First recorded Regatta organised by the gentlemen of the neighbourhood for the gentlemen!


Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visit. The Queen bestows the title of “Royal” on the Regatta.


The three day Regatta was held, just two months after the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.


Regatta Tennis tournament was launched. Nowadays a week long event using 864 balls.


A new start and regarded as the 1st in the present series, a Regatta fund was set up.


New embankment completed which made for a far better viewing platform of all the activities.


100th Dartmouth Regatta held, followed by a seven year gap with no Regatta’s due to War.


First ever Flyboarding display (James Prestwood) on the river. Kontiki Raft race returns.


Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Regatta Committee took the decision to cancel the event in 2020 – only the 11th time it had been cancelled since 1834


For the second year the Regatta was impacted by the Pandemic. In 2021 the team delivered an event with just 6 weeks confirmed notice!


Patronage for the the Royal Regatta is returned to HRH The Queen in her Platinum Jubilee Year. Holding a special place as Dartmouth is where she met Prince Philip. Sadly 2022 also saw the passing of our Queen.


With a new King being crowned, we move into Coronation year with an ever evolving Regatta.

Charities and Patronages

Following His Majesty The King’s Accession, the Royal Household is conducting a review of Royal Patronage. The review will cover the organisations of which Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was Patron and those organisations to which The King and The Queen Consort were connected through Patronage or Presidency as Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall.


How it started…The earliest recorded regatta in Dartmouth was in 1822. There were three sailing races and one six-oared gig race. A military band was recorded as playing out at Dartmouth Castle and a ball took place with 120 in attendance.

In 1834 the Dartmouth Regatta was officially formed, when the leading gentlemen of the neighbourhood, and inhabitants of the town called a meeting and elected a committee of their own.

In 1856 it became a Royal Regatta when Queen VictoriaPrince Albert and the Prince of Wales came into Dartmouth in a flotilla of nine boats on an unscheduled visit because of bad weather, arriving the day before the regatta started on 11 August. Prince Albert and his son went up to Sharpham Point in the new steamboat Dartmouth, which had arrived on the river only the previous day. The Queen followed in the state barge, going as far as Dittisham.

The Queen came ashore at 6pm and was met by the borough mayor. The Queen then drove in a carriage over ‘The Ridges’ to the ‘Black House’ at the junction of Jaw Bones/Swannaton Road/Stoke Fleming Road. She was accompanied by Sir Henry P. Seale on horseback. That night there were special illuminations both ashore and afloat. The Queen donated £25 and Prince Albert gave £20 for three rowing races to be competed for by the sailors of Dartmouth and this was done on the second day of the regatta.

The Queen the next day sailed on to Plymouth but before leaving bestowed the title of ‘Royal’ on the regatta. The Committee write each year to the Monarch to request the renewal of the Royal Patronage.


The handing over by Dartmouth’s Town Mayor of the Silver Oar (as a replica pin) to the Regatta Chairman is one of our oldest traditions. The badge represents the full size Oar which is held as part of the Town Regalia, and is a ceremonial gesture which takes place during the Official Opening Ceremony, indicating the town handing control to the Regatta Committee for the duration of the event.

The history of the Silver Oar started in 1333 when King Edward III acquired the lordship of the manor of Dartmouth (or Dertemouth as it was then called) through his clerk, Nicholas of Tewkesbury.  He made a grant to the Earldom of Cornwall of all rights and properties of the manor, including the waters of the River Dart. This continued to be a part of the Estates of the Duchy of Cornwall and later included the whole of the Estuary up to the high water mark. Incidentally, around this time, a certain Customs Officer named Geoffrey Chaucer visited the Town.

A Water Bailiff was appointed by the Duke of Cornwall to collect all port dues, with that appointment usually being for life. The Bailiff regularly held court to deal with any encroachments on the water rights. With one or two exceptions the Bailiffs were strangers and the Town Corporation tried to secure the office for themselves. They succeeded in 1508 and with a few short breaks were able to retain the Bailiwick by successive leases until 1860.

