Sunday, 22 September 2019

Rowing club stalwarts have boats named after them for 180th birthday

Rowing club stalwarts have boats named after them for 180th birthday

SIX boats were officially named at a celebration to mark the 180th anniversary of Henley Rowing Club.

Among those honoured was Ian Desmond, who was head coach when a Henley eight won the Thames Challenge Cup at the royal regatta in 2005. Others to be recognised were Linda Thomas, Alison Findlay, Stan Admiraal and Peter and Helen Knowles.

About 150 people attended the ceremony, which took place at the Wargrave Road club on Saturday and was followed by a barbecue, live music, scratch crew racing and a raffle.

Club chairwoman Helen Turnell gave a speech about the club’s history and why each of the club stalwarts were being honoured.  Each boat was christened with a bottle of champagne suspended from blades above each boat and smashed with a hammer.

Mr Desmond said the honour came as a surprise as he had not been told about it but was invited to perform with his band Highly Strung.    

He said: “I am no longer involved at the club really as I retired from coaching.”

Mr Desmond, 57, who was born and bred in Henley, joined the club as a junior sculler in 1977 and his name has been given to a quadruple scull to be used by the club’s juniors. He said: “It is quite fitting and rather nice and I do wish all who use it well and good fortune. We have always had a strong juniors section.”

Mr Desmond is a bespoke furniture maker and stepped down as head coach in 2010 to focus on his work but returned after a five-year break for a year before retiring again.

He said: “It has always been all or nothing with me. I had some memorable years at Henley and the club is in great shape.”   

Linda Thomas has been involved with the club for 20 years and has served in various roles such as safeguarding and organising events as well as being on the management committee.    

Mrs Thomas, who lives in Wargrave, said she was thrilled to be honoured. She added: “When I began at the club I used to volunteer on the towpath and then went on the committee and I have been inv`olved with lots of important things over the years.

“But through a lot of that I have rowed as well and this year is my 50th in rowing.

“There is a lot of enthusiasm and support behind the club and I am hopeful that the success will continue for many more years.”  

Peter and Helen Knowles have been running open events at the club, the Henley Sculls and fours and eights, for more than 30 years and each had a double scull named after them.  

The couple said: “On behalf of a great team, we are thrilled and honoured to have been recognised in this way. Thank you, Henley Rowing Club.” Alison Findlay,  who spent 10 years as the club’s membership secretary, had a junior girls four named after her while Stan Admiraal was a big supporter of the club’s learn to row courses for four years.

Mrs Turnell said: “These people have put in a lot of their time in service to the club over many years and we wanted to recognise them while recognising our history and our place in the community.

“Being established in the 1830s makes Henley Rowing Club one of the oldest in England. The club’s mission is to bring the joy of rowing to the community and to support its members to achieve their aspirations, so it has a diverse membership which has grown to a membership of more than 450 members. Last season the club entered 734 boats in 65 events and secured medals from most of those events.

President Miriam Luke said: “The club really does represent the community, which is very different from other clubs on the stretch. We have masters of