Chairman's Report


I am writing this report after a hectic week sandwiched by Marlow’s two summer Regattas. The first event being the Town Regatta; the rowing side of which is entirely organised by Marlow Rowing Club and which provided a splendid event for juniors and veterans on a bright day which had clouded over by the time of the traditional firework display. It was the fifth successful year of an event which seems to grow in popularity with the town every year. This year, subscribers tickets sold out at least a fortnight prior to the event. 

Just as the clear-up operation finishes, other members of our club are engaged in the preparations for a different event at Dorney Lake. Marlow Regatta is now a multi-lane event similar in style to the world—cup regatta held at the same venue and which was televised in May. Judging by the ever increasing number of entries, crews are eager to race at such a regatta which, from the competitors view-point uses a similar format to the world championship event. With Dorney Lake having been nominated as the venue for the 2006 world championships and we all hope, the Olympic Regatta in 2012, competitors at Marlow Regatta will be able to experience racing at a truly world class facility. This year the regatta was held on one of the hottest days of the year and both competitors and officials in blazers were soon wilting in the heat.

Our Henley Women’s Regatta crew had a tough draw; just losing in the semi-final by 300mm but in the fastest time, to the eventual winners Yale University.

As the club prepares for Henley Royal Regatta, I am pleased to report that all our club crews have pre-qualified in the Wyfold, Brittania and Fawley cup (two composite crews) leaving us with not much to do at the Friday qualifying races except enjoy the spectacle. We wish them all luck and a good draw.

It was with great sadness that I heard on the day before Marlow Regatta that Club member Andrew Justice had died. Andrew was a Marlow junior, coached and encouraged by Francis Smith who went on to win a silver medal in the GB eight at the Moscow Olympics and was an inspiration and friend to fellow Marlow member Sir Steve Redgrave. Andrew was a regular if infrequent visitor to the Club, from his home in New Zealand and had come this year to enjoy Henley Royal and support a Marlow Junior crew at Marlow Regatta, racing in the boat named after him. It is one of life’s ironies that he never saw the crew race in “his” boat.

It is also with great sadness that I have to report the death last month, of Vera Williams. Vera was a keen supporter and regular visitor to the club with her great friend Ken Spivey and had been a member since before the war. Few Sundays passed without seeing them both smartly dressed, call in for refreshments before luncheon. Her tales of the “good old days” made me realise that the club, has probably always played a significant part in a great many people’s lives and continues to do so.

Speaking of long associations with the Club, our Hon Sec. Mike Mounsdon has several times tried to desert his post but has been prevented from so doing by lack of applicants. This time I think he means it. After 40 years of carrying out the role, and provided that he is re-elected for his final year as Hon Sec, Mike has announced that he will retire at the 2006 AGM. It is a sobering thought, but while Mike was being elected as Hon Sec. I was just leaving school! Aspirants to the post will have to be from the younger membership if they are to match Mike’s tenacity!

Most members underestimate the importance of the club bar which has always been staffed by unsung heroes. Keith Bracey is one such member who carried out many of the jobs required of the Bar Secretary in silence and often after most people had gone home. It is a thankless task with scant reward but one of great importance to the continuity of the club. Our thanks to Keith who recently resigned, for the many hours of unpaid labour contributed on behalf of the membership.

Members are also reminded of the significant financial contribution that the bar has made in recent years. I for one, would rather have the choice of spending my money over the bar than losing it to the Treasurer in the form of increased subscriptions. Moreover you may have heard of the new licensing laws which require clubs such as ours to obtain a premises licence. You will not be surprised to hear that the committee has already submitted the Club’s application, making our Club one of the relatively few that will have obtained the new licence before the deadline later this year.

Project Oarsome and the Junior Development squad continue to gather impetus. Richard Robinson has run the P0 squad in such a way that many of these younger club members can’t wait to attend his week-end sessions. He has barbecues and spaghetti evenings and even publishes a weekly newsletter amongst his group. He occasionally enlists help from other sections of the club to run the sessions. I should say that he always enlists help, but only occasionally receives it. I am surprised at the reluctance shown by some members to help with the juniors. It can be very rewarding to see the youngsters progress, and perhaps one or two will follow the Marlow tradition and go on to be World or even Olympic rowing Champions.

