Dart Totnes is possibly the oldest rowing club in the South West of England. The original club was formed in 1861 by the ‘businessmen’ of Totnes. It was joined later by a club for the working men of the town, Totnes Rowing Club and some years later the two clubs merged to form Dart Totnes Amateur Rowing Club.
The available history records show there was originally greater focus on the ‘Totnes Regatta’ which featured much more than the minor sport of rowing. During the reign of King Edward VII the king graciously consented to give his patronage to the Town Regatta, transforming the event into Totnes and Bridgetown Royal Regatta.
For many years the club survived in a series of temporary buildings which all providing limited boat storage and very basic changing facilities. For example, in the 1970’s it occupied two ex-World War 2 Nissan huts adjacent to the (also long gone), Reeves Timber yard on the Totnes side of the river. It boasted two coxed four boats – one for the men’s crew and one for the ladies. Men changed at the far end of the open main boat shed and the ladies changed in a caravan parked alongside.
The club’s next move was to an old boat builders’ shed on the Bridgetown side, beside what is now the River Boat ticket office. In the early 1980’s the club gained planning permission for the development of the purpose built clubhouse it occupies today. It was built largely by members themselves with fund-raising by members and supporters. Completed in 1984 it was officially opened in 1985.
Club membership doubled in the mid 1990’s and the boat fleet was boosted by a grant aid award from the Foundation for Sport and the Arts in 1995. A further big step forward came in 2002 when the club joined Project Oarsome and linked with four local schools. This enabled an increase in club equipment and an access to local sporting talent at a young age. With a highly organised coaching and support structure, young rowers are able to gain skills they can take with them to university. In 2015 membership was at 207 and this continues to grow every year. Membership is equally split between men and women, with ages ranging from children of 11 to veterans in their late 70’s.
Dart Totnes ARC has been the forming ground for many rowers who have achieved success at the top of the sport. On a local basis many West of England Championships are won each year and there have been representatives rowing at Henley Royal Regatta on a regular basis. The Club’s vets are very successful and always return from the World Masters and Henley vets with medals. At the very top level the Club has produced juniors that have competed for Great Britain at both the World Juniors and the Coupe de Jeunesse. The most recent of these was Matt Swiss in 2015 who raced at the Rio World Junior Championships. Both Bill Lucas and Barney Stentiford went on to race at the World U23 Championships and Bill Lucas raced in the men’s 2x at London 2012.