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Included in your entry will be three water based training sessions, plus an introductory land session at Marlow Rowing Club.

Land Training

07frc_land_trainingThere will be a land training session on Sunday 25th July at 4pm at which crews will be talked through the basics of good technique, safety, use of the rowing machines and introduced to the equipment.

Once the water training begins, we aim to provide complementary erg sessions (rowing machine sessions) on most Tuesdays and Thursdays. Places will be limited, so please email to reserve your place before turning up.

Water Training

This is where you actually learn to row - sessions are in the period from July to just before the day. You should have three sessions in a coxed four (i.e. four people rowing with one oar each and the cox sitting at the stern (back) steering and giving instructions. Your cox will be providing most of the coaching but during most sessions there will also be coaches out in launches to provide backup and advice from outside of the boat. During these sessions you will be taught how to take a stroke, move in the boat, move in time and most importantly race!

The water sessions will last about an hour on the water, but please allow time before and after for getting ready, and a debrief afterwards. Please assume that the sessions will go ahead whatever the weather unless your cox or a coach calls it off.

In total this is just over an hour on three occasions.


You will be asked on your entry form for your availability. All crews should complete three sessions, and the last two weeks are reserved for final sessions and emergencies, so you will need to make sure that your crew is available on a range of dates. Note that we only have a limited number of training slots, so the more flexible you make yourself the more likely you are to get one that suits you. If you are not available for training, or do not complete three sessions, we may have to exclude your crew, so please make the effort!

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We welcome interest from sponsors for our FirstRow 2010 event.  The event attracts a good crowd of entrants and supporters and local people who can spectate from the river frontage or the bridge.  We publish a programme for all spectators in which we pormote our sponsors.  Our enthusiastic event commentators are ready to promote your business, with their all day commentary.  Please contact us for more information.

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The results will be published shortly after the event


The prizes were awarded by Sarah Winckless, member of Marlow, Olympic medalist and World champion.

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The race order for 2010 will be published one week before the event.


Race Format

The race is over 350m, in the style of (but shorter than) summer regattas raced by competitive rowers. Like a real regatta the races will be head to head with two or three boats racing at the same time. It will be a knockout competition but we will aim to run a repechage system so that crews who lose in the first round can have another chance of progressing in the competition.  This way we hope to give every crew at least two races.

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The Day of the FirstRow Challenge


Race Day will be Saturday 4th September 2010.
These timings are indicative and will be confirmed one week before the event.

9:15 - Registration and meet cox

9:45 - First Round

10:50 - Second Round

12:00 - Third Round

12:50 - Lunch Break

1:45 - Round Four

2:30 - Semi finals

3:30 - Final


4:00 - Prizegiving

The course

The course runs 350m along the Thames, starting just upstream of Higginson Park and finishing before the bridge at Marlow. Each crew will be involved in at least 2 races. Races will either be between two or three crews, depending on the draw. There is a staggered start (i.e. one boat starts a little ahead of the other to allow for the bend). Handicapping applies - 0 seconds for all men, 4 seconds for mixed, 8 seconds for all women.

Your cox will keep you on track throughout the day, and hopefully we will see you on the river for the finals!

Other events

There will be activities during the day to entertain you and your supporters in between the races. Last year the rowing machine competition was particularly popular - it is open to everyone, adults and children, and will be the opportunity for you and your friends to compete head-to-head. Refreshments will be available from our BBQ and the club bar - although you may not drink before rowing. However, if last year is anything to go by, the supporters usually make up for the crews.

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How much does it cost?
What should I wear to training?
What should I wear to the races?
How good will I get after training?
How can I take up rowing after the event?
What happens if one of my crew drops out after the training has started?
Do I have to enter a full crew or can you make up a crew for me?
How fit do I have to be?
What’s a coxed four boat?
How many women do we need to make up a mixed boat?
I have rowed in FirstRow last year (or a similar event at another club) - can I enter?
How much of my time will this take?
I have a friend who can row - can they cox our boat?

Q. How much does it cost?

A. The price per person is £35, meaning that a crew of four costs £140. This price includes all land and water based training and entry on the day.

Q. What should I wear to training?

A. Wear clothes that you find comfortable and allows good flexibility of movement. Avoid trailing sleeves or long t-shirts that might get caught on the boat. It's best not to wear anything with too much material at the front (e.g. sweatshirts with pouch pockets) because your hands may get caught up. Layers are best so you can take these off as you become warm. Always bring a change of clothes and a towel in case you fall in - or in case the person in front splashes you.

Q. What should I wear to the races?

A. Lycra suits, of course! Seriously – from the training sessions you will work out what is good to wear. Last year some crews got some crew kit and scared the opposition with their organised style! We will also be selling T-shirts in advance and on the day.

Q. How good will I get after training?

A. Let's be honest - you aren't going to be ready for the Olympics after just 3 sessions! However, you should be able to row well enough to race and you will get a real taste of what rowing is all about.

