With origins dating back to 1881, the Winnipeg Rowing Club is one of the longest standing sporting organization in Western Canada.
The Winnipeg Rowing Club has been in operation since 1881, stopping only twice in its history – during WWI and WWII. It survived the Northwest Rebellion of 1885, the General Strike of 1919, the Great Depression of the 1930’s, the Great Flood of 1950, and the Flood of the Century in 1997. Over the years the clubhouse has been destroyed by fire, wind, and water, but has somehow always managed to maintain its long and proud tradition.
WRC was founded by George and John Galt II in 1881. Cousins from one of Canada’s most eminent families, John’s father (and George’s uncle) was Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt – founder of the Grand Trunk Railway and a Father of Confederation. The Galt boys moved to Winnipeg in 1881 to extend the family’s mercantile business. While living in a rooming house at the end of George Street in Point Douglas, they built a rowing boat and began rowing on the Red River.
The Galt boys formally incorporated the WRC on February 2, 1883, with the Honourable John Norquay as Club Patron, Thomas Renwick as President, and George Galt as Club Captain. In the Fourth Session of the Fifth Legislature of Manitoba, ‘The Winnipeg Rowing Club Act of 1886’ was passed and assented on May 28 1886 by Lieutenant-Governor Schultz, another proud patron of the WRC.
The WRC has been in operation since that early date, having stopped only twice in its history – during WWI and WWII. A long-time tenant of the banks of the Red River in downtown Winnipeg, the WRC survived the Northwest Rebellion of 1885, the General Strike of 1919, the Great Depression of the 1930’s, the Great Flood of 1950, and the Flood of the Century in 1997, and sandbagging every spring during the last decade. Over the years the clubhouse has been destroyed by fire, wind, and water, but has somehow always managed to maintain its long and proud tradition – and attract athletes committed to the 5:30am training!
Tradition of Excellence
In 1886 the WRC travelled to Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota for its first international competition. The race was the inaugural event put on by what would become the North Western International Rowing Association.
The action was captured daily in Winnipeg’s newspapers as the Canadians battled for rowing supremacy against the Americans. WRC athletes distinguished Winnipeg by claiming the Regatta championship and winning the City’s first international sporting honours. Upon returning from Lake Minnetonka, the City held a large celebration honouring their champions with a huge parade attended by most of Winnipeg’s population.
The WRC again brought honour and pride to Winnipeg and Canada in 1910, when a Winnipeg crew became the first amateur Canadians to win the Stewards Cup at the Henley Royal Regatta in England. The 1912 rowing season continued the winning tradition, with the WRC capturing numerous events at the Rowing Championship of America and clinching the Regatta championship-defeating all the American Clubs. Again the citizens of Winnipeg held a parade to celebrate the sporting success.
This tradition of excellence continued throughout the 20th Century, with WRC athletes regularly winning local, national and international regattas. Memorable rowers such as Theo Dubois, Nat Connacher, Derek Riley, Elswood Boles and Robert Richards captured numerous honours for Winnipeg over the decades.
In more recent times, three-time World Champion Colleen Miller represented Canada at the 1996 Olympics, and local boy Jeff Powell stroked his team to Canada’s first World Gold in the Men’s Eight at the 2002 World Championships, and raced in the 2004 Olympics. Krista Stewart was named to the Canadian national women’s rowing team in 2003, and represented Canada at the World Championships in Milan.
Other successful WRC rowers making their mark on the national and international stage include Morgan Jarvis, who, along with rowing partner John Haver of Saskatoon, won Bronze at the Under 23 World Rowing Regatta in Poland in 2004.
In 2008 Winnipeggers Janine Hanson and Megan Montgomery competed as part of Canada’s national rowing teams at the Olympics in Beijing.