SUBC History - Excellence since 1860
Sydney University Boat Club is one of the oldest sporting clubs in Australia, founded in 1860. Known in rowing circles as “the Home of Rowing”, the club has produced great rowers at University, State, National and International level.
The club first competed against Melbourne University on the Yarra River in May 1860 and later joined with Adelaide and Melbourne Universities to start the Australia University Championships in 1870. In the first “official” Intervarsity Race between coxed fours from these three universities, the future first Prime Minister of Australia, Edmund Barton, rowed in the No 2 seat for Sydney University.
In 1890 the Sydney University Boat Club joined with Rugby, Cricket, Lawn Tennis and Athletics clubs to form the Sydney University Sports Union which has now become Sydney University Sport and Fitness - the lead body managing sport at the University of Sydney.
1893 saw the donation of a magnificent trophy, “The Oxford and Cambridge Cup”, donated by Blues of Oxford and Cambridge, for competition between men’s eights of the Australian Universities. The Boat Club continues to compete each year for this trophy.
Of course, universities then were for men only, and so too were all the university sporting clubs. It was not until 1882 that the first two women students joined Sydney University and over the ensuing years, women students quickly took control of their sporting activities. In 1896, the Sydney University Women’s Boat Club was formed, becoming only the second female sports club at Sydney University. They rowed in the vicinity of Blackwattle Bay, rather than Woolloomooloo Bay, where the men rowed from, and purchased their own boat in 1897. The club was one of the first women’s boat clubs in Australia.
For women in the late 19th and early 20th century, even those with advanced education, social norms severely constrained their sporting participation. Nevertheless, women rowers continued on at Sydney University, as women’s roles changed and sporting participation grew in girls’ secondary schools. In 1922, the Women’s Boat Club enlarged its activities from training and boat picnics to cater for swimmers as well, and the preferred title became the Women’s Aquatic Club. However, by 1924, women’s boating activities fell into abeyance.
Around 1900, the men established a rowing shed in Blackwattle Bay, at the end of Glebe Point Road, and rowed from there until 1939, when the shed was resumed for defence purposes and later demolished. After WWII, the men’s club resumed its activities in 1946. With its boatshed gone, the club operated as a tenant in other club’s sheds, including Mosman and St Ignatius College.
In the late 1950s, Andrew Thyne Reid, an alumnus of the men’s club, purchased a large waterfront house in Drummoyne and gave it to the University for use by the men’s club. After planning issues arose, the University took over that site in 1961 and offered to build a boatshed on an alternate site at Linley Point on Burns Bay. The Linley Point site had been identified by an SUBC Committee led by coaches Dr Eric Longley and Dennis Rourke who were instrumental in lobbying with Lane Cove Council. The new shed, an award-winning innovative steel A frame, named in honour of its benefactor Thyne Reid, was completed in December 1963 and began operations in January 1964.
With the growth of women’s and men’s recreational activities in the 1960s, there was a fresh drive for women’s sports at the University. Initially the women used equipment lent by Sydney Women’s Rowing Club until the opportunity arose to row out of the Thyne Reid boatshed at Linley Point in 1967, beginning a new era for Sydney University Women’s Rowing Club.
Through the 1970s and 1980s, both the men’s and women’s clubs grew and prospered, and it was clear that more shed space was required.
In 1994 SUWRC was able to purchase the old Glebe Rowing Club boatshed at Ferry Road on Blackwattle Bay with the assistance of Sydney University Women’s Sports Association and The University, to house rowing and canoeing. From this shed the women’s rowing squad quickly grew to include novice, development and high performance athletes as well as masters. However, by around 2004, further growth in women’s participation and changes in coaching arrangements led to the women’s high performance squad moving back to Linley Point, allowing the Glebe shed to focus on women’s novice, development and masters squads.
Then, in March 2006, the Thyne Reid Boatshed at Linley Point, and over 60 racing boats, were destroyed by an arsonist’s fire. The men’s and women’s Linley Point squads moved to a temporary shed attached to St Ignatius College until 2012. The men then moved on to a rented bay at University of NSW’s Tarban Creek boatshed while the high performance women returned to Glebe.
After many a set back, arrangements to fund the new shed were agreed between the Boat Club, SUSF and the University. The design for a new shed at Linley Point was approved by Lane Cove Council in late 2015, and the new Thyne Reid Boatshed was completed in February 2017. The men’s and women’s student squads moved in to this outstanding state-of-the-art training facility shortly after. The Glebe shed currently focuses on masters, inter-collegiate, and schoolgirl rowing.
At the same time as the new shed was being designed, the men’s and women’s clubs had agreed to merge. The Presidents of SUBC and SUWRC put successful proposals to merge, under the single name of Sydney University Boat Club, to their two clubs in September 2015. This was a particularly important milestone for rowing at Sydney University. The amalgamation streamlined club and coaching administration and enabled the club to plan as one unit to maximise the combined potential offered by both the Linley Point and Glebe boathouses.