Marlow Rowing Club, Sean Farrelly and Great Marlow School have been the ideal Project Oarsome partnership with the school providing a seemingly endless supply of enthusiastic young participants. We as a Club, particularly like the Great Marlow athletes because, by the time they reach our club, they are already experienced on the ergo and with Sean’s in-school training, need only minimal briefing before they can go afloat. It was very encouraging to see the first PO Crews competing at Marlow Spring and Town Regattas. Another successful partnership started last year by Julie McCulloch has prospered. Although Julie has been unable to continue, as she will shortly be moving abroad and will soon have two children to look after, she has found a worthy successor in Jackie Thoeming who can often be found at the club with a novice on a rope! Between them Julie and Jackie have coached a number of novices to their first regatta wins. With both successful junior and adult novice beginner programmes, the club will continue to gain new members. It will then be up to the skills of our various coaches to fashion these raw materials into winning combinations.

Recently a report was published on the inquest of the tragic drowning in January of this year, of the Reading RC junior. It was no surprise that Reading R C and its operational practises were scrutinised minutely.  Subsequently they were criticised for failing to assess the risk properly and individual coaches were also personally criticised in a manner which questions their competence. Although a tragic accident, it could have been prevented and we should learn from the mistakes of others. Fortunately for our Club, Richard Lewis our safety adviser has looked carefully at all areas of the club operation and advised us accordingly. Safety is a matter which, as this incident shows, we must all take seriously. Richard has written a comprehensive safety manual for our Club with guidance notes which, provided we abide by them, will protect both coach and athlete and will ensure a safe environment for all.

As we approach this year’s AGM, I am conscious of the fact that my term of office is drawing to a close. You may remember that last year I had planned to stand down as Chairman but offered to stand for election again to provide some continuity for our then new Treasurer Jackie Thoeming. A year has passed and Jackie has taken to the job as a duck to water, displaying shrewd financial judgement and good sense. It must therefore be time to pass on the baton or in boating parlance to hand over the rudder to another member.

During my time on the committee, first as member responsible for premises, then as Captain and latterly as Chairman and Membership Secretary, I have seen many changes at the club, from boats and oars made of wood, to those made from carbon and kevlar. From members towing an old trailer with their cars to local regattas, to a dedicated tow vehicle and purpose built modern trailer, journeying abroad to international regattas. From having one unreliable and downright dangerous coaching launch to having six reliable and electrically started launches. Moreover we have progressed from a handful of private boats stored on the premises to more than a hundred, with racks at every turn.

Sir Steve has undoubtedly been the architect of the great rowing revival, making it cool to row, and even cooler to win. It is therefore fitting that the club played an important part in raising the funds to erect a statue in his likeness, unveiled by HM the Queen, within sight of the club. Some would say, and I expect the great man himself would be one, that it will be some years before he looks quite as stout as his statue.

We currently have four schools boating from our Club and, at week-ends especially, there is such pressure on the facility that boating times and limitations on numbers have to be set. It is a great relief that Sir William Borlase’s school is actively searching for alternative accommodation and it will be to our mutual benefit when they are able to vacate our premises. The additional rack space reverting to our use will allow the storage of more and better equipment for all. All we need to do is raise the funds to purchase it.

In more recent times, the committee has successfully applied for Project Oarsome, Community Sports Club Status, Clubmark accreditation and a Community Sports Coach grant, although the latter was so beset with unnecessary bureaucracy and ill-thought out political correctness that the committee considered that we were better off without it and its restrictions. Our club has been guided by its committee through some difficult times and I am sure that you will be able to rely on them and the new Chairman to continue so to do.

I have yet to decide what I will do with the considerable amount of “free” time I now expect to have at my disposal but to my mind .. "There is nothing, absolutely nothing half so much worth doing, as simply messing about in boats”


Peter Hunt
Summer 2005