World Sculling Championship

World Sculling Championship

The World Sculling Championship (1863 - 1957), evolved from the Championship of the Thames for professional scullers.

Only the sport of boxing claims an older Championship of the World. It is notable that Jack Broughton, the "Father of Boxing", trained scullers for prize contests which had their roots in wager races which had taken place from the middle of the 18th century on the Thames.


The first race for the Professional Championship of the Thames took place between Westminster and Hammersmith, on the River Thames in London in September 1831, when John Williams of Waterloo Bridge challenged Charles Campbell of Westminster for the Sculling Championship of the Thames. This was just over a year after the first Wingfield Sculls race for the Amateur Championship of the Thames had been held.

The race was initially dominated by oarsmen from the Thames, but a fierce rivalry soon arose between Newcastle and London after the famous Tyne sculler, Robert Chambers became the first non-Londoner to secure the title in 1859.

In 1863 the race became for the Championship of the World. when it had its first non-British entrant, Australian Richard A W Green. Green lost to Chambers but changes were afoot and as an increasing number of professional scullers from Australia; the USA and Canada started to compete, Britain lost its dominance, failing to secure a win between 1876 and 1920.

The first overseas sculler to claim the title, was Australian Edward Trickett, who won his first race in June 1876, Trickett held the title for the next two races (1877 and 1879), both of which were held on his home river, the Paramatta. Trickett eventually lost out to Candain Ned Hanlan (the first sculler to use a boat with a sliding seat), in 1880 on the Championship Course on the Thames.

Professional sculling saw a marked downturn with each of the world wars. Although a few races were held after the 2nd World War, they failed to arouse the interest of the public or attract the standard of competitor seen in the earlier years of the Championship, and as the amateur / professional split in rowing was slowly abolished, the race died out. The Title lapsed in 1958 when Evans Fischer retired undefeated.


Professional scullers tended to attract more media attention than the crews, since their individuality gave the media and public a greater chance of recognition. Betting on races was widespread and in the late 19th century, sculling or wager racing was perhaps the greatest spectator sport in London at the time. Many tens of thousands of spectators attended each race. By the turn of the century prize money had become so great that some scullers made up to nearly £5,000 a year in prizes and side bets, and £2,000 for a race.

Betting was simplified by recourse to past performances and present form would be followed by hordes of spectators at training sessions.



* Whitehead, Ian, "The Sporting Tyne", 2002, ISBN – 0-901273-42-2.
* Collins, Tony, "Encyclopedia of traditional British rural Sports", 2005
* Wigglesworth, Neil, "A Social History of English Rowing",
* [ World rowing history - professional racing]
* for details of Jim Stanbury
* for details of Peter Kemp
* for details of Jake A Gaudaur (snr)

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