Yarra Yarra Rowing Club

Our History

Established in 1871, The Early Closing Association began when employees of Melbourne drapery stores Buckley & Nunn (now David Jones, Bourke Street), and Robertson & Moffat, agreed to ‘close early’ to allow employees to spend their Saturday afternoons rowing on the Yarra. 

The first Club meeting was held on 23 August 1871 at the Bull and Mouth Hotel. Fifty members were enrolled, rules were passed, office bearers elected and Mars Buckley was elected as the Club's first President.

In terms of names for a rowing club, The Early Closing Association is not necessarily one that easily springs to mind. In 1873, the name Yarra Yarra Rowing Club was chosen to provide connection to the historical name for the Yarra River.

Yarra Yarra Rowing Club is also one of 18 founding clubs of the Victorian Rowing Association – the first of its kind established in the world.

Yarra Yarra Rowing Club's first win

Yarra Yarra won its first race at the Melbourne Regatta in March 1874.

Maiden Sculler P.J Steele rowed to victory in the Challenge Sculls, starting a fine tradition of rowing success by the Club. His boat was fitted with a V-slide, the first appearance of a sliding seat to be used in a rowing boat in Victoria.

The Golden Era

A “Golden Era” of rowing was seen in the 1890’s. Yarra Yarra held the title of Victorian Champion Eight from 1891–1893 and 1895. You can find the medallions from Alec Chomley (7 seat) and James Yeomans (6 seat) on display in the medallion cabinet at the Club. It was not until 1953 that Mercantile Rowing Club broke the Yarra Yarra record of 11 consecutive Senior Eight victories.

Yarra Yarra was known as a social Club, holding several social evenings and dances during this period. In 1882 about 130 members and friends rowed to the Hawthorn Tea Gardens for a picnic and dancing.


The wars had a significant impact on not only Yarra Yarra, but all rowing clubs across Victoria. Forty-seven members served in World War I, with 12 sadly killed in active service. During 1950-51, it was recorded that of the 97 active members, 91 served in World War II.

It was thanks to the efforts of Charles (Joe) Coe, Arthur Wishart, and H.T. A'Court who kept Yarra Yarra viable during this time and rebuilt the Club to a strong position during the post war period. 

Rebuilding from the ashes

The site of Yarra Yarra's current boathouse was opened in 1904.

The original boathouse was destroyed by fire in 1929, and unfortunately caused fatal injuries to a young member, Cedric Swallow of Glen Iris.

Yarra Yarra rebuilt within 12 months of the fire, with the Clubhouse surviving 75 years (pictured here in 1970). Renovations were carried out as the needs of the membership changed, such as the introduction of women as members in 1981.

New boathouse, new beginnings

The current boathouse was constructed over the winter of 2005, with the development being a co-operative project with Carey Grammar.

James Tomkins rowed at Carey in 1982/83 prior to his international rowing career taking off, and opened the new Clubhouse in November 2005, welcoming a new era for Yarra Yarra Rowing Club.


Champions and championships

Yarra Yarra has seen many successes on the water throughout its history, and produced a number of Olympic representatives;

  • John Jenkinson - Cox for the Australian Men’s Four, Melbourne 1956 Olympics. Australia missed out on bronze by 0.2 seconds to Finland. It was Australia's best ever performance by a Men's Coxed Four.
  • Brett Hayman – Cox for the Australian Men’s Eight, Sydney 2000 Olympics, finishing a very close second by 0.8 seconds to Great Britain.
  • Georgina Douglas – Australian Women’s Eight, 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Women’s Single Scull, Sydney 2000 Olympics.
  • Rachel Kininmonth – Australian Women’s Eight, 2000 Sydney Olympics. Rachel represented Australia for three consecutive years, culminating with the Australian Women’s Eight in Sydney.
  • Carol Cooke - Three-time Paralympic Cycling Gold Medallist and previous member Carol Cooke, has represented Australia in the 2012 London Paralympics, 2016 Rio Paralympics and 2021 Tokyo Paralympics winning a silver medal in the Women's T1-2 time trial. Carol learned to row with Yarra Yarra and was an elite para-rower during the early 2010s, before taking up cycling.


Aside from the Golden era of Alec Chomley (who won 100 races by 1905), Yarra Yarra won the 1951/52 Junior Premiership, the 1956-1958 Lightweight Premiership and the 1965/66 Junior Premiership.

The early 90’s saw success in the Women’s Premiership; the 1990/91 Women’s Champion Club Premiership, 1991/92 Women’s Senior Premiership, and the 1992/93 Women’s Junior and Senior Premierships.

More recently, Yarra Yarra held the Masters Premiership title 2008–2012.


As part of our historical archiving strategy, the Yarra Yarra Rowing Club Archive Channel is a means of storing all historical Club photos, videos and documents.

If you have any historical content you would like preserved – get in touch.

Links to YYRC Historical Photo Archive channel.

1. YYRC Photos - chronological (Jim Skidmore collection) - 1849 - 2019

2. YYRC Photos - chronological (Jack Chat collection) - 1985 - 2006

3. YYRC annual reports - 1910 - 2020

4. YYRC Historic awards listing

5. YYRC Members & Winners

6. YYRC Trophys on display 

Links to YYRC Historical Video Archive channel.

1. Historical YYRC 8mm films, Circa 1956_65.

2. Recorded Interviews with members of the Yarra Yarra Rowing Club. Recorded 28 May 2005. 

Including detailed video of the old YYRC rowing shed prior to its demolition. See if you can match the faces to the names on our boats.