Q. How can I take up rowing after the event?

A. If you want to take up the sport afterwards (and we hope some of you will!) then your cox will be able to give you more information on how you can do this. Several of the competitors from previous years have joined Marlow and others now row at their University. You may be able to recognise some of them from the pictures on this site.

Q. What happens if one of my crew drops out after the training has started?

A.You can substitute crew members but the training schedule is tight and we can't promise an extra training session. Speak to your cox or the organisers and discuss the options with them.

Q. Do I have to enter a full crew or can you make up a crew for me?

A. You should enter a full crew. This is because you will train better with people you know because you can help each other to get organised to be on the water at the right time. Most crews are based on pubs or workplaces but it can be any group of friends you like.  If you can't find enough people to enter a crew, but still have a burning desire to take up rowing then contact us.  We will be recruiting for the mens and womens novice squads in September for fit people who are interested in competitive sport and we may be able to accommodate you.

Q. How fit do I have to be?

A. You don't have to be super fit for this event. However, if you have a medical condition which could be made worse through exercise then this may not be the right thing for you. If you have any specific worries then please contact the organisers. Please note that you do have to be able to swim - its unlikely that you will fall in, but if you did, we want to be sure that you could swim to the bank.

Q. What’s a coxed four boat?

A. This is a boat with four rowers and a cox sitting at the stern (back!). Each rower has one blade (or oar) rather than two blades each (which is called sculling).

Q. How many women do we need to make up a mixed boat?

A. At least two.  In exceptional circumstances we have accepted crews in the past with only one female member, and we may be able to do so again, but they have raced as mens crews under the handicap rules.

Q. I have rowed in FirstRow previously (or a similar event at another club) - can I enter?

A. No. This is a competition for people who have never rowed before.

Q. How much of my time will this take?

A. The basic arrangement is the land training session (a few hours), three water sessions (about an hour on the water each) and race day. There may be other voluntary land training for those who want it.

Q. I have a friend who can row - can they cox our boat?

A. As long as they convince us that they are competent and safe to do so. Contact the organisers to arrange this.

Marlow FirstRow Challenge Regatta Conditions and Rules 

1. Date, Place and Organisers 

1.1 The Marlow FirstRow Challenge regatta will take place on 4 September 2010, on the River Thames, operating from Marlow Rowing Club (MRC). MRC reserve the right to postpone or cancel the event at their reasonable discretion (in particular, if the river conditions would make it unsafe). If the organisers are forced to cancel the race day for reasons outside of their control then no refund will be made. 

1.2 The organisers of the event are Marlow Rowing Club. 

2. Format of Regatta 

2.1 The regatta is limited to 24 crews. 

2.2 Each crew must consist of complete beginners, who will be allocated an experienced cox by the organisers.  

2.3 The format of races will be at the discretion of the organizing committee. 

3. Restrictions on entrants 

3.1 Crews will be accepted on a "first-come, first-served" basis. 

3.2 Crews must complete an introductory land session and at least three of the water training sessions, provided by the organisers. 

3.3 All entrants must be complete rowing beginners. The organisers may exclude anyone who: 

3.3.1 is a member of any rowing club (whether Amateur Rowing Association affiliated or not); 

3.3.2 has had any formal rowing tuition in the past; 

3.3.3 has participated in rowing as a sport previously; or

3.3.4 rowed in last year's FirstRow; 

or is, in the opinion of the organisers, not a "complete beginner".

3.4 All entrants must be 18 years old or above. 

3.5 All entrants must be able to swim at least 100 meters in light clothing in cold water (i.e. in the Thames). 

3.6 Rowing involves strenuous physical exercise and so entrants should not take part if they may have a heart problem, back problem or other injury or disease that might be aggravated by rowing, or if they are pregnant. If in doubt entrants should seek advice from their GP. 

3.7 No entrant may be in more than one crew. 

3.8 Crews can enter as an all male, all female or a mixed crew. Mixed crews should be made up of at least two females. 

4. Safety 

4.1 All entrants must comply with the safety rules and instructions of Marlow Rowing Club and the organising committee. 

4.2 The cox is like the captain of a boat and any instructions given by the cox must be obeyed. Any person who does not comply with safety instructions or the instructions of the cox may be banned from the regatta and their entry fee will not be refunded. 

4.3 Entrants who have: 

4.3.1 failed to attend at least three training sessions (or failed to provide sufficient dates for training to allow them to attend three sessions properly spaced out); or 

4.3.2 have attended enough training sessions but are still unsafe (in the opinion of the organising committee); 

may be excluded from the regatta and will not have their entry fee refunded. 

4.4 Crew members may not consume alcoholic beverages on the day of the regatta until they have finished their last race for the day. The organisers may disqualify any crew which does not comply. 

