Eight Project Oarsome pupils competed for the first time at the British Indoor Rowing Championships in Birmingham on 17 November. These are the first pupils from Great Marlow School since the rowing programme was relaunched 18 months ago with the help of the National Lottery and the support of former pupil Sir Steven Redgrave.

The eight pupils represent the tip of the iceberg, where around 70 year 8 and 9 pupils regularly attend the schools indoor rowing club. All eight produced personal best performances on the day and we will undoubtedly be back next year with a bigger team.

The British championships are a huge event, attracting over 3,000 competitors between the ages of 12 and 70+. Britain's top Olympic athletes pit themselves against the best domestic talent from rowing clubs and the world of fitness and leisure. National teams from America, Italy, Denmark and Holland were also present to produce some thrilling racing.

First up were the Junior 13 girls Lauren Humphry, Nicola Dinsley, Sophie Steventon and Elizabeth Gurney. This was a tough event with over 50 competitors and many from the top rowing schools. Each event was raced over 2,000m, the Olympic rowing distance and is a gruelling test of strength, fitness and will power. The athletes have to push their bodies to the limit to achieve the best possible scores. The machines are set up in the hall in rows surrounded by the spectators, which makes for a superb atmosphere, with a giant screen showing every agonising pull of the athletes, as they strive to win. All the Marlow girls got off to strong starts and looked good through the first 1000m. Lauren and Nicola were pushing hard with the rate up around 32/33 strokes per minute. Elizabeth and Sophie really kept the power on to the finish and were delighted to see so many other girls still going. After an agonising wait we got the result. Sophie and Elizabeth had done excellently, finishing 17th and 29 th; both pulled personal best scores. Elizabeth was the second fastest 12 year old. Nicola and Lauren had fantastic last 500metres, raising the power and sprinting home. Overall, Lauren was 6th and Nicola 7th - fantastic results. The two girls were split by less then one 10th of a second, coming home in 8 min 29.7 and 8min 29.8, showing massive improvements on their personal bests.

In the Boys Junior 13 event we had two competitors, Miles Noble and Jack Hockley. Marlow RC also had Matthew Best of Wye Valley School in the event and he sat one machine up from Jack as the race started. The athlete to catch was going to be Daniel Bream of Peterborough; at 6ft 2 and 14 stone, he towered over the other boys in the event. Jack and Miles both got off to strong starts and then settled into their mid race pace. Miles held his form well and produced a good time to finish 22nd out of over 60 competitors. Jack and Matthew were racing hard, pushing right to the limits; both produced great times, Matthew taking 6th place and Jack a superb 9th in his first ever competition with a personal best time of 7 min 50.9.
In the Junior 14 Boys event the two Oarsome competitors were up against much more experienced opposition from the traditional rowing schools. However Steven Evens and Nick Kirkham both pulled out great performances. They held their form well, kept the power on right to the end and both were rewarded with personal bests. Nick came a very strong 22nd in 7 min 50.9 and Steven just behind him in 26th in 7min 58.7.
Coach Sean Farrelly and Head teacher Clive Ricks were delighted with the pupils' performances and parents, relatives and friends provided vocal support throughout the day. All the pupils performed to the best of their ability and all finished in the top half of their events, with 3 in the top ten positions. They had a great day mixing with top internationals and Olympians such as James Cracknell.


Sir Steve Redgrave named eight boats on 10th March which will be used to support junior rowing at Marlow Rowing Club for his old school, Great Marlow School, and John Hampden Grammar School.

The event included demonstrations of newly acquired rowing skills from pupils and indoor rowing machine races. Sir Steve named the boats after the venues of his Olympic triumphs - Los Angeles, Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta and Sydney. The boats are designed for 11-16 year old pupils and will be used to encourage participation in the sport of rowing for children who might in the past not have had that opportunity.

The boats come as part of a £55,000 lottery package following a joint bid from the schools and supported by Sir Steve. Marlow Rowing Club contributed £12,000 towards the costs, which also supplied the club with a new trailer, a coaching launch and rowing machines which are located in the schools themselves.

The Amateur Rowing Association launched Project Oarsome in 1999 to encourage rowing at schools with no traditional rowing background. Hitherto, the traditional hotbed of British junior rowing has been principally with public schools.

The idea of participating in the scheme came when the new head teacher at Great Marlow School, Mr Clive Ricks, and rowing coach and school librarian, Sean Farrelly, were looking for a way to relaunch rowing in the school in the wake of Sir Steve's 5th gold medal at the Sydney Olympics. This coincided with the Rowing Club's committee deciding that they wanted to encourage rowing from a wider circle of junior rowers than the traditional sources of Sir William Borlase's and the Royal Grammar School. Peter Hunt, the Marlow RC chairman, saw the long-term future of the club as being dependent on encouraging young people into the sport, while Project Oarsome seemed to answer the needs of both the schools and the Club. With support from the Amateur Rowing Association and in particular their Thames 'up-river' representative Nigel Weare, the Club and the schools put together a 'partnership' bid for funding in the spring of 2001. This was accepted and with the boats delivered in the late summer, the school started on the water in the September of 2001.

Great Marlow School had over 40 Year 8 pupils complete indoor rowing awards in 2001 and in the autumn term 20 pupils have progressed to the river. 140 of this year's Year 7 have just completed a charity indoor rowing fund raising event and 49 pupils are now participating in an indoor rowing club. The Summer Term will see a further 20 Year 7 pupils join the club on the water. At John Hampden GS, the indoor rowing club started in 2002 and over 40 pupils are taking part, where they also will take 20 pupils onto the water for the first time in the Summer Term.

Both schools have produced a series of top international athletes, including 3 times World Lightweight champion Tom Kay, currently Great Britain's top Lightweight sculler and formally a pupil of John Hampden GS. In addition to Steve Redgrave, former Great Marlow School teacher Francis Smith, helped to encourage other Great Marlow School Olympians, Steve Turner and Mark Buckingham to take their first strokes in rowing at Marlow Rowing Club.

With rowing on this scale never having been offered at either school, the Project Oarsome scheme offers pupils a wonderful chance to participate in Britain's most successful water sport. The rowing club benefits from acquiring purpose built equipment for juniors and by taking a long-term view hopes to gain skilful, keen members to progress through to the senior squads. The scheme will have a significant and beneficial long-term impact both on the range of sports offered to pupils at the schools and the future success of Marlow Rowing Club.


Great Marlow School pushed off their Red Nose Appeal by hosting an attempt on the World Ergo Record for 100,000 metres, held by Royce's Gym in Wigan in a time of 4 hours 40.40minutes.

A head to head challenge was set up in the assembly hall of Great Marlow School. This is the school which started Steve Redgrave rowing, and which has just joined Marlow Rowing Club under the Project Oarsome scheme to begin feeding youngsters into the Marlow Rowing Club junior programme.

Leander set up their ergometer on the left of the stage and Royce's gym set up theirs on the right. They started at about 10.00am this morning at a blistering pace - look at those 500m splits, and finished just after 2.00pm. It was a closely fought race with Leander leading from the outset and gradually pulling away to finish 4 minutes 23 seconds ahead of their opponents, in a time of 4 hours 23 minutes and 33 seconds.

Well done Leander Club and well done Great Marlow School!!

Click here to contact Project Oarsome at Great Marlow School.

14 February 2001

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