row2k Features
Wayback Wednesday
The Intercollegiate Rowing Association Regatta
May 27, 2020
Adam Bruce, row2k.com

click for the next photo
Start of the 1906 Varsity Race at Poughkeepsie. Photo courtesy of Cornell University Archives

Start of the 1906 Varsity Race at Poughkeepsie. Photo courtesy of Cornell University Archives - Click for full-size image!
1906 Observation Train at Poughkeepsie. Photo courtesy of Cornell University Archives - Click for full-size image!
1910 University of Wisconsin crew team standing on a dock in Poughkeepsie, New York. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress - Click for full-size image!
1913 Cornell Freshman 8 Wins over Wisconsin. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress - Click for full-size image!
1908 Syracuse varsity crew at Poughkeepsie.  Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress - Click for full-size image!
ca. 1910 and ca. 1915 Stanford University crew rowing on Hudson River. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress - Click for full-size image!
University of Wisconsin varsity rowing team competing in the IRA regatta on June 11, 1914. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress - Click for full-size image!
Poughkeepsie Regatta 1933. Photo thanks to James A. Cannavino Library, Archives & Special Collections, Marist College, USA - Click for full-size image!
Syracuse winning Varsity 8, 1913. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress - Click for full-size image!


Were we living in normal times, this weekend would have been the IRA (Intercollegiate Rowing Association) Regatta. On this week’s Wayback Wednesday we are checking out the history behind this event.

The IRA was actually the direct successor to the Rowing Association of American Colleges, which operated from 1871–1894. The president of the Harvard University Boat Club organized a meeting of rowing college delegates to establish a “union regatta of American colleges”. The convention was attended by Amherst, Bowdoin, Brown, and Harvard (Yale “unofficially” attended). The Rowing Association of American Colleges was formed with a constitution, rules of eligibility and the first collegiate championship (of any college sport) was planned.

The first IRA was founded by Cornell, Columbia, and Penn in 1894. The first annual regatta was hosted on June 24, 1895. Columbia won this first iteration of the regatta, followed by Cornell with Penn finishing in 3rd because their boat sank. With the exception of 1898 and 1920, races were held on the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie, NY until 1950. The regatta, also known as the Poughkeepsie Regatta, was 4 miles in length for the varsity 8’s. Regatta spectators watched by an observation train. By 1899 observation train that slowly followed the race as "a moving grandstand" grossed 48 train cars.





In 1964 and 1968, the IRA changed the distance of the race to 2km to prepare for the Olympic distance. Then in 1969 the Stewards made the 2km distance permanent and adopted the 6-boat heats, repechage, and finals format.

The IRA has been held every year since 1895 with the exception of WWI, 1933 due to the Great Depression, WWII, and of course 2020 due to COVID-19.

If you have any old school rowing images we should check out and are allowed to share, please send them to us.

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