The records of the Bailiwick Court were kept separate from those of the Mayor’s Court until finally in 1866 the accounts were handed over to the Duchy. They contained many details of the shipping of the Port. Dues were retained by the Corporation subject to the payment of an annual charge to the Duchy and a substantial ‘fine’ on each change of Royal ownership. The freedom from outside interference with the management of the port was considered most valuable.

The Bailiwick granted by the Duchy of Cornwall covered not only the waters of the Dart Estuary, but the whole coast round to Salcombe harbour and Bigbury Bay to the West and Torbay to the East. Brixham and Torquay became major fishing ports and the use of their quays added considerably to the revenues. By 1820 the Collectors were putting over £200 a year into the coffers of the Corporation.

Back in 1721, as a symbol of authority the Corporation received from the Duke (later George II) a magnificent Silver Oar which was held with pride but reluctantly surrendered when the Duchy finally took over the Bailiwick in 1866. In 1911, Edward, Prince of Wales and later Edward VIII and Duke of Windsor, celebrated his Passing Out from Britannia Royal Naval College by returning the custody of the Silver Oar to the Council, which they had for so long previously treasured.

The history of rowing in Dartmouth

Rowing has always been at the very heart of Dartmouth Regatta from its inception. The first recorded Regatta held on the river Dart at Dartmouth in 1822 was noted to include a rowing race for six-oared gigs ‘for which Dartmouth is very famous’ according to the Exeter Flying Post.

However, with the establishment of Dartmouth Regatta in 1834 it was the races for four-oared gigs that were the most important rowing events commanding the highest prizes – £20 as early as 1847. Rarely were there fewer than two such races with one ‘open to all the world’ and the other for ‘gigs in the port’.

In 1856 Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and the Prince of Wales were sailing along the Channel in a flotilla of nine boats, when bad weather drove them into Dartmouth to seek shelter. This unscheduled stop came the day before the 1856 Regatta, on August 11th. There was much excitement as Prince Albert and his son travelled up to Sharpham Point in the new steamboat, Dartmouth, which had arrived on the river only the previous day. The Queen followed in the state barge, going as far as Dittisham. Her Majesty then came ashore at 6 pm and was met by the Town Mayor. Reports state that the Queen went on to travel by carriage over The Ridges to Black House, as it was locally known, at the junction of Jaw Bones, Swannaton Road and Stoke Fleming Road. She was accompanied by Sir Henry Paul Seale on horseback. That night there were special illuminations both ashore and afloat. Queen Victoria donated £25 and Prince Albert gave £20 for three rowing races, to be competed for by the sailors of Dartmouth, and the races took place on the second day of the Regatta. The following day, Queen Victoria and her entourage set sail for Plymouth, but before she left she bestowed the title of Royal on the Regatta.

Rowing for prize-money continued and following the arrival of the Royal Navy in 1863 there was a further diversification of rowing from the four-oared gig into twelve-man cutters, whalers and blue boats. This evolved into the local rowing programme of today.

In the following years there was much apprehension about the prize-money which led to the definition of a true ‘amateur’ which in turn led to the formation of a local amateur rowing club. The Dartmouth Amateur Rowing Club was formed in 1869 and later became one of the founding clubs of the West of England Amateur Rowing Association in 1896. The use of four-oared gigs developed into the 36 foot shell and in 1975 to the 42 foot skiff followed by a proliferation of various forms of river rowing with single sculls, double sculls, quadruple sculls, pair-oared boats and eights.

The demise of the naval Montague whaler at the end of the 1980s and the cadet blue boats in the early nineties, loaned from the Britannia Royal Naval College for the local Regatta racing, forced the Regatta committee to provide its own boats. Seven whalers in GRP/carbon fibre, based on the Yealm Crabber, and much lighter than the old naval whaler, were commissioned and were sponsored by local businesses and organisations. A similar campaign to raise funds for replacement ‘blue boats’ was met with equal generosity from the Dartmouth community. These boats were also made in GRP/carbon fibre from a mould formed from one of the wooden cadet blue boats.

