Lyttelton Hosted New Zealand’s First Rowing Regatta – 1st January 1862

As the sun rose over Lyttelton on 1st January 1862, the sky was clear and not a bit of wind disturbed the harbour waters. Not the sort of weather suited for a rowing regatta by any means.

As excited crowds gathered around the harbour’s edge to witness New Zealand’s first rowing regatta, a sudden breeze blew in from the south west, bringing a light shower of rain. But this soon passed and a perfect warm wind remained over the waiting boats of every description.

With the entry fee of £1, boats with such names as ‘Pride of Canterbury’, ‘Christchurch Maid’, ‘Auckland’ and ‘Undaunted’, lined up for their various races. The largest race involved six competitors in the ‘Four Oared Whale Boat with rudder competition. With prize money ranging up to £30, the regatta offered much excitement for those watching.

Later that night, a public dinner was held at the Universal Hotel in Lyttelton. With forty people attending, the event was full of toasts, cheers and talk of another rowing regatta for the following year.

The photo attached shows some Cantab lasses enjoying a row on the Avon around the year 1910.

* Image courtesy of the Canterbury Public Library – – File Reference CCL Photo CD 4, IMG0057

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