The Regatta, which was officially first raced in 1866, arose out of a challenge given by the relatively short-lived West London Rowing Club to London Rowing Club the year before.

On 8 August 1865, two races were held on the Tideway from Putney to Chiswick Church, following the efforts of the captains of the most prominent rowing clubs at the time, as the initial challenge had resulted in an invite being sent to the captains of the Metropolitan Rowing Clubs, inviting them to enter a junior eight-oared crew (made up of men who had never previously competed successfully in any open races).

The final was won by the London Rowing Club crew, Thames Rowing Club came second and West London third. At the same time, a pair-oared race was also held, which attracted eight entries. London Rowing Club were again victorious.

The event was so successful that it was decided to establish an annual regatta on the Putney water, and a committee of management was formed, composed of the captains of nearly all the recognised amateur rowing clubs on the Thames.

The initial committee was short-lived, and since then, following the initiative of LRC captain Herbert Playford, the management of the regatta has been in the hands of London Rowing Club. The Regatta’s first Hon. Secretary was Charles Dickens, Jr..

In following years, the event was held on the first available tide after Henley when high water was around 5 pm.

The races held at the first regatta, over a course from Putney Aqueduct to Chiswick Church, were as follows:

Junior Sculls
Metropolitan Pairs (Junior)
Junior Fours
Metropolitan Eights (Junior)
London Cup for Senior Sculls
Champion Pairs (Senior)
Thames Cup for Senior Fours
Metropolitan Champion Cup for Senior Eights.

And from early on, the Regatta Notices inviting entries stated, “The above events are open to the world.” The London Cup forms part of sculling’s “triple crown” in conjunction with the Diamond Challenge Sculls and the Wingfield Sculls.

Location changes
By 1883, the regatta had settled on a shorter course of about a mile and three-quarters (from Putney to Hammersmith or vice versa, according to the state of the tide). In 1977 the decision was taken to move the Regatta away from its traditional home on the Tideway, and it was relaunched in 1980 at Thorpe Park in Surrey. This resulted in the first senior multi-lane regatta in the southeast of England, held on four lanes over 1,500 metres on a lake created from gravel extraction works.

In 1988 the regatta was relocated to the Royal Albert Dock, raced on a seven-lane course over a distance of 1,750 metres.

In 2001 the regatta moved to the (now) International Rowing Federation (FISA) international-standard course at Dorney Lake, which has eight racing lanes over 2,000m and a separate channel for crews to go to the start/warm up. The course hosted the rowing of the 2012 Summer Olympics.

In 2014 the regatta introduced its Challenge Eights event. This had both Open and Women’s eights competing in a time trial in the morning of the Sunday of the regatta for the progressing of crews to, in effect, seeded multi-lane finals held in the afternoon. The Met was one of the first regattas to pioneer this format which has proved extremely successful and popular with coaches and competitors as well as spectators due to its resulting closely fought side-by-side finals.

In 2017 the regatta trialled the British Rowing Competition Framework, the most significant change in the structure of competition for a decade. The Met was the first large-scale regatta to trial the system, which has been fully implemented and continues to run to this day.

Having run continuously for more than 150 years, save during the world wars, 2020’s Met had to be cancelled because the committee felt it could not conduct the regatta safely in the context of national and regional lockdowns due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Then the backdrop of significant pandemic precautions still in force when the regatta resumed in 2021 prompted another change of format to AM and PM sessions which heralded a transition to time trials and ensuing finals for each boat class within a session on both days of the Regatta weekend … thus providing competitors in every event with two runs down the course.

And 2022 saw the full roll out of the time trial / seeded final format of racing in morning and afternoon divisions to all boat classes.

The Metropolitan Amateur Regatta