Avon County Rowing Club

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History: what's happened at the club

 Henry Knight
Henry Knight, founder of Avon Rowing Club, coaching at Saltford.
 

Avon County Rowing Club was formed in 1973, following a merger of the former Avon and Bristol clubs. This ended a tradition of friendly rivalry, stretching back to the previous century, between oarsmen training in the colours of a succession of clubs based at Saltford.

In 1865, Henry Marvin Knight persuaded three colleagues employed in his father's Milsom Street Furnishers, Auctioneers and Estate Agents to join him in founding the original Avon Rowing Club at Bath. Their enthusiasm was stirred by public interest in rowing since the first Bath Grand Regatta in July 1849 for crews representing Bath, Bristol and Oxford, in a series of races over the Saltford straight. The regatta struggled through a series of financial crises until Henry Knight's club linked with Bristol Ariel as joint promoters in 1874.

In 1890, the event acquired its long-time identity as Saltford Regatta, when the costs included "Boy to hold Umpire's horses - two shillings." Saltford Regatta was staged for the last time in 1972. In an age when no man "who earned a living with his hands" was considered eligible for the sport of rowing, Avon competed at Henley and became the first provincial club to win the renowned Thames Cup at the Metropolitan Regatta in 1879. In 1913, a Night Watchman was hired, and the Police alerted, following a threat by local Suffragettes to burn down the regatta boat tents and interfere with racing. They did not appear and the ladies fulfilled their "traditional" role of wearing "best dresses and hats", preparing teas and shouting polite encouragement to the, then, all male crews.

In 1925, Mrs W. Cook was elected a Vice President of Avon and persuaded the organisers to include a Ladies Double Sculling event for the Gentleman's Plate at Saltford Regatta, in an era when the men's crews continued to race in a choice of white shorts or trousers, and white straw hats trimmed in club colours.

Local clubs suffered crippling losses in two World Wars and struggled to regain their former eminence in rowing circles after the second conflict.

The short-lived Bristol Rowing Club was formed in a merger between Redcliffe and Clifton Rowing Clubs, which in turn linked with Avon Rowing Club to form Avon County.

 Saltford regatta
A crew at Saltford Regatta between the two World Wars.
 

Bristol City Council offered facilities in the city docks for the reconstituted Bristol Avon Regatta, jointly managed by a committee representing Avon and the three Bristol clubs. The first Bristol Avon Regatta was launched four years later with the right to stage racing for the Bath City Challenge Vase and other silverware trophies, first offered for competition at Saltford in the Victorian era. An Avon Ladies Four won the Novice event at the Bristol Avon Regatta this year, the the A. G. Barr trophy of a silver blade, first presented for competition 150 years ago at the Bath Regatta.

The Avon County School's Head of the River Race was founded at Saltford in 1969, by the Bristol Rowing Club and the Avon County School's Regatta established during the 1970's with Robin Leach as its mentor.

Former rowers from the clubs making up Avon County include Clifton Rowing Club's Roland George. He survived a warning that his heart was too weak for rowing before adding a stone to his weight, and winning an Olympic gold medal at Los Angeles in 1932 in the coxless four.

Hugh Wardell-Yerburgh (of Bristol Rowing Club) will be remembered for his Tokyo (1964) Olympic silver medal (also in the coxless fours), as Britain's first post-war winner of the Diamond Sculls at Henley, several wins at The Sculler's Head and for long hours of solo training on the Saltford straight, before his life was cut tragically short.

 2000 Home Countries regatta
Jo, Pat, Ann and Penny with their medals at the 2000 Home Countries Regatta, in Ghent.
 

von County members have achieved international recognition in recent years with Richard Manners selected for the Barcelona Olympic Squad and Helen Bruce and Ann Booker competing in the Commonwealth games. Penny Senior and Pat Hockley also competed for England, in the 1999 Home Countries Regatta held in Ireland, winning two gold medals each.

In the year 2000, Penny, Ann, Pat and Jo Stoker joined together to make an elite lightweight coxless four in which they won Women's Henley, The National Championships and also the Home Countires Regatta, representing England.

Henley Royal Regatta 2001 saw the first men's crew from ACRC competing in the regatta. The 4- of Robin Latham, Mark Johnson, Dave Bannon and Darren Rhodes qualified in tricky conditions for the Wyfold Challenge Cup and went on to beat Notts County Rowing Club B in the first round on Wednesday. Sadly, the crew was knocked out on Thursday.

 Clash at Henley Royal regatta
 Robin, Mark, Dave and Darren have a "moment" with NCRA B at Henley Royal Regatta 2001.
 

The crew used a boat which was hired for the event from Cardiff University. This would not have been possible without the generous help from The Royal Navy and other sponsors of the crew.

In 2002 Avon County juniors Charlotte and Vicky Land represented Great Britain in the GB -v- France match and the Coupe de la Jeunesse. Winning races at some major events in the year, the GB colours were the icing on the cake of a brilliant year for the twin sisters.