5. Limits on Liability 

5.1 Rowing is a very safe sport, but accidents can happen in any physical activity. 

5.2 While using MRC boats you are covered by the insurance policy of Marlow Rowing Club against damage to the boat and any damage or injury to a third party. The club's insurance policy does not cover you for any personal injury or other loss or damage and you should obtain your own insurance.

5.3 There are some types of claim that cannot be limited or excluded from contracts, for example liability for fraudulent misrepresentation and personal injury or death caused by negligence. To the extent that the law does not allow these claims to be excluded or limited, they are not excluded or limited from this contract. 

5.4 Subject to 5.3, the liability of MRC and its committee, servants, agents, members and volunteers (taken together) for any loss, damage or claim of any nature or type shall not exceed £50.


 "Gnarly Nutters" take FirstRow Challenge 2008 victory at Marlow Rowing Club

Olympic medallist Sarah Winckless handed out the medals to the victorious crew of the Marlow Rowing Club FirstRow Challenge 2008 on Saturday [6th Sept 2008]. The "Gnarly Nutters" crew of Lee Marsden, Adam Smith, Peter Frost and Richard Hammersley, had never set foot in a boat before the competition and had were coxed, and coached, to victory by Bridget Cotter from the rowing club. They were no athletic slouches, however, being drawn from the Marlow Club gym.

This is the third year of Marlow Rowing Club's FirstRow Challenge competition in which teams from local companies, pubs, or sport clubs who have no experience of rowing at all are given some intense training and then race on the Thames in an authentic competitive regatta. The Gnarly Nutters' opposition in the final was from "Mid Life Crewsis" (Kevin Dobson, Jonathan Johnston, Gary Duncan, Simon Fisher of coxed by former Marlow Rowing Club captain Tom McGibbon), who came second, and "Super Scullers" John Menzies, Phil Durigan, Mark Cornwell, Malcolm Williams (coxed by Lisa Knill).

The leading crews had each won at least three of the four races in the opening four rounds of competition, holding off other crews from the High Wycombe based Handy Cross Runners (who had named themselves "Handy Cross Rowers" and "Handy Sham Rowers" for the day), Wyeth pharmaceuticals, and many others. The crews had selected their own names for the event, but the choice of "Man Overboard" by one of the crews caused some confusion amongst the spectators and safety boats alike!

The races were held on the Thames from Bisham down to the Marlow bridge with crews racing alongside each other and some very close head to head racing, overtaking and crab-catching.

Competition was fierce off the water too with ergo (rowing machine) competitions for children held in the club house while the parents were racing.

The prizes for the rowing and ergo competitions were handed out by Sarah Winckless, fresh back from rowing in the women's eight at the Olympics who praised the FirstRow competitors for their efforts.

Event organiser Sally Reay said of the competitors: "Every year I am impressed at how much the entrants manage to learn in such a short time and how well they cope with the atmosphere of a competitive race. You don't realise until you start to learn how many things you have to do at once in a rowing boat, and how important it is to do them perfectly in time with the rest of your crew, so it is a testament to the leading crews that they have managed to do that".

FirstRow will be back in September 2009.

Notes for Editors:

Marlow Rowing Club ( was founded in 1871 and is one of the best known and successful on the upper Thames. It has a strong juniors programme, from 12 years old, and successful senior and veteran squads. It is involved in running various competitions throughout the year, including FirstRow Challenge. It also has a number of top flight athletes as life members, including gold medal winner Zac Purchase, and Olympic medallists and world champions such as Sarah Winckless, Katherine Grainger MBE and Annie Vernon. Marlow rower Sir Steve Redgrave is also a life member, and fellow life member, and current world champion Naomi Riches is in China now with Team GB representing the UK in the coxed fours event at the Paralympics.

FirstRow Challenge is MRC's event for non-rowers ( Teams of four from workplaces, pubs, clubs or just friends can apply and are given instruction by members of Marlow Rowing Club over the weeks in advance of the race. The races themselves are run in the same style as real competitive regattas with head to head racing and experienced umpires (drawn from the same pool who umpire the major events of the season at Dorney Lake). On the day there is a barbeque, ergo competition for families and a great atmosphere as the novice crews compete head to head. Every year some of the competitors take up racing and the current senior squads contain several people who came to the club via first row and now compete, and win, at top-flight regattas.

Sarah Winckless was in the women's eight at the Bejing Olympics, having previously won an Olympic bronze medal in the double scull at Athens 2004, a silver medal in the quad the same year at the World Championships, World Championship gold in the quad in 2005 and 2006.  She is a life member of Marlow Rowing Club. 


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Download an entry form here


Complete the form with your availability - note you need to mark an X on those days when your crew is NOT available.  We can't accept more than one training session in the 2 weeks prior to the event so please provide some availability in the earlier part of the summer.


Send the completed form to us with your payment.