On Australia Day 1863, Moruya held its first Regatta. The “Moruya Messenger”, the first newspaper in the district, reported this important event. Copies of this newspaper no longer exist but fortunately the article was reprinted in the “Empire”, a Sydney newspaper on the 3rd of February 1863.
The article gives us the names of the competitors in all 8 races and the prize monies on offer. To quote the enthusiastic writer of the article:
…..never perhaps in the annals of sporting has there been a greater success than our first Moruya regatta. A few weeks ago, it was thought an impossibility to get up a regatta, but from the exertions of a few determined promoters of it, a sudden reversal of opinion followed. Hence the result. Nor was there from the beginning to the end the slightest incident to mar the happiness of the day.
In 1863 Moruya’s first bridge hadn’t yet been built, so the races started from “a flag-ship at the ferry.” Seven of the races were for pulling boats, today we would say rowing. The final race was for sailing boats 18 feet and under with the distance depending on the weather. There were two entries in this race, Mr Leuthead’s “Cloud” and Mr McLean’s “Newstead”. “Cloud” won this event by 4 boat lengths. Mr McLean had also entered “Newstead” in the fourth pulling race for boats 22 feet and under pulled by a pair of skulls for a distance of one mile. In sculling each oarsman has 2 oars, in rowing each oarsman has only one oar. The longest race was over 3 miles for all boats pulled by four oars. This race attracted first prize money of £15.
Overall 10 boats entered in the events of the day, most entering in more than one event. The shortest race being only ½ a mile, for boys under sixteen.
The seventh race was a ‘catch me if you can’ race between Mr Payne’s gig (the gig had to be not less than 32 feet long) and Charleschid’s “Stump”, a dingy. The bowman of the gig had to catch the dingy within fifteen minutes of the start.
Boating was in the early years very much a necessity to get produce down the river, but the success of the regatta tells us that it was also a popular form of recreation.
Some time after this event the Moruya Rowing Club was formed and regular regattas were held on New Year’s Day as well as other times during the year. By the 1890’s they had added ladies’ races and a four oared race of married versus singles.