<< Back to Live Chennai

Madras Boat Club

Madras Boat Club

Full Description

The Madras Boat Club located in the South of India, in the historic city of Chennai is over a hundred and forty years old. It is one of the oldest rowing centres in India.

It was a few Englishmen in Madras (now called Chennai) who founded the club in the year 1867. There are records to show that the club was first started in the backwaters of Ennore and pictures of the rowing course lying along-side the sailing course are still available in the Club’s archives. It seems highly possible that it was a few sailors, with some rowing involvement back in England, who mooted the idea of setting up the rowing facilty.

Later, in the year 1892, the club was shifted to its present location – on the banks of the Adyar river. Possibly the rowers grew in numbers, and felt they required an exclusive stretch of water for themselves. The early records of the club reveal that in the year 1874-75 there was a membership of about 32 rowing members and 24 non-rowing members.

In the year 1898, the club coat – dark blue with brass buttons and the club monogram – which is in use even today without modification, was adopted by the then committee. Inter-club and intra-club regattas were conducted quite regularly during those years, and the extensive press coverage that the sport got in those days is indicative of its popularity. One name that figures often,in the early records,is that of F.H.Wilson for his sculling prowess.


In the year 1933, the Amateur Rowing Association of the East (ARAE) was formed, and the Madras Boat Club was one of its founder members. In the inaugural regatta of the ARAE in 1933 at Pune, MBC won the Willingdon Fours and the Venables Pairs trophies. Through these early years, the club maintained a commendable record of participation and performance in inter-club regattas.

In the year 1967, Mr.M.M.Muthiah became the club’s first Indian president. The Club then, had very limited resources and it strived to keep the interest alive. In order to generate fresh interest in the sport, in the year 1966 students were brought in as members,and today they form the hub of the rowing activity. In the year 1967 – the centenary year of the club – MBC won the prestigious Willingdon Fours at the ARAE regatta.

Enthusiasm was never lacking in the club and several people have contributed to its growth.In the early seventies, Mr.Borun Chanda, introduced a pattern of organised coaching and training and this paved the way for better performances on the water. It was not long before the results showed; in 1972 MBC won the Willingdon trophy and followed it up the very next year,1973 by winning all the three trophies at the ARAE regatta. Notable oarsmen during the period were Pervez Mulla, Raffath Sayeed and M.M.Sanyal.

In a couple of years from here the Rowing Federation of India was formed, primarily through the efforts of the members of the Madras Boat Club. In the year 1977 the first Indian National Rowing Championship was held in Calcutta. Tamilnadu was represented by rowers from the Madras Boat Club. At the 1980 Nationals, at Calcutta, MBC rowers helped Tamilnadu win the Gold in the Coxed Fours event.

The 1981 Nationals at Pune saw one of the best performances. The MBC team representing Tamilnadu won four of the available six Gold medals and was awarded the shield for the ‘Best team in Tamil Nadu’ by the Tamilnadu Sports journalist’s Association. The rowers who deserve mention during the early eighties are R.Chandramouli, V.V.S.Giri, Ajaz Sikander Bakth, Naresh Vasudev, Ketan Adhia, Vikram Venkataraman and M.R.Ravindra, and amongst the juniors it was Zarwan Patel and Sanjeev Kesu.

At the 1982 Asian Games at New Delhi, rowing was introduced as a sport for the first time. The rowing events were held on the Ramgarh Lake, Jaipur. In conducting this major event several members of the MBC contributed. S.Ravi and M.V.Sriram were selected to form part of the Indian team and Mr.Chacko Kandathil was one of the Indian coaches. Mr.Gopal Madhavan officiated as an International umpire.

1983 saw the Indian team participating in the World Rowing Championship for the first time. Mr.Borun Chanda was the Chief Coach of the team. The club has always extended its facilities to any organisation involved in the sport. Several of the nominees of the Tamilnadu Amateur Rowing Association were permitted to use the club’s facilities for the purpose of training.

In 1985 and 1986 it was the club’s junior rowers who came to the fore. Notable among them were Anand Ranganath and S.Sriram.

Came 1988 and the scene changed. It was the turn of the women to prove their skills in the sport. Five girls, Vijaya Chari, Arati Rao, Gayatri Acharya, Pavitra Rao and Chatura Rao (cox), began training under national coach, Chacko Kandathil. They were put through a systematic pattern of training and the girls showed the greatest commitment. The efforts paid; and for three years they emphatically dominated the women’s rowing scene in the country, winning every national event during the period. In 1989 they were selected to represent India at the Asian Rowing Championships at Chandigarh, where they won two Silver medals – lightweight and open. Later in 1990, they were again selected as the lightweight coxless four for the Asian Games, at Beijing. They thus became the first all-MBC crew to represent India. Their consistent performances earned them the shield for the ‘Best team in Tamilnadu’ from the Tamilnadu Sports Journalist’s Association.

The eighties saw a phenomenal growth in the activities of the club. The number of members grew. What was a mere seventy-five at the turn of the century was by the early eighties over a six-hundred. This called for better administration. Again contributions came from several members. Mr.Raja Bangara who has been President of the club for eight years in the recent past is one of the significant contributors. He steered the club to safe waters and in the matter of finance, stood it firmly on its two feet.

In the nineties the club witnessed sweeping changes. The club acquired a number of modern facilities and it is today proudly one of the best-equipped rowing clubs in the country. The club recently acquired a full compliment of the latest boats and oars from the U.S.A. Plans are afoot for further development and in the near future it is likely to witness many more additions.

Ironically, the club, today, faces new challenges. The very survival of the sport is threatened by the condition of the Adyar river. Besides the unchecked pollution that has been taking place, the river stands so badly silted that the stretches of water available for training and racing is far from what is required. Dredging has not only become imperative but urgent. The club finds itself in a position, unable to sort out these problems by itself and requires the active help of the government.

Over the years the whole-hearted co-operation of the staff and workers has made the club in many ways unique.

To different people the Madras Boat Club has meant different things. To many it has been a learning place where one inevitably absorbs the skills of not only the sport, but of handling life itself. One’s active years at MBC are unforgettable in more ways than one; and haven’t they slipped by so quickly? As P.B.Shelley puts it “Swifter far than summers flight, swifter far than youth’s delight, swifter far than happy night, art thou come and gone…”

2, 3rd Avenue, Boat Club Road
R.A. Puram
Chennai – 600 028
Tamil Nadu, India

Phone : +91 44 24354751
+91 44 24339289
Fax : +91 44 24323235
Email : info@madrasboatclub.in




Leave a Reply