History & Traditions


By about 1840 Hamburg merchants with contacts abroad and Britons living in Hamburg introduced the gentlemanly sports of rowing and sailing for pleasure in the Free and Hanseatic City Hamburg. The new water sports were very British in their origins. On the Alster and Elbe rivers, they very rapidly became Hanseatic. By the beginning of the 1860s gentlemen of both nations had also sailed within the confines of Hamburg on the Alster Lake, long the realm of oarsmen, and were soon discovering the Upper and Lower Elbe as convenient home waters as well.

A small, determined group of friends contested the sailing regattas of the Germania Rowing Club (there were 6 "boats" in 1863) and in 1866 attempted to found a "Germania Sailing Club for the encouragement of sailing on the Alster, Elbe and the Baltic Sea". To become internationally eligible for entry and to be able to offer satisfactory credentials, as well as to qualify to join in the sailing on the River Seine at the 1867 Paris World Exhibition among other things, it was re-named "Norddeutscher Segel-Club" (sailing club) in the same year.

Founding of the NRV

Just one year later the committee of the new NSC decided to silently plot a resurrection in elegant Hanseatic manner, since in the same year the "Allgemeine Alster-Club” – paralysed by tradition – had failed as a regatta organizer: Members from three rowing clubs (initially with only a few sailing-boats) spontaneously founded the Norddeutscher Regatta Verein in the Uhlenhorster Faehrhaus on November 8th, 1868. 

While this "Verein" was to be a club, it was intentionally not called that because one of its objectives was to take over the organisation of regattas for other clubs.

The inclusion of "Norddeutscher" in the name was highly political at the time and almost involved a claim to be nationalistic. In 1866 Chancellor Bismarck had launched the North German Confederation as a provisional "smaller Germany" solution headed by Prussia. In Northern Germany a mood of breaking away towards new horizons prevailed.

The first Annual General Meeting for the 75 members followed at the Patriotisches Gebaeude on January 21st 1869: statutes and committee rules were agreed, and in March the first board was elected at a second meeting.

Having been founded before the German Empire, as a registered association (Verein) the NRV has been subject to the supervision of the Hamburg Government Secretariat (Senatskanzlei) ever since 1868 and remains so today, and is thus not included in the official Vereinsregister (Club register). For many generations and up until the recent past, one of the two mayors of Hamburg stood at the head of the NRV as its Honorary President.

Right from the outset certain family names have played a part in the history of the NRV. These have retained their resonance and repute to this day, with children and grandchildren often enough becoming members themselves.

The Insignia

In 1875 the board decided to introduce a club flag based on the ideas of C. Hermann Wentzel, its president. This featured a black double-headed eagle on a red field, replaced from 1885 by a single-headed Imperial eagle looking to the right over a black-white St. Andrew's cross on a red field. A black-white-red breastplate leans on an anchor shaft of which the eye and stock are just visible above the eagle. Until 1945 there were two oars crossed behind the breastplate, signifying the club's long, but by then long expired, rowing tradition.

The Admirals

Since decades prominent and highly merited personalities hold the post of Honoray Chairman bearing the title of “Admiral”, many times seconded by a “Vice Admiral”. This honorary post is eminently respectable and its bearer often has the final say in matters of tradition, representation and innovation.

The hanseatic Element

In the early years, especially, and subsequently time and again, members of the NRV were drawn from renowned Hamburg families, mostly with a commercial background. They had, and nowadays still have, close contacts abroad. In their sailing, they keep abreast of progress, intensively cultivating the sport and its social side while avoiding all exaggeration. Quite soon, word of their activities had already penetrated as far as the Imperial Court in Berlin. Even in that feudal milieu, the hanseatic manner and solid republican pride could cut a good figure when required. The NRV gala, indeed, was deemed acceptably chic in naval circles in the Wilhelmine era. In 1895 the Brockhaus "conversational dictionary" made it clear just what the newly fashionable sport of sailing consisted of: A "Hobby (Liebhaberei) for people of substance".