The Royal Chester Rowing Club celebrates 175th anniversary
- Credit: Archant
One of Chester’s most successful sporting institutions has marked an historic landmark and is looking to the future
The timeless scene of boats elegantly skimming along the Dee is as much a feature of Chester as the Roman walls or the timbered buildings. The Royal Chester Rowing Club is one of the city’s institutions and its members have trained and competed on the river for almost 200 years.
But while the image of rowers gliding gracefully by may have altered very little since the club was formed, there have been some fundamental changes. Members held their 175th anniversary dinner at Chester City Hall, which was also the venue for their 150th party, and captain Michal Palamarczuk said there was one major difference between the event 25 years ago and the recent celebrations.
‘The big change in that time was that the 150th was a male only event but this year’s dinner was 50/50,’ he said. ‘There has been a shift in society and in the sport – right through the age groups we’re split 50/50 now.
‘The club now is totally different to how it was when it was first founded but it has had to change with the times and adapt. Rowing itself hasn’t really changed in that time – the boats are made of different materials now but the technology is essentially the same. The athletes themselves have developed and new records are being set all the time – who knows what they will be like in 175 years time?
‘I think if our founders were able to revisit the club today they would be shocked at the number of females we have at the club these days, but if they knew how the rest of the world had changed I’m sure they would accept that.’
The club is yet to book for their 200th anniversary party but by the time they do the club is likely to have a new base. A move has been talked about for years but two sites have now been identified on the Dee. ‘A new clubhouse would allow us to expand our membership and community input,’ Michal said. ‘We are looking at two options at the moment, both very close to where we are now, and we are hoping that within three years we will have a new clubhouse.’
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The new clubhouse would cost £2m and the club would raise the funds by applying for grants and selling their present base which they have outgrown in recent years.
The club, which is one of the oldest in the UK, now has more than 300 members, with the youngest 11 and the oldest over 70 and they are working with local schools to offer taster sessions which it is hoped will attract more youngsters to the sport. Two Chester schools are also considering adding rowing to their curriculum next year.
‘Our taster sessions allow us to introduce new people to the sport,’ Michal added. ‘Not everyone excels at football and ball sports and rowing can be an opportunity for them to have fun and be healthy.
‘There is a clear route for the younger ones – and many have taken it – from joining the club as a beginner to competing at the highest level. We have had Olympians from the club over the year. I don’t think we’ve had a gold medallist yet, but definitely some silvers and people who have been successful in other major events.
‘We are competing against other sports to a degree but a lot of sports are seasonal and we are all year round. We don’t mind when members are younger but there does come a time when they need to make a choice because rowing requires specific training. It’s a very technical sport and to be good you really have to stick at it.
‘It takes about 10,000 hours of training to become really proficient and while we do want to get people in and to have fun rowing we also want people to aim to be winning events like Henley, where we have done well in recent years, and international competitions.’
The club also holds corporate team building events and will this month host a rowing camp aimed at introducing more children to the sport. ‘It’s about making rowing more available to people,’ Michal added. ‘Rowing is very popular and is getting more popular. People have realised it is no longer an elitist sport, it’s open to everyone now.
‘Because of the work we had been doing, we saw a rise in interest before the Olympics but then we had another surge after the Games and had more people interested than we could cope with.’
Summer Rowing Camp starts July 28 for ages 12-17. Places are limited and must be booked. Visit royalchesterrowingclub.co.uk to register interest.