The Royal Canadian Henley Regatta started in 1880 as the first championship for the newly formed Canadian Amateur Rowing Association. It changed venues often until 1903, when it was decided to hold it at St. Catharines Port Dalhousie’s Martindale Pond hosted by the St. Catharines rowing club permanently.
Originally the race was 1 mile 550 yards long (2112m), the same distance as the Henley Royal Regatta in England at the time. The pond was an ideal location because the level of the water could be controlled. Wooden grandstands were built, and in 1947, women raced for the first time. In 1964, the distance was changed to 2000 meters, the current standard distance for international competition. The facilities were completely redone in 1966, and in 1972, women’s races became a permanent, rather than exhibition event. In 1999, the facilities were again upgraded for the 1999 World Rowing Championships.
The Royal Canadian Henley Regatta has welcomed many famous spectators, including Grace Kelly, former Prime Minister The Right Honourable Pierre Elliot Trudeau and former Prime Minister The Right Honourable Jean Chrétien. The Ontario Heritage Trust erected a plaque honouring the Royal Canadian Henley Regatta at the entrance to the Henley Regatta Course Grandstand, Main Street, St. Catharines. Competitive rowing became popular in Canada in the 1860s, and in 1880 the first Royal Canadian Henley Regatta for international oarsmen was held in Toronto. In 1903, a section of the old Welland Canal at Port Dalhousie was chosen as the permanent site for this popular sporting competition.
CELEBRATING 132 YEARS
The City of St. Catharines is proud to roll out the welcome mat for the best in North American rowing. 2014 is an exciting year as we celebrate 132 years of competition and tradition. The Regatta strives to offer the best experience for all participating as competitors, coaches, spectators and volunteers.
From its humble beginnings over 130 years ago, a world-class event has evolved. The RCHR is hailed as the top amateur rowing event in North America. Each year we welcome international competitors and visitors from across Canada, the US, Europe, Australia and Latin America.
The regatta has grown in popularity. Last year the 131st Royal Canadian Henley Regatta attracted well over 3,500 visitors who stayed in our city for four nights or more. This year we anticipate continued growth in competitors and spectators.
The Opening Ceremonies on Monday, August 4, 2014 are expected to draw thousands of visitors to Port Dalhousie to enjoy the camaraderie of old friends and new as fireworks light up the sky over Martindale Pond and the 2014 Henley Regatta officially opens.