“If the regatta committee of the Canadian Association of Amateur Oarsmen had selected the weather as well as the day for the annual regatta, it could hardly have been more propitious than that of yesterday”
“Battle of the Oars : The Sixth Annual Regatta of the C. A. A. O.”
Hamilton Spectator. August 6, 18851
If there is one sport that the geography of Hamilton favors more than any other, it is the sport of competitive rowing.
Located at the west end of Lake Ontario, and with a large, sheltered harbor, there was plenty of space for training and for competitions.
On August 5, 1885, a large number of rowers were in Hamilton for the 6th annual regatta of the national organization, the Canadian Association of Amateur Oarsmen.
A better location could not have been chosen for the event:
“The sun shone brightly from a clear blue sky flecked with light, fleecy clouds which occasionally sailed lazily across his face and prevented him from imprinting his warmest kisses on the faces of the ladies.
“A pleasant breeze swept over the bay, and rippled the surface of the water without making it too lumpy for the shells. In short, it was a fine day for rowing on the bay.”1
A straight course, one mile and a half in length, had been plainly marked out on the bay with buoys and flags.
A crowd of spectators, estimated at over 6,000 mainly on the beach strip, filled every possible vantage point of the bay to watch the competitions. Many actually watched from one of the many boats on the bay:
“It was worth travelling a long way to see a spectacle as animated and attractive as was presented yesterday afternoon. The piers were crowded with people, a majority of whom were ladies, and the majority of the ladies wore bright costumes,
“Along the shore for half a mile below the Ocean House – opposite the finishing point – there was a great mass of humanity.
“Steamers, large and small, moved hither and thither, decks covered and cabins full of spectators. Far and near, the creamy sails of yachts and small sail boats gleamed in the sunshine, and it seemed as if every row boat owned in or near the city was on the bay. Of course, these row boats persisted in getting in the way of the larger craft, and several venturesome rowers narrowly escaped having their boats swamped”1
When the races were over, the winners awarded their prizes, the crowds began to go home, and the bay started to resume its normal appearance, having a less chaotic number of vessels on its surface.
The sixth annual regatta of the Canadian Association of Amateur Oarsmen was considered a rousing success by competitors and spectators alike.
A small group of merchants were particularly pleased with the event:
“There was enough beer sold to keep a brewery going for six months.”1