CHENNAI: The 150th year celebrations of Madras Boat Club, one of the oldest clubs in India established in 1897, have revived the Merchant, Bankers and Clubs Regatta. The gala saw 12 clubs — Cloud Cherry, Madras Cricket Club, Air India being a few — compete in 110 events.
The city’s connection with the sport is over a century old, with the Britishers taking it up as a hobby, and rowing in the Coovam (Adyar) river. The forgotten sport sprang back to life at Madras Boat Club, with 250 participants from teens to senior citizens getting into the act.
“Back in 1964, there were very few sailors and rowers. Now the sport has attracted a lot of people. I come at around 5.45 in the morning and start rowing. I’ve been doing this for 34 years. This is the secret of my stamina which keeps me fit for such events,” says the 82-year-old Sridhar Acharya (known as Doc Acharya) of Royal Madras Yacht Club.
“With people becoming conscious about fitness, rowing has become a competitive sport. We didn’t have any professional to train us and did it for fun,” says Acharya, a medical practitioner. Royal Madras Yacht Club (RMYC) is one of the oldest yachting clubs of South India, started by Englishman Sir Francis Spring in 1911. The club sent eight participants, with a majority above 40. So whenever the contestants in red got into the boat, the competition became ‘old vs young’. Vidya M, a 49-year-old sailor from RMYC, competed against under-20s from Madras Gymkhana Club and Natraj Venkat Associates in the women’s coxless two events and gave a tough fight to the girls.
“I picked up the sport by chance. I was riding through the streets of RA Puram and saw people rowing. I started learning it from the very next day. One has to row for two-and-a-half years for 300 times to be a confirmed member of MBC. I go eight kilometers every day. I never found it tiring or boring,” says Vidya with a wide smile, that reflected her passion for rowing.