19th Century

The Rives Boat Club, 1883
The Rives Boat Club, 1883

The first intercollegiate athletic competition that any University of Virginia team ever took part in happened on June 30, 1877. The University’s newly formed rowing team, known then as the Rives Boat Club (named after its benefactor, Francis R. Rives), raced the Tobacco City Club of Lynchburg, Virginia, on the James River. Nearly 3,000 spectators watched from the shore that day. The first incarnation of the University’s crew lasted for six years, until 1883, during which time the boat club lost just two races—its first and last.

Modern Era

In 1966, after the damming of the South Fork of the Rivanna Reservoir by the County of Albemarle, plans were made to establish another crew at the University. Steve Plott, ’70, who had rowed at Washington and Lee High School, in northern Virginia, recruited the help of Charlottesville resident Magruder “Mac” Dent to purchase land on the banks of the reservoir and to build a one-bay boathouse. Though there had been no crew at the University in more than eighty years, more than 200 prospective athletes attended the crew’s first informational meeting.

On April 8, 1967, a Virginia 8+ raced for the first time in eighty-four years, on the Rivanna Reservoir, against East Carolina University, Richmond Professional Institute, and Washington and Lee High School. Perhaps the most noteworthy spectator that day, of the more than 1,000 in attendance, was ninety-nine-year-old Dr. Halstead Hedges, who had rowed for the Rives Boat Club in its final race in 1883.

Today Virginia Men’s Rowing is thriving. Training out of its 15,000 square-foot boathouse, the crew has raced from Boston to Miami, from Washington, D.C. to San Diego—and even in England. Our athletes come to the University having participated in a wide variety of sports in high school.