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Barwon Regatta Senior Eights rowing trophy

Date: 1877
Overall: 156 x 73 x 73 mm, 0.16 kg
Medium: Silver
Credit Line: ANMM Collection
Object Name: Trophy
Object No: 00030944
Place Manufactured:Melbourne

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    This trophy was awarded at the Barwon Regatta on March 20th 1877 to George Fairbairn, the stroke of the winning crew from Melbourne Rowing Club who won the regatta's senior eight-oared race. Fairbairn founded the now famous Henley-on-the-Yarra Regatta in 1904 and was the eldest brother of Steve Fairbairn, a much heralded rowing coach, author and exponent of innovative stroke technique in England in the early 20th century.
    SignificanceFairbairn's Barwon Regatta Senior Eight's rowing trophy represents the emergence of the eight-oared boat in Australian club rowing and regatta competition during the late 1870s.
    HistoryThe first Barwon Regatta was held on Victoria's Barwon River, 300 kilometers west of Melbourne on 6th April 1876. The regatta was a huge success with 3500 spectators lining the banks of the river to see the first eight-oared race on the waterway. 1876 also saw the formation of the Victorian Rowing Association when eighteen clubs joined together to manage Victorian rowing affairs through their elected representatives.

    The first eight-oared boat in Australia had been launched on the Yarra River in 1869, though it took considerable time for sufficient boat numbers to increase sufficiently to allow competitive racing. The first Barwon Regattas of 1876 and 1877 saw some of the first eight-oared boat races held amongst significant numbers in the colony.

    In 1877 George Fairbairn had just returned to Australia from Jesus College, Cambridge, England, having achieved some rowing success, including a win in the Ladies Plate at Henley. At the time of his return his younger brother Steven recalls being greatly impressed by the ensuing controversy between his big brother and the local rowing talent. George was criticised for the 'traditionalist' rowing style he had acquired at Cambridge. George's stiff, short strokes were no match for the self-taught methods of the local rowers and he soon converted back to the long slides and strokes of his fellow Melbournians.

    The first inter-colonial eight-oared race (between New South Wales and Victoria) took place on the 6th March 1878 on the Yarra River in Melbourne. George Fairbairn was the stroke of the winning Victorian crew. His win a year earlier at the Barwon Regatta no doubt assisted him in shifting from the rigid English style of rowing to the more fluid and faster, antipodean style that allowed him to become one of Australia's foremost oarsmen of the period.
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