A Short History of the NEIRA
Prior to the first regatta in 1947, several school coaches held organizational meetings at the Harvard Club in Boston, choosing the name New England Interscholastic Regatta. At the 1949 annual meeting in Boston the first officers were elected: Director Ken Burns; Secretary-Treasurer Dave Lanier; and chairmen for both fours and Eights.
Until 1959 the headquarters for the races was at the Shrewsbury Boat Club, south of the Route 9 bridge. Over the years, the schools decided to launch their shells from the beach, near the present finish line, by walking the boats into the water. New facilities added in 1959 allowed the headquarters to be moved to regatta point; by 1960 the facilities were complete, and looked much as they do today.
The 1947 regatta had heats, consolations and finals for the First and Second Men’s Fours, and finals for First and Second Eights with about ten schools in Fours and four schools in Eights. No records were kept of the entries, but the winners appear on the Father Still Trophies- Pomfret in First Fours, Kent in First Eights. A School might have a First Four and a Second Eight entered in the Regatta one year and a different combination the next.
The member schools in 1951, the first time they were recorded, were these: Fours: Belmont Hill; Choate; Gunnery; Salisbury; St. George’s; Browne and Nichols; Exeter; Pomfret; South Kent; and St. Mark’s. Eights: Kent; Halcyon and Shattuck Clubs from St. Paul’s; Shrewsbury; and Tabor.
In 1955, the name became New England Interscholastic Rowing Association.
In 1956, the Fiftieth Anniversary of the founding of Kent School, Mrs. Julier, sister of Father Sill, donated two Revere bowls in memory of the Kent Headmaster, Frederick H. Sill, to be awarded to the winners of the First Eights and First Fours events. In the same year Andover and Springfield Technical joined, rowing eights. In 1959, Brooks and Middlesex joined- and in 1961 Groton and Noble and Greenough- all rowing fours.
The Association voted that each school should wear a distinctive colored crew shirt to help in identifying the order of finish and that there should be an official program with lanes and times of races which Charlie Swift produced.
In 1962, singles races were added, to be run during lunch hour.
In 1962, J. Satterthwaite of Groton raised money for the “Ox” Kingsbury Cup, awarded to the winner of Second Fours; Ken Burns of Shrewsbury raised money for the Dixon “Tote” Walker Cup, awarded to the winner of the Second Eights. Kingsbury had coached at Brooks, Walker at Kent.
In 1964, St, John’s joined the Association; in 1967, Mount Hermon; and in 1968, St. Paul’s sent crews representing the school. Since then, the membership has continued to grow.
Until 1970, the Eights raced one mile. The fours raced ¾ of a mile. In 1970, the Fours and Singles switched to 1500 meters, and there were two finish lines. In 1972, all crews rowed 1500 meters. When women’s crews joined in 1974, the girls eights raced 1500 meters and the girls fours 1000 meters.
By 1970 Dave Lanier retired from teaching, and the Association lost its competent and faithful Secretary- Treasurer, the only one it had had.
In 1972, starting floats were used for the first time, and the races were run under rules drawn up and accepted that year.
In 1973, Ben Sylvester of Choate presented the Alden Johnson Sculls for the winner of the Senior Singles. The Sculls honor a former Choate sculler.
In 1974, the Association voted to give competitor ribbons and to award a small trophy to members of the Winning First Crews and Senior Singles. In 1976, these awards were extended to winning First Women’s Crews.
In 1977, Robert Warner raised funds to establish the Kenneth F. Burns Trophy, to be awarded annually to the winner of the women’s First Eights race. This trophy honors the man who ahs done the most for the regatta and who has been rowing and racing on Lake Quinsigamond throughout his life. Winners since 1974 have been inscribed on the trophy.
Also in 1977, Noble and Greenough School presented the Robert Warner Trophy for the winner of the Women’s Fours. This trophy honors retired coach of Nobles and the Secretary-Treasurer of the N.E.I.R.A who almost single handedly carried on the business of the Association for seven years.
With Bob Warner’s retirement, a Committee of Management consisting of nine coaches took over the work of the Association.
In 1977, the regatta lasted two days. Men’s Pairs without coxswain, Women’s Open Singles, and Women’s Double Sculls were added to the events. The one-day regatta came back in 1978, and the pairs and double sculls events were dropped subsequently.
In 1979, friends and Faculty of St. Paul’s School honored the late Converse Prudden by establishing the prize for Second Women’s Eights. Mr. Prudden was the first coach of women’s crews at St. Paul’s. His Crews won several N.E.I.R.A Championships.
In 1980, The Committee accepted two new prizes. The girls of Groton School presented the Robert Parker Award for Second Girls’ Fours to honor their former coach. The generosity of Arthur Martin produced the Arthur Martin Trainer, a boat to be used for one year by the winner of the Men’s Singles.
Since the first regatta run for nearly a dozen schools in 1947, the New England Interscholastic Rowing Association regatta has grown to a day-long event for approximately 900 oarsmen and oarswomen rowing in several hundred boats representing 30 schools.