Grafton Rowing Club History:
Professional Sculling -
Stanbury won by 8 lengths in a time of 22 minutes 15.5 seconds and became world champion.
A rematch was organised for July 7, 1891 on the Parramatta course, with the same result, but in the faster time of 18 minutes 25 seconds on the shortened course.
Due to the proximity of the Parramatta Rowing Course, Stanbury had located himself at Ryde where he made his headquarters The Royal Hotel which was owned by Samuel Jordan.
The Royal was a favourite for the rowers as it overlooked the start of the course, and its host Sam Jordan, was a very keen supporter of sport, besides being the local Mayor of Ryde.
It was here, that Stanbury, met his future bride, Sam's daughter Eliza Jane (Dolly) Jordan.
They were married on January 4, 1892, at Scots Church, Sydney (where Stanbury's parents were married 29 years earlier).
Stanbury's next title defence was against the New Zealand champion, Tom Sullivan. The race was held on May 2, 1892 over the Parramatta River course. Stanbury won, in a new race record time of 17 minutes 26 seconds.
After the race, Stanbury said "It was the hardest race I ever had."
As the 1890's drew on, there were no further challenges, as economic depression had set in and no potential challengers were prepared to risk the stake money in such trying times. So in 1893, Stanbury sailed for America, to try and organise a defence against a potential challenger, the French Canadian Jake Gaudaur. Unfortunately, terms could not be agreed and so no challenge ensued.
However, Stanbury was asked to give an exhibition race on Lake Austin Texas, against the fastest 8 oar crew that Texas could boast. Incredibly, Stanbury won, and was hailed by the Americans as the greatest sculler of all times.
He returned home to Shoalhaven on October 8, 1893 to await further challenges. Then in January, 1896, a challenge was issued by the British champion, Charles (Wag) Harding for 500 pounds a side plus The Diamond Sculls and Sportsman's Challenge Cup to be rowed on the Thames course between Putney and Mortlake - a distance of 4 miles and 2 furlongs (6844 metres), to be rowed on July 13, 1896 at 3 pm.
Terms were finally agreed and on March 21, 1896, Stanbury departed on the Orient Company's RMS Austral with another young Shoalhaven sculler James Wray to assist him in his training.
On arrival in London Stanbury commenced his 9 week preparation and training on the Thames. Then on Tuesday, June 9, at 10.47 a.m., a telegram was received by the Shoalhaven Telegraph (newspaper) announcing - "James Stanbury the Australian Sculler was drowned while training on the Thames."
Then at 12.17 pm another telegram was received - "There is some doubt about the correctness of Stanbury's death, the cables are conflicting."
At 1.20 pm a third telegram was received - "News confirmed. Boat capsized. Stanbury unable to extricate feet from stretcher." The news having been received with great regret everywhere.
Finally at 4.45 pm a further telegram was received from the editor of the Evening News in London, it read - "We have just received a cablegram that Stanbury capsized but got ashore safely." This cablegram had been sent to Stanbury's parents and was received with great relief all round. The facts of the matter were, that whilst on a training run, his oar struck a passing barge near the Putney Bridge, causing him to lose balance and the outrigger immediately rolled over, tipping the big Australian into the swift flowing water. He sank down, seemingly to the muddy bottom of the Thames, then rose towards the top kicking out strongly, only to drift way downstream and having to chase his outrigger to bring it to shore. Stanbury returned to the boatshed and was on his final training run for the evening when he saw the newspaper posters. In banner headlines one said:
"World Champion Sculler James Stanbury Drowned."
Furiously, he contacted the newspaper. There was stunned silence when he told the editor he was James Stanbury, "and I am certainly not drowned."
On race day the excited English crowds were unanimously on the side of "Wag" Harding. Four huge river steamers crowded almost to sinking point and hundreds of small craft crowded the Thames course to see the World Championship race.
Compact, 9 stone 8 pound (61kg) Harding got to the starting point first. He was soon followed by Stanbury, who was at his racing weight of 13 stone (83kg)
Then the gun cracked. Both men dipped together, Stanbury immediately hit 28 strokes to the minute and Harding 26.
In three mighty strokes Stanbury's bow forged ahead. In six he was drawing away. By 20 his boat was clear.
Passing London Rowing Club there was daylight between the boats, but the partisan crowd still shouted for Harding, yelling that things would be different at Hammersmith.
But at Hammersmith, the cries were: "There's only one man in it." Someone in the crowd offered 20 to 1 about the Australian, but no one accepted.
The race developed into a procession with Stanbury winning by 20 lengths in a record time of 21 minutes 51 seconds (an average speed of 18.8 kph). Stanbury had successfully defended his title on the Thames.
In August Stanbury was then challenged by former British champion George Bubear on the Thames - Stanbury also won this race with ease.