The Boat and The Oars

At SIRC in Penrith, a crew travelled back in time, to the 1919 Peace Regatta in Henley.

31 March 2019 

By Louis Petrin, of Drummoyne Rowing Club

Australia had entered two crews for the Royal Henley Peace Regatta to be held at Henley in 1919. The A.I.F No. 1 crew was meant to use the Australian boat Q.L. Deloitte since it was successfully used by an Australian crew at the 1912 Henley Regatta. It was hired from the Thames Rowing Club. A second eight, to be used by the No. 2 crew, was hired from Jesus College, Cambridge. However, as the regatta approached, the crews swapped boats.

On display on Saturday at Sydney International Regatta Centre (SIRC) in Penrith was a wooden eight, sadly not the original boat used in 1919, but it was a good representative for all to enjoy. It was made by Cantiere Navale Donoratico from Livorno (Leghorn in English), an industrial port city south of Pisa, on the western coast of Italy.

Here are some images of the Italian-built eight.

One of the interesting things was the recreation of the poppets holding the oars.

Back in 1919, the practice oars were purchased from Edmund Norris and the racing oars from E. Ayling & Sons Ltd, both of Putney. Today, we are fortunate that the oars were made by the doyen of oars, Howard Croker.

Howard Croker with his wife Kaye and son Darren.

At the lunch break, there was a presentation of the boat. The rowers were dressed much like they did in 1919.

There was also a row past by the Australian Defence Force crew that will be travelling to Henley for the King’s Cup race in July 2019 to mark the centenary of the race.

Sunday afternoon will see a range of races, culminating in the Queen’s and King’s Cup for the eights.

Here is a short video from Saturday:


  1. Interesting article. Many of us ‘oldies’ would have rowed on fixed pins. Most of the gates would not have looked as good as those in the photo. There were often well worn grooves in the two wooden thole pins and the ‘rigger twine’ on top had become slack so that if you pushed out on the curved leather button (well greased with lard) it could go under the string and out from the gate. Also I’m not sure the runners would have been alloy and the attachment of the axles to the seat plus the wheels have been plastic – more likely all brass. Nevertheless it was very good to see such a lovely old wooden boat. The argument as to which was better – fixed or swivel pins went on well into the 1950s – particularly in eights. Etonians like RD Burnell seemed to hang on to fixed pins for longer as they thought they made squaring and feathering easier whereas with swivels ‘the wrists often developed cramp’ as they had to do too much work to get the same effect. I wonder what he would have made of the modern gates and buttons where it is almost (but not totally!) impossible not to put the oar in square with an accurately determined pitch and extract it onto the feather.

  2. Oh dear, I must be getting old. That reminds me of the boat in which my first crew raced!

  3. I recently acquired a rowing catamaran made by Cantiere Navale Donoratico. Their emblem is on the oars, but I wasn’t certain that they produced the boat. The gentleman I purchased it from was told that it was built in Genoa in 1948. Looking at the photos of the seat and foot braces, it is clear that they were made by the same company that made mine. Perhaps the crew seat, hardware and braces were purchased separately and used on the catamaran? No plastic components in my seat.
    I’ll be doing some more research.

  4. Donoratico…… It reminds me of when I was coxing one of the first ” Don ” front loader four ….. It was called “Nottingham Castle” >>>>>>> Great memories and many great wins in that boat

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