On the shoreline of Hong Kong Harbour where the City Hall stands today was once the home of Hong Kong's oldest club. Victoria Recreation Club was established here in 1849 after having been in operation in Canton since 1832. 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 clubhouse, with mean facilities and a bar, and fitted with all the necessary amenities.
The Victoria Recreation Club. ~~~ The “father” of all sporting clubs in the Colony is undoubtedly the Victoria Recreation Club, which was founded on October 25, 1849 (when the Colony was in its infancy), under the name of the Victoria Regatta Club.
Some of the first recreational activities to take place in the harbour were water competitions such as swimming and water polo in 1850s within the members of Hong Kong's first sports club, the Victoria Recreation Club.
In the early twentieth century, the new premises of the club included a regular swimming pool for the time as well as ample storing facilities for boats, a badminton court and gymnasium. Rowing boats, outrigger fours, eights and sculls, were used extensively in the harbour. VRC Regattas were held regularly in Kowloon Bay. The South China Morning Post carried a short article of a VRC Regatta on Friday, 6 November 1903, which is undeniable proof of the VRC's contribution to the rowing history of Hong Kong. The large swimming pool was practice ground for some of Hong Kong's finest swimmers and divers over the years.
Members of the VRC were successful in their sports and participated in local events and 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 annual cross-harbour race, a popular sports feature in the colonial days, a must for VRC member at first; then, it was made open to the garrison and local residents. Before the race was forced to stop in 1973 because of the condition of the harbour, it attracted many hundred competitors ranging from young children to hardy old swimmers who competed annually. The numbers exceeded a thousand at times.
The club's charter shows that one of the major objectives of the club is ‘To promote swimming, rowing and other sports and pastimes'. This objective inspired the formation of separate associations to promote the practice of specific sports here. Notable achievements include the Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association; it enabled Hong Kong competitors to take part in every Olympic Games since Helsinki, 1952, and the association is going on from strength to strength.
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 moved to a new home in Deep Water Bay. There 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 Tai Mong Tsai in the New Territories. The secluded beach is popular with the members during weekends, as is boating in the sheltered bay.
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, even during the time in Canton. It continues to be a leading member of the SFOCHK, actively participation in policy formation.
Today, the club remains a friendly and relaxed gathering place, with members of various nationalities. The committee, multi-cultural as well, is headed by The Hon. A. de O. Sales, GBM, J.P. He has been a member since his schooldays and was engaged in the rehabilitation of the clubhouse at Murray Road immediately after World War II, obtaining the sites for and building the two new clubhouses at Deep Water Bay, and Emerald Bay in Tai Mong Tsai.
The VRC still continues its support for sports. Every year it hosts a Dragon Boat festival from its premises in Deep Water Bay, organized by the Hong Kong Island Paddle Club. The HKIPC has its home base in the VRC and most HKIPC members have VRC membership as well. 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.