A Royal Introduction to Rowing

At the former Royal Albert Docks in east London, 80 youngsters recently enjoyed their first taste of rowing.
At the former Royal Albert Docks in east London, 80 youngsters recently enjoyed their first taste of rowing.

17 October 2016

Tim Koch writes:

HTBS contributor Malcolm Knight is one of those lucky people who spend their days ‘messing about on the river’, sometimes as a job, sometimes as a volunteer, but always with a love of all things watery. One of his many aquatic hats is that of the events manager of the Queen’s Row Barge, Gloriana, a craft commissioned by Lord Stirling in 2012 as a gift to Queen Elizabeth on her Diamond Jubilee, the first Royal barge to be built in over 250 years. In accepting the unique present, Her Majesty asked that Gloriana be used to provide opportunities for Royal-supported and other charities to play their part in occasions and celebrations upon the Thames, with a particular emphasis on events involving young people and the sport of rowing. In the past four years, Gloriana has fulfilled this royal request many times, most recently at the rowing facility in east London latterly called the ‘London Regatta Centre’ but now renamed ‘Royal Docks Adventure’, a splendid place which lacks only the definite article.

The eight person rowing and sculling tank at Royal Docks Adventure
The eight person rowing and sculling tank at Royal Docks Adventure

The Gloriana Trust teamed up with ‘Skerries for Schools’ (S4S) to provide a day’s introduction to rowing for youngsters from two London academies (an ‘academy’ is a school with a large degree of independence that receives its funding directly from central government, a system originally used in attempts to improve failing state schools). S4S was founded in 2014 and its website says that its mission is:

to enable as many youngsters as possible to discover the discipline and excitement of rowing, and the pleasure of being out on a river……  A boat in which eight people can row is expensive. Secondary schools in the state system are unable to afford such boats…… Skerries for Schools provide….. two skerries ….. making possible the excitement of a race…….. A skerry is a new design of boat by Richmond’s distinguished boat builder Mark Edwards….. The name ‘skerry’ was chosen for this new boat design as it combines elements of the traditional Thames skiff and wherry……

Read more about the ‘skerry’ here.

Malcolm Knight writes:

How to introduce the sport of rowing to underachieving schools? This was the question pondered by Sir Steve Redgrave and Lord Sterling. The result – ‘The Gloriana Achievers’ Day Regatta’.

On Friday, 7 October, 80 youngsters from two academies (Chobham from Newham and Chafford Hundred from Grays) arrived at Royal Docks Adventure in London’s Docklands. Both academies had achieved a real turnaround during the last academic year with improvements in all fields.

The students were met by a team of ten coaches from ‘Skerries 4 Schools’ with their boats and, after a video introduction from Sir Steve and a rousing speech from Lord Sterling, the rowing lessons began assisted by coaches from British Rowing, the governing body of the sport in England.

Instruction on the land….
Instruction on the land….
….. and on the water. The London City Airport is in the background.
….. and on the water. The London City Airport is in the background.

Three hours of coaching produced some passable rowing technique and fantastic smiling faces. After lunch, a short time trial was held, organised by London Youth Rowing, to find the overall fastest academy. This was followed by two five-lane races to find the fastest crew from each academy. This proved to be very competitive with a verdict of “a canvass!” being awarded by Umpire Eric Reynolds to rousing cheers from everyone.

The race is on.
The race is on.

The two winning crews then came together on board Gloriana to row her down the docks in a victory flotilla followed by their fellow students in their skerries. It was a wonderful sight thoroughly enjoyed by all those afloat.

Gloriana and skerries.
Gloriana and skerries.

Events were rounded off with the presentation of certificates to everyone who attended, ‘Winning Crew’ scrolls to the Gloriana crew and the ‘Gloriana Achievers’ Day’ blade to Harris Academy Chaffered Hundred as the overall fastest academy.

A good time was had by all.
A good time was had by all.

The day, supported by The Port of London Authority and The Thames Skills Academy, was summed up by the youngsters as ‘Oarsome!’ with many of them promising to get back in a boat in the very near future.

Pictures by the Gloriana Trust.

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