Both the Local Rowing Whalers and Blue Boats are colour coded to help differentiate them

during racing:

Local rowing Whalers:                                                      Local Rowing Blue Boats:

Townstal                      Green                                            Castaway                        Green

Clifton                          Yellow                                          Kingswear                      Yellow

Dartmouth                    White                                            The Dart                         White

The Wayward Castle    Blue                                              Ken Armstrong               Blue

Britannia                       Grey                                             Harbour Bookmen          Grey

Friend of Bayards         Red                                                Percy Williams               Red

Hardness                       Orange                                          Cats Pillar                       Orange

Dartmouth Amateur Rowing Club, Dartmouth’s oldest club, was established on Monday, 22nd March, 1869.

Rowing races had been held on the river Dart for half a century prior to the Rowing Club being formed and the first recorded races were held in the 1820s which led to Dartmouth Regatta being established in 1834.

A report at the time of the formation of the rowing club concluded, “Dartmouth has long felt the want of a rowing club which we hope will now be supplied. The club has been formed by a few energetic young men of the town, who did not see why this town, which possesses such advantages, should be so far behind other places.”

“They held their first meeting on Monday, 22nd March, when they came to the conclusion that it might easily be formed, and maintained if the public would come forward with voluntary subscriptions and otherwise assist them in the support of the same. A deputation was formed to wait on Mr Charles Chalker to invite him to stand as Captain, which he kindly consented to do, and no doubt with such a Captain as Mr Chalker, the club will be in a position to compete for several prizes at the forthcoming Regatta.”

By June 1869 the club had purchased a 40 foot fine four-oared gig and had paid on account £6 for a 36 foot gig. The club entered their new 40 foot gig, Star of the Dart, in ‘The Dart Purse of Ten Sovereigns’ race at the 1869 Dartmouth Regatta winning the event but not without protest. Gazelle, the second boat to finish the race, lodged a protest that Star of the Dart had not rounded the course properly. The Regatta committee decided that the two boats should row half the course for the first prize which Star of the Dart won easily.

When the West of England Amateur Rowing Association was formed in 1896 Dartmouth was one of the eight founding clubs, three of which no longer exist. Dartmouth also provided the first Chairman and Secretary of the Association.

The club has spawned some incredible rowing crews down the years and has a proud record of results second to none in the West of England but the golden era was without doubt during the 1930s. In 1933 the club won the West of England ARA Championships for Senior, Junior and Under 20s but an even greater achievement was to follow. The Senior and Junior crews combined to form an eight to take on other crews from around the country and went on to win the National ARA race for Champion eights of England, rowed annually on the river Thames, to lift the Lord Desborough Cup. Two years later in 1935 the Senior four became the National ARA’s Champion four of England winning the Daily Herald Cup.

The National ARA’s Handbook of 1947 records a review of how clubs fared during the Second World War. Of Dartmouth ARC it notes, “The boathouse was requisitioned by the Admiralty and served as a Bo’sun’s Store until 1945, and the boats had to be moved and stored in an old brewery. The boathouse was derequisitioned in the spring of 1945 and the committee at once got to work to make the place habitable again: the boats and gear, returned from storage, were overhauled, and the club opened in time for crews to train for a local regatta that season. During the following winter months extensive repairs and renewals had to be carried out. Members served in all branches of the Services, Civil and Military, at home and abroad, on land, sea and in the air.”

The amalgamation of the national associations to form the ARA also saw the inception of the South Coast Championship Regatta in 1957 with Dartmouth hosting the third Championship Regatta in 1959. This brought more success for the club with the Senior crew winning the South Coast Championship at that 1959 regatta and repeating the success at the 1962 Championship Regatta.

The year 1969, the club’s centenary, was eventful with the Senior crew winning all eight West of England ARA regattas to win the Association’s Championship with the club’s B crew runners-up. The club also staged the South Coast Championship Regatta for the second time.

