. Parker and his crew were featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1965 with the heading, "World's Best Crew." Parker is perhaps the best-known name in rowing and he is one of the most successful coaches of all time. His 1974 Harvard crew was undefeated in dual regattas for three years and sent five members on to row in the Olympics. The first Head of the Charles Regatta was held in 1965 in Cambridge, Massachusetts and today it is the largest regatta in the world. In 1976, nineteen members of the Yale women's crew team made national headlines when they held a "strip in" in the athletic director's office. The women had painted "Title IX" across their backs and chests to protest the inadequate female shower facilities. By 1970, Vespoli boats were the number one choice for U.S. rowers. In 1988, female rowers made their first appearance at the Royal Henley Regatta in England--one of the most prestigious regattas in the world, and in 1990 a World Cup was formed for men's and women's singles. The 1996 Atlanta Olympics were the first at which men's and women's lightweights competed. In 1997 women's rowing became a National Collegiate Athletic Association sport and in 1999 the U.S. men's eight won its third consecutive world championship title.

2000 to the present


Rowing has continued to grow in popularity in the past years across the United States. In both World Championships and at the Olympic Games, more and more U.S. rowers are gaining recognition. In the 2000 Olympic Games, rowers were the third largest U.S. delegation with 48 athletes. In 2008, the women's eight won gold for the first time since 1984 and the men's eight took home bronze. Colleges and high schools across the country now have rowing as either a Varsity or club sport and women's rowing remains an NCAA sport.