In 1849, on the shoreline of Hong Kong Harbour where the City Hall stands today, the original Victoria Recreation Clubhouse was established. Having been in operation in Canton since 1832 the VRC is distinguished as the oldest sporting and recreation club in the territory. The primary functions of the club were water sports, with rowing in the main. Early members also enjoyed social gatherings in a congenial colonial setting in the spacious and well-appointed clubhouse, highlighted by an annual Grand Ball.
The Victoria Recreation Club is undoubtedly “The Father” of all sporting clubs in the former colony having been founded under the name Victoria Regatta Club.
Some of the first recreational activities to take place in the Victoria Harbour were VRC club competitions in swimming and water polo dating back to the 1850s.
In the early twentieth century, the premises of the club included a full-length swimming pool – practice ground for some of Hong Kong’s finest swimmers and divers – a badminton court, gymnasium, as well as ample storage facilities for rowing boats, outrigger fours, eights and sculls. The boats were used extensively in the harbour as VRC Regattas were held regularly in Kowloon Bay. The South China Morning Post carried articles about VRC Regatta’s as early as November 1903, which is testament to the VRC’s contribution to Hong Kong’s rowing history.
Members of the VRC were successful in their sports and participated in local events and have represented Hong Kong in international events. In the present clubhouse in Deep Water Bay there are pictures showing the winners of many swimming and water-polo competitions, which illustrates the club’s successes.
The proximity of the harbour made participation in the VRC’s annual cross-harbour race, a popular sports feature in colonial days, a must for members. Later it was made open to the garrison and local residents. Before the race was forced to stop in 1973 because of deteriorating harbour conditions, it attracted many hundred competitors ranging from young children to hardy old swimmers – Indeed the numbers exceeded a thousand at times.
The club’s charter declares that one of the major objectives is “To promote swimming, rowing and other sports and pastimes”. This objective inspired the formation of separate associations which have gone on to achieve major successes – most notably the Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association which has enabled Hong Kong competitors to take part Olympic Games dating back to Helsinki in 1952.
The crowning achievement was the formation of the controlling sports body for the colony soon after World War II: the Amateur Sports Federation & Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, as it was called subsequently. ASF & OC held initial meetings in the VRC and sponsored the club with a strong group of sports leaders. Indeed, it was founded under VRC’s aegis; the first meetings to work out the original charter of the ASF & OC were held in the VRC clubhouse in Central.
In the early 1950s the VRC Clubhouse in Central was reclaimed by the government and as such moved to a new homes, first in Deep Water Bay and later Sai Kung. In Deep Water Bay, members kept up its tradition of rowing and swimming and added water skiing in which they excelled. As a further compensation for the property lost in Central, the club received entitlement of a spacious area in Sai Kung, New Territories where a new clubhouse was erected on five acres of waterfront land. The serene landscape and private beach at Emerald Bay became especially popular with members during weekends as families could partake in swimming and rowing activities or just relax around the barbeque with friends. To this day, VRC membership entitles its members access to both unique clubhouses.
In 1964 the Victoria Recreation Club was incorporated under the Companies Ordinance as a company limited by guarantee. The VRC has long been engaged in sports, from its inception and continues to be a leading member of the SFOCHK, actively participating in policy formation. The VRC is also a leading member of the Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association Ltd., and a Life Member of the Royal Life Saving Society in England.
Today, the club remains a friendly and relaxed gathering place, with members from numerous nationalities. At the same time the VRC continues its support for sports, from our active Paddle Section, to swim competitions and now SUP events to name but a few. The VRC strives to evolve as dynamic community sports hub which meets the needs of its current member base while honouring its past.