Through the 1970s women’s rowing became the fastest growing sport in the country and again the club had its share of successes at Senior Ladies both at West of England level and at the South Coast Championships with wins in 1980 and 1982.

There have been many landmarks in the club’s history and this included becoming the first club to win all of the West of England ARA Men’s Championships in 1994.

In 2004 four of the club’s members; Yorkie Lomas, Shaun Barker, Phil Langman and Jason Hart; set out from San Sebastian de La Gomera on 20th January in the ocean rowing boat ‘Queensgate’ arriving in Port St Charles, Barbados, on 26th February. The crew became the first four to row any ocean and the crossing set a benchmark record of 36 days 59 minutes. A record that was to stand for over a decade. In 2010 club member Jo Langmead joined three other oarswomen aboard the ocean rowing boat ‘Atlantic Mission’ departing San Sebastian de La Gomera on 4th January and arriving in English Harbour, Antigua, on 20th March having crossed the Atlantic in 74 days.

Junior (Under 18) rowing has come to the forefront in this century and Dartmouth has had its share of West of England ARA Junior Championships and with the inauguration of the South Coast Junior Regatta at Dartmouth in 2006 success on a wider stage. In 2006 the club won four events and in 2007 at Dorney Lake, the venue for the 2012 Olympic rowing events, they went one better with five wins. These successes were surpassed in 2008 at Plymouth with the Juniors winning six events and the newly installed points trophy for the South Coast Junior Regatta. These successes at Junior level have continued and at the 2018 South Coast Rowing Championships the Girls Under 16 coxed quadruple sculls crew won their event in their first outing in a coastal boat at Deal.

It is estimated that over the years Dartmouth Amateur Rowing Club has won over 2,000 trophies which includes the West of England ARA Men’s Senior coxed fours Championship on 35 occasions.

To mark the 150th anniversary in 2019 the club arranged a year of events including a Sesqicentennial Dinner at the Britannia Royal Naval College held on the 150th anniversary; the holding of the office of President of the West of England ARA; providing commemorative lapel badges and clothing; staging the West of England ARA President’s Dinner and Awards Evening at the Dartmouth Golf & Country Club on October 26th; and the staging of the 63rd South Coast Rowing Championships.

The history of Coastal Rowing

Coastal Rowing takes place on open water, typically on the sea or on large lakes. There are many different types of boats that race on the sea. The official World Rowing discipline was first codified in France and is now a global discipline. Coastal rowing is defined by a set of measurements and regulations that boats and rowers need to comply with when they want to race. These can be found in the FISA Rules of Racing www.worldrowing.com There are three pathways: beach sprint, endurance and touring (sometimes called challenge or raid rowing). The beach sprint format started as a result of the emergence of the beach games competitions. The first event was in Italy in 2015 at the Mediterranean Beach Games. Since then, the beach sprint format has been in Beach Games events across the world including Asia, Africa and the Americas. The first global event was the 2019 World Rowing Beach Sprint Finals in Shenzhen, China. The 2026 Youth Olympic Games in Senegal will have the beach sprint format.

Guin Batten, Chair of the FISA ‘Rowing For All’ Commission, describes FISA Coastal rowing as follows, “Coastal rowing is the mountain biking of rowing. It is a discipline that is growing around the world. The rowing skills needed to have fun and be safe out on the water are useful for more than just sport, they are essential life skills for all coastal communities. They are traditional skills, and many have been forgotten since the outboard engine became more widespread in the 1970s. The team at World Rowing have created this guide, so together we can teach the next generation to be confident and competent on the sea.”

“Get out on the water and enjoy the waves.”

The World Rowing Federation, FISA (from the French, Fédération Internationale des Sociétés d’Aviron) is the governing body of the sport of rowing. It is empowered by its 155 member National Rowing Federations, the National Olympic Committees and the International Olympic Committee to govern the sport of rowing. FISA sets the rules and regulations for the practice of the sport, in all its forms including elite, para-rowing, coastal, masters and aspects of indoor rowing. The Federation works on coaching education and other matters relating to the sport and its development.

