Melbourne Amateur Regatta Association
Project: To host the annual Australian Henley Rowing Regatta, held on the Yarra River in Melbourne.
The Need: The Australian Henley Regatta has been run by the Melbourne Amateur Regatta Association on the Yarra River every year since 1904, except for the period during the two World Wars during which all Regatta racing was suspended. Originally modelled on the Henley Royal Regatta, a series of Challenge Cups was established for various events. In its heyday, the Australian Henley ranked with the Melbourne Cup and AFL Grand Final as a major sporting and social occasion. Decorated houseboats lined the river bank, there was strong support from Melbourne retail traders and a ‘ Miss Henley’ contest was held. While times have changed, the Committee is seeking to revive interest in the Regatta as one with particular meaning for Melbourne. Due to the Regatta’s amateur status, the Committee needs to raise funds to support the event.
2004 was the Centenary Year of the Regatta.
The Goal: To raise $10,000 each year towards the cost of holding the event.
The Approach: The Regatta is one of the few held on the Yarra and because it gives rowing a presence in the heart of Melbourne and is able to raise the profile of rowing, the Regatta Committee is working to attract a range of rowers to take part. Since the finishing of the Citilink Freeway and the establishment of new parklands near the course, the Regatta is starting to rebuild its competitor and spectator base.
A significant change since the Regatta’s early days is the number s of women taking part. In recent years there have been almost as many female as male rowers. Historically, the Regatta had a number of handsome silver Challenge Cups donated for men’s events and some of these have now been dedicated for women’s events.
In 2003, races were held throughout the day and 237 crews entered, paying an entry fee to take part. In addition to entries from all over Australia, crews from Asia and Japan take part in the Regatta. Previously held in March each year, the Regatta was moved to December in 2004 to allow for the return of competitors from the Olympics. The Regatta is used by many crews as an opportunity for competitive training. There is also a Corporate Cup which is an invitational event for mixed coxed eights and which includes a significant entertainment component. The aim of the Corporate Cup is to introduce rowing and the Australian Henley to corporations as a dual vehicle for team building and corporate entertainment. It also provides an excellent avenue for fund raising for the Regatta.
Immediate Past Chairman and current Treasurer, Rob Stewart, says that the Regatta’s registration with the Australian Sports Foundation has made a significant difference to its ability to fundraise. ‘We call on our members and people associated with the Regatta and they are very pleased to have the opportunity to give support through the ASF,’ he said. Donors receive recognition in race programs and in the Annual Report.
The Challenge: As the Australian Henley Regatta is run totally by volunteers, the major challenge is to find people with the time and motivation to assist with the organisation of the event. A challenge also exists to secure increased participation by senior crews to supplement the considerable interest shown by school and veteran crews.
The successful strategies
- Celebrating an historical event and bringing it up to date;
- Inclusion on the Victorian Rowing Calendar and distribution of promotional posters to clubs around Australia;
- Giving corporations the opportunity to take part in the Australian Henley;
Competition opportunities for a breadth of rowers, from junior to corporate to overseas crews to masters level.
Location: The Australian Henley Rowing Regatta is held on the Yarra River in Melbourne.