2002 Zurich Australian Rowing Championships   
Nagambie Lakes, Victoria   
April 20 2014 8:57:15 AM AEST   

The King's Cup

History of the Cup

There are few sports which have an event where all States race at the one time and has been held virtually on an annual basis for 122 years. This is the magic of the Kings Cup that still commands the premier spot in our sport.

The Kings Cup is the most sought after trophy for Men’s Rowing in Australia. The history of how the Kings Cup came to be the main trophy for Men’s Rowing in Australia is as colourful as many of the races over the years.

Interstate eight oared rowing was first held on 6th March 1878 when the colony of Victoria recorded the first victory over the colony of NSW. It was raced in Melbourne. The following year the race took place in Sydney over a distance of 4 miles and was won by NSW. Racing continued with other colonies joining in until 1915 when the outbreak of World War 1 suspended Interstate competition.

At the completion on the War, the allies conducted a special race for eights at the famous Henley Regatta. A special trophy was to be presented by the King of England to the winners. Crews competing were from Cambridge University, Oxford University, New Zealand, Canada, France, United States of America and two crews from Australia entered as Australian Infantry Forces (AIF) Number 1 and Australian Infantry Forces Number 2. The winning crew was AIF number 1 who defeated Oxford University in the final.

The AIF number 1 crew was presented with the special trophy by His Majesty King George V. The battle for the trophy however did not stop there. The Australian Military authorities immediately took custody of the trophy. Upon its return to Australia it was handed over to the Australian War Memorial Council and placed in the Australian War Memorial.

Interstate eight oared racing resumed in 1920 and as there was no perpetual Trophy for an event that had already been contested for 42 years the Australian Rowing Association as it was then known asked the War Memorial Council for the Cup as a perpetual trophy. This was refused. Later in the same year the Victorian Rowing Association also made the same request with a compromise that the trophy be kept in the winning state’s War Memorial. Again this was refused. The refusal only stirred more action and a petition to His Majesty King George V signed by Captain H.C. Disher, who rowed at number seven of the winning AIF Crew was dispatched to England on 30th October 1920. A reply took seven months and when received it was the desired result. The reply signed by the Secretary of the Colonies, Mr. Winston Churchill, stated that "His Majesty commands to inform you that it is his wish that the Cup should be used as a permanent trophy and to be competed for annually in the Interstate Eight-oared Race of Australia."

The current distance of 2000 meters was first adopted in 1960 at Launceston. Prior to this the distance was usually 3 miles or approximately 5 kilometres.

With the introduction of the National Championships in 1962 and the growth of the National Championship program, the Kings Cup and other Interstate events could be considered glamorous races of days gone by but in fact the opposite is the case. Interstate events are now more competitive than ever.

Dual Olympic Gold medallist, and multiple World Champion Jim Tomkins, has won the Kings Cup twelve times. In his words "The Kings Cup remains Australia’s premier race. We very rarely get a chance to race in eights. There is only one thing better in Australian rowing than lining up at the start in an eight for Victoria and that is crossing the line first for Victoria in the Kings Cup."


Previous Results: 2001 (Brisbane); 2000 (Sydney); 1999 (Adelaide); 1998 (Nagambie); Summary of All Races

Copyright Information

The above precis was prepared by Michael Wilson (2001)


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