The history of Seine Boat Rowing

Traditional River Teign Seine Boats are seventeen feet long and clinker built with English Elm bottoms and larch topsides.  They were propelled by oars or sails and were usually named after the owner’s mother or wife.

Modern day Seine boat racing was started by Shaldon Regatta in the 1970s as part of the Dawlish to Shaldon rowing race. Wooden seine boats were borrowed from local fishermen, often for the cost of a bottle of something strong, and temporarily modified to be rowed by four people with a cox to steer.

In the early 1990s a somewhat bleary discussion in The Ferryboat Inn between several of the Shaldon Regatta committee, a boatman from Teignmouth, and a boat builder came up with the idea to build some boats in glass fibre……low and behold they remembered the conversation! And the first three boats were built, two for Shaldon Regatta and one for the boat builder.

The history of the West of England Amateur Rowing Association

Rowing was a very popular sport in the second half of the 19th Century – with much more spectator interest than today with professional oarsmen racing for very large sums of money becoming the heroes of the day. When one Newcastle oarsman died, over 130,000 people turned out for his funeral! In the West of England rowing was also a popular sport and many of the clubs now affiliated to the West of England A.R.A. had been formed long before the association itself. For example, Dartmouth ARC was formed in 1869.

The first meeting of the West of England Amateur Rowing Association (W.E.A.R.A) was held at The Bradley Hotel, Newton Abbot, on 29th January, 1896. Those present included delegates from Exeter ARC, Totnes ARC, Dart ARC, Torquay ARC, Paignton ARC, and Dartmouth ARC. At this meeting a Mr W. Wilson from Dartmouth was elected as the first Chairman of the association. The objects were agreed as “Regulation of amateur rowing generally and deciding all questions of dispute that may affect Boat Racing and deciding on all questions relating to Status of Amateurs and Professionals and Juniors and Seniors. No seamen, watermen or fishermen be allowed to compete, nor anyone who has taken a money prize can be considered eligible, but the Committee shall have power to reinstate, on application.”

The Laws and Bye-Laws were finalised at a meeting on 29th April, 1896, at which it was agreed that racing shells should be 36 feet long, A Senior oarsman was defined as one who had won a 1st prize in a Senior Race, a Junior oarsman had not won a first prize in a senior event, but if he did he might continue to row junior for the rest of that season. No race to be less than 1 mile or more than 3 miles and all boats were to carry distinguishing flags. Thus, many of the points that are regularly disputed at today’s AGMs were contentious from the outset. In the early days rules of status were changed frequently, as were starters’ orders, and umpires’ decisions were regularly queried.

In 1897, Regattas were held at Dartmouth, Exeter, Torquay, Paignton, Bideford and Totnes. The Championship points system was initiated with 2 points for a win and 1 for second. From these few Regattas Torquay won the Senior and Dartmouth the Junior Championships, the crews were awarded medals in celebration. 1897 also saw the nomination of an umpire by each affiliated club; he was appointed for one Regatta and received travelling expenses of 10/6d for his trouble. The following year six Regattas were held, amassing 18 races, 77 entries and 299 competitors. Some of which were shown to be most enthusiastic about their sport as in September 1900 the Secretary had to write to Dart ARC regarding the conduct of their crew at Dartmouth Regatta for “throwing water over another crew with whom they had fouled”.

1904 saw the appointment of two umpires per Regatta and clubs were assigned distinctive colourings for the Cox to wear: Exeter-mauve, Dartmouth-dark blue, Bideford ARC-green, Totnes-pink, Paignton-yellow, Bideford AAC-light blue, Torquay-white, St. Thomas-red. There was also dispute over Regatta courses, 1905 saw the secretary in correspondence with Torquay Regatta Committee asking that the course be clear of the rocks in future!

The movement to change to 42’ boats was started in 1908 by the Bideford clubs; this request was not allowed and resulted in the measurement of all boats at the start of each season. By 1913 both Bow and Cox were to wear distinctive colours.

1920 saw Regatta course difficulties with Dartmouth Regatta asked to provide a better course and a faster launch for umpires. Several clubs changed colours BARC – red, Dartmouth – white, Torquay – dark blue. It was also ruled that coxes were to be over the age of 18, nowadays they must be at least 12 years old.

In 1927 a conference was organised by the National Amateur Rowing Association (NARA) with delegates from all Rowing Associations in the UK “to arrive at a satisfactory definition of Amateur Status and to promote harmonious working among the Associations”. The Amateur Rowing Association (ARA) had been founded in 1882 and had a strict definition of amateurs, which in practice banned anyone who worked with his hands i.e. a manual worker. The NARA was founded in 1890 to give a broader admittance of amateurism, but still banning professional oarsmen, fishermen, watermen, boatmen etc. WEARA affiliated to NARA in 1927 and adopted its definition of amateurism.

In 1956 after years of discussion the NARA and ARA amalgamated, writing to suggest that WEARA drop the word “Association” from its title. At a meeting to discuss WEARA’s position it was pointed out that 1956 was the Diamond Jubilee Year and it was proposed and carried unanimously “That this Association keep its separate identity and carry on as we have in the past”.

The first South Coast Regatta was held at Poole in 1957, offering Senior, Junior/Senior and Junior Championship Fours plus Open Senior and Open Ladies Fours. Eight WEARA men’s crews and three ladies crews took part. In 1959 the Regatta, which had now become known as The South Coast Championships, was held at Dartmouth, WEARA Clubs won Senior and Junior Senior Championship Fours and Junior and Novice Fours.

In 1963 the Women’s ARA was dissolved and the following year it was agreed that lady members of WEARA affiliated clubs should be affiliated to the Association. The Ladies Championships started in 1965, and was won by Torquay, who also won the South Coast Championships in 1966.

In 1976 the status rules changed to Senior A, Senior B, etc., to come into line with the ARA, and the use of 42’ boats.

The history of the Pilot Gig

The Cornish Pilot Gig has a long and hard-working history. In the early 1800’s there would have been around 200 gigs, sometimes under sail, to be found in use around the Cornish coastline.

Pilot Gigs were used to help larger vessels to navigate a safe passage, to trade with those same ships and to help rescue those in danger – stranded in remote or dangerous locations or jumping from sinking ships. They would have transported goods and people between the Isles of Scilly and the mainland but also to ferry smuggled contraband ashore.

These workhorses of the sea were naturally expected to move fast about their work and a racing of sorts therefore ensued. The first to get to a ship would reap the various rewards – whether that be the pilotage fee or goods to trade.

Nowadays they are of course raced merely for pleasure. The rowing techniques most in favour have come and gone over the years, clothing has obviously changed radically and there are now GRP (plastic) gigs available for training purposes and owned by many clubs. As many women as men row nowadays and gig clubs are spreading ever further out of their historical west country homeland.

But many aspects of the gigs remain the same. According to the Cornish Pilot Gig Association, the gigs which we see today are “taken from a traditional design… and follow the original specifications as laid down by the Peters family in the form of the gig ‘Treffry‘ (1838), which is still actively rowed by the Newquay Rowing Club“.

In 1981, Ralph Bird, a local gig builder and other enthusiasts, borrowed a few historic gigs and set up the Truro Three Rivers Race. Within five years, four pilot gig clubs had been established and this led to the Cornish Pilot Gig Association being formed in 1988 with Ralph as President.

Since the 1980’s, the sport has grown and grown, with nearly 150 gigs lining up on the start line at the World Pilot Gig Championships which take place each year on St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly.

Gig rowing has clearly developed over the centuries to give new and more enjoyable incentives to get out on the water and appreciate our surroundings. But part of the appeal is their still traditional build and appearance.

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