Marlow Rowing Club is one of the biggest clubs on the upper reaches of the River Thames, using the Marlow and Cookham Reaches for training and competition under Winter Hill and Bisham Hanging Woods. Its clubhouse is next to the town's historic suspension bridge over the Thames and the famous Compleat Angler Hotel.

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In 1998, the club won the Women's Head of the River Race for the first time, retaining the title in 1999, when there were three boats in the top 45. At the 1998 Fours Head, four pennants were won. At Henley Royal Regatta, the Men's Coxed Four was beaten in the semi-final of the 1998 Britannia Cup, and the Women were beaten in the final of the Women's Invitation Eights. However in 1999, the Women won the Women's Invitation Eights, beating the other Marlow/Thames eight in the final. This was Marlow's first Henley win since Steve Redgrave's run of victories in the 1980s. Currently Marlow Rowing Club crews are reigning National Club Champions in Lightweight Women's pairs and Coxless Fours, and had four members in the winning Women's Eight.

Originally founded at a dinner held by the town football club in 1871, the club's history reflects many of the changes in English society. It was affected by the Victorian schism between amateur and working men/professional sportsmen. The famous and independent Marlow Amateur Regatta has only recently dropped Amateur from its name. In the late Victorian period, prominent local families such as the Boytons, Claytons, Higginsons and Wethereds supported the club and attracted friends from the universities and London to row on the Marlow and Cookham Reaches. Members of its first major trophy winning crew (1913/4) became casualties in the First World War and the club had to wait 40 years before winning major trophies again.

From a social beginning, a competitive club sprang up and became locked in friendly rivalry with other local clubs, rowing up and downstream to their regattas, or loading boats on coal-lorries to take part in Tideway events. Marlow first competed in the Head of the River Race in 1932, starting 67th out of 131. Since 1945 Marlow Rowing Club has been shaped by a number of able coaches, and highly motivated club and international athletes who have helped to change the expectations of the club. Bill Findlay, Bryn Evans, Alan Clay and Roy Light came close to winning at Henley Royal Regatta, beaten in the final of the Wyfold Challenge Cup in 1954 by the Royal Engineers. Often working from a narrow base of local athletes, coaches like O H Collins, Bill Hobbs, Lesley Langton, Derek Mays-Smith and more recently Martin Kay produced good, well-organised crews.

Mike Spracklen, the internationally renowned coach, captained the club in its successful 1959 season, when it won over 20 trophies. In the previous year Mike and his partner Geoff Baker won gold medals in the Empire Games Double Sculls. In 1964, Marlow finished tenth in the Head of the River Race, thirty seconds behind the winners. At the end of a successful season in small boats, the club won the 1964 Daily Telegraph Cup at Maidenhead Regatta in a closely contested final. In the 1960s and 1970s the club was small in numbers, compared to today. However club spirit was strong, and a series of excellent crews were produced from a small squad of local athletes, competing successfully around the country, and in particular at Marlow Amateur Regatta, winning the Town Cup and Pairs against first class opposition. Neil Christie and Andrew Justice rowed in the 1976 Olympic Games.

A local junior, Steve Redgrave, began his outstanding career at Marlow in 1978. Coached by Francis Smith, Redgrave formed the nucleus of a crew that further helped to change the club's expectations. The club first won a Henley trophy in 1981, when Steve and Eric Sims won the Double Sculls, and he repeated the feat with Adam Clift in 1982. Redgrave continued this successful run, winning the Diamonds Sculls in 1983, the Prince Philip in the winning Olympic Coxed Four in 1984, the Diamonds again in 1985, and holding the Silver Goblets with Andy Holmes in 1986 and 1987 (they withdrew following Andy's back injury in 1988.) In 1988 Redgrave moved to Leander Club, when it became Mike Spracklen's National Team Training Base. All this has recently been eclipsed by his fifth Gold in the coxless fours at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Steve and his wife, Ann (Marlow Rowing Club's first woman club captain) live in Marlow with their children. He is a life member of Marlow Rowing Club, along with Matthew Pinsent.

00ergowomanGillian Lindsay won the Double Sculls World Championship in 1998. Alex Beever, Lisa Eyre and Sue Walker were World Champions in the Coxless Four in 1997, and were Bronze Medallists in the Eight in the same year. Cath Bishop, who is British and World Ergo Champion and World Record holder, was a Silver Medallist in the Coxless Pair in 1997, and won the Pairs World Cup in 1998. Altogether, twelve athletes from Marlow Rowing Club prepared for the Sydney Olympics.

Marlow Rowing Club currently has over 400 members, its boat fleet is one of the biggest in England,91coupesquad and a series of squads (with established coaches) flourish on some of the most attractive reaches of the River Thames. The Women's squad is one of the most successful in Great Britain, and the Club Eight has rowed as England in the Home Nations Match. The Men's squads are currently rebuilding to match club expectations, and newcomers are warmly welcomed. The Junior squad has experienced great success in the last twenty years with over forty athletes winning junior international and representative honours. A large Veteran section exists, combining social rowing with competitive success: Peter Bayfield, John Gill, Nick Gill and Chris Lenton are 1999 Veteran World Champions.

Marlow Rowing Club combines high expectations, with a friendly club spirit. This is based on outstanding facilities and a professional approach to its organisation, coaching, training and competitive spirit. Marlow Rowing Club looks forward to its future.

 

 

Richard Robinson
24 February 2000