The South Coast Championships is the pinacle of rowing on the South Coast. The three southern rowing associations CARA (Coast Amatuer Rowing Association), HDARA (Hampshire and Dorset Rowing Association) and WEARA (West of England Rowing Association) put forward their two best crews in each of 6 championships events: Mens Senior Fours, Ladies Senior Fours, Mens Junior-Senior Fours, Mens Junior Fours, Ladies Junior Fours and Open Veteran Fours. These 6 main events are accompanies by many other “open” events which can be entered by any crew from one of the three associations.
History of the South Coast Rowing Championships Regatta.
The South Coast Rowing Champions was the inspiration of Archie Fraser, of Westover & Bournemouth Rowing Club who had the idea of an event involving the three South Coast Rowing Associations – the Hants & Dorset ARA, (H&D ARA) the Coast ARA (CARA) and the West of England ARA (WEARA) – who would provide a champion in each class to compete in a “champion of champions” race at the end of the rowing season.
The first Championship Regatta was hosted by the Hants & Dorset ARA at Poole in 1957 where Christchurch were the winners of the first Senior event, for the Bideford Bowl, donated by the West of England ARA and BTC won both the Junior Senior and Junior Event. The following day officials from the three Associations met in Poole Yacht Club where it was decided that the Regatta should continue and be hosted by each Association in rotation. It was agreed that the host Association would provide six matched boats and include any supporting events of their own choice. The Hants & Dorset and Christchurch Rowing Clubs Toby Trowbridge was elected the first Chairman of what became the South Coast Council.
In the early years there was a good deal of controversy between the Associations because of the differences in rules and because WEARA rowed in 36′ river boats (now 42′) but H&DARA and CARA Clubs used 30′ staggered seat Coastal boats. However annual meetings of the representative South Coast Committee (now the South Coast Council) have established a set of acceptable rules and regatta format. The original three-year cycle was changed to a four-year cycle with the regatta being held in WEARA every other year to counteract the disadvantage that WEARA crews suffered having to row in Coastal Boats – although this will revert to a three year cycle again from 2011. In 1967 it was stated that the cost of staging the South Coast Championship Regatta was £270 – today it is around £25,000!
Although the supporting events had often included ladies races there was no Championship event until 1976 – and in 1992 a Junior Ladies Championship event was added – with a Veterans Championship added in 2004 bringing the total of Championship events to six.
The 50th Regatta was held at Dartmouth and hosted by the West of England Amateur Rowing Association and included a celebration Dinner on the Thursday evening before the Regatta, a row-past on Regatta day of some of those who had competed in the first Regatta in 1957 – and the inaugural Junior Regatta.
In 2007 it was the Hants & Dorset ARA’s turn to host the Championships once again and they took the brave and rather controversial decision to stage the event at the new, purpose built, international standard venue of Dorney Lake, Eton, where the 2012 Olympic Regatta will be staged. Their decision was justified when the event proved to be one of the most successful and arguably the fairest ever staged prompting the Association to return to Dorney Lake for the 2011 Championship Regatta.