History of ICBC

ICBC was founded in 12th December 1919 by Charles Bristow for the purpose of enabling the three constituent colleges of Imperial College to compete together at Henley Royal Regatta. For our first 19 years, we used the facilities in Thames RC and it was not until 1938 that our current boathouse, designed and built by Charles Bristow, was opened by  Lord Desborough. We have maintained a standard of sporting excellence throughout our first 100 years, with 23 wins at Henley Royal Regatta spanning from 1923 - 2018, 3 wins at the Head of the River Race and 6 wins at Henley Women's Regatta since 1996. At the pinnacle of sporting achievement, our athletes have won three Olympic gold medals and two silver medals.

The aim of Imperial College has always been to combine this level of sporting prowess with academic excellence, as required of the courses at Imperial.


1919 –  Imperial College Boat Club founded on 12 December. Charles Bristow begins an association with the Boat Club which was to last all his life.

1923 – First win for the Club at Henley Royal Regatta, in the Wyfold Challenge Cup.

1935 – Charlie Newens appointed Assistant Boatman to Dick Phelps at Thames Rowing Club, with special responsibilities to Imperial College Boat Club.


1938 – New Boathouse opened by Lord Desborough, on 21 October, designed and built by Charles Bristow. The commemorative plaque from the occasion reads, “May all who use this boathouse in it find such happiness and make such friendships as may endure throughout their lives.”


1938 – Captain of Boats C. H. Swan moved to disassociate Imperial College from the  University of London Boat Club.


1945 – Winners of the Danesfield Cup at the Henley Royal Peace Regatta.


1946 – Winners of the Head of the River Race and the Thames Challenge Cup at Henley.


1958 – Charles Bristow made a Fellow of the College.


1968 – First win in the Visitors’ Challenge Cup at Henley.


– Charlie Newens appointed Senior Waterman at Henley Royal Regatta.


1978 – First win in the Ladies’ Plate at Henley.


1981 – Charlie Newens made an Associate of the College.


1985 – Charles Bristow dies in October. A commemorative plaque was placed on the front of the club, reading: “Charles Bristow: He built it. To the memory of Charles Alfred Bristow 1896-1985 Founder – President and for over 50 years, Coach and Inspiration of the Imperial College Boat Club.”

1987 – Beat mutiny-stricken Oxford University at Reading Head and in private match on the Tideway.


1990 – First winners of the new Henley Prize at Henley for student eights. The event was renamed the Temple Challenge Cup in 1992. In twenty years of competition since Imperial has raced the final eight times and won it four times.

1991-92 – Winners of the Henley Royal Regatta Sister Race held in Japan.

1992 – First time the Club raced and won two finals at Henley – the Ladies’ Plate and Temple Challenge Cup, both in record times.

1993 – Bill Mason made an Associate of the College.

1994 – Winners of the Temple and Visitors’ Challenge Cups. The crew of the latter went on to represent England at the Commonwealth Games in Ontario, Canada. This all-undergraduate crew were just half a second behind silver medallists, Australia, in taking the bronze.


– Imperial College and Queen’s Tower Boat Clubs won the Grand at Henley in 1996Bill Mason chosen as Chief Coach of the Great Britain women’s rowing team for the Olympic Games in Atlanta, 1996.


1995 – The Thames Cup winning eight selected (with just one change) to race at the World U23 championships as the GB eight.


1996 – First win for the Club at Women’s Henley, in the fastest time of the Regatta. Three Henley Royal Regatta finals for Imperial College Boat Club and its alumni club, Queen’s Tower Boat Club. Winners of the Grand Challenge Cup in the fastest time of the Regatta, the Wyfolds, and finalists in the Temple. A four from the Club were selected as the GB U23 coxless four, beating Romania to win gold by 0.04 seconds.


– Charlie Newens dies on 1 June, his eightieth birthday.


2000 – Opening of the redeveloped and expanded boathouse by the Minister for Sport, Kate Hoey MP.

– Olympic gold in the men’s eights for Imperial alumni Simon Dennis, Louis Attrill and Luka Grubor, coached by Martin McElroy.


2001 – Won Head of the River Race. Two Imperial students in Gold medal U23 World Championships coxed fours.


2002 – Won Visitors’ Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta.


2004 – Won Student Men’s Coxed Four at Henley Royal Regatta.

2006 – Won Prince Albert Challenge Cup (formerly known as the Student Mens Coxed Four) at Henley Royal Regatta and the Senior Eight and Single Scull at Women’s Henley.


2008 – Won Visitors Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta.


2010 – Won Vistors Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta and the Elite Pairs and Elite Coxless Fours at Henley Women’s Regatta


2011 – Won Vistors Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta


2012 – Melanie Wilson represents Great Britain and Imperial College in the 2012 London Olympics


2013 – Won Prince Albert Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta. 2 Imperial College students win silver medals at the U23 World Championships


2014 – Imperial tops the BUCS medal table for rowing. Men’s squad win the Victor Ludorum at 2014 BUCS Regatta. 3 Imperial College students win silver medals at the U23 World Championships.


2015 – Won Novice and Senior Pennants at WeHORR and IM1 Pennant at HORR. Won the Elite Lwt 2- at Henley Women’s Regatta


2016 – Melanie Wilson and Zoe Lee win silver for Great Britain at the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro.

2018 – Won the Prince Albert Challenge Cup in record time.