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Regatta trust puts 3.3m into grassroots rowing
Published 30/06/14

THE Stewards’ Charitable Trust has raised more than 3.3 million for charity since it was established by the Henley Royal Regatta governing body in 1988.

With the motto “rowing, education and youth”, it supports schemes which develop grassroots rowing projects for young people.

Over 26 years, the trust has helped more than 30 different projects, some of them one-offs and others lasting a number of years.

It contributes annually to causes such as adaptive rowing, the British Universities Sports Association, the River and Rowing Museum in Henley, London Youth Rowing, the Mark Lees Foundation, an Imperial College London biodynamics project and the Watermen’s Foundation.

The first sizeable donation was made in 2000 when the trust gave 190,000 to Project Oarsome, a scheme run by the Amateur Rowing Association to support the rebirth of the Ball Cup Races for smaller schools.

The scheme was designed to link 50 schools to rowing clubs and now supports 100 schools across Britain.

Mike Sweeney, chairman of the trustees, said: “The trust is a wonderful way for the regatta to support grassroots rowing. Rowers have to start somewhere and the younger they start the better.”

The three major schemes supported by the trust are its coaching scholarship scheme, the Rowing Foundation and London Youth Rowing.

More than 1.25 million has been donated to the coaching scheme, which started in September 2002 with just two coaches and now supports 14 across Britain.

Mr Sweeney says: “We looked at where the greatest need was and, after talking to various organisations, including British Rowing and schools, we came to the conclusion that the biggest problem was coaching.”

To qualify for the scheme, coaches must undertake a two year, part-time postgraduate course in coaching, sports development or the health and social-related benefits of sport, while spending 20 hours per week coaching juniors.

Mr Sweeney says: “The key is that the coaching happens during the working week when no one else is able to do it.

“The coaches have to do 20 hours a week but they really are quite keen and usually end up doing a lot more than 20 hours and at weekends as well.”

Henley Rowing Club is one of the organisations to have received a grant to improve its beginners coaching programme.

Alison Findlay, an adult beginners’ coach at the club, says: “The grant allows local children to experience the sport of rowing in small groups on a lovely stretch of water.”

John Collins, another club coach, saw one of his crews win the inaugural junior women’s quadruple sculls at Henley Royal Regatta in 2012.

Mr Collins, a Leander Club rower who won the Double Sculls Challenge Cup with Alan Sinclair in the same year, says: “What makes a good coach is having an understanding of your athletes, their strengths and weaknesses, and also being just as critical of yourself as you are of them.”

London Youth Rowing is the second biggest recipient of trust funding and offers rowing at all levels for young people of all abilities in East London.

The programme is run in conjunction with the University of East London and now supports four coaches.

Mr Sweeney says: “This project is about going into schools to get kids rowing, starting out indoors using ergometers before getting them out on the water. It has kept expanding and is a very successful programme.”

Matt Rostron, chief executive of London Youth Rowing, says: “Our partnership with the trust is very important. They have always understood and supported our mission of nurturing talent, creating opportunities and imparting important life skills through the sport.

“Their support has enabled us to create opportunities for young people to be granted scholarships and coaching positions, enabling them to give back to their community, learn key and important skills and make a meaningful contribution to sport, science and diversity. It is a partnership we hope to grow in line with the growth and strength of the young people we work with.”

The Rowing Foundation was set up by British Rowing to manage funding requests from across the country. It is the third biggest recipient of funding from the trust.

Ian Reid, chairman of trustees at the foundation, says: “The grant enables us to help many small rowing clubs to improve and expand their facilities.

“This has been especially important with the sudden rise of interest in rowing following Team GB’s success at the 2012 London Olympics.”

In its first 15 years the trust gave away more than 1 million and over the next 10 another 2.3 million. The bulk of its funding comes from annual donations made by Henley Royal Regatta and its trading arm, Henley Royal Regatta Ltd.

It also benefits from donations, both corporate and individual, including those from several members of the stewards’ enclosure.

Mr Sweeney says: “Years ago we were giving away much smaller amounts. But Project Oarsome was the first one where we started to give away big money.

“We don’t support projects overseas but we are very conscious of making sure that we fund projects all over the country. We are very highly rated by the Government and Sport England. We get good feedback from the people involved and it is great to see what they are all doing in terms of getting children involved in rowing.”

Published 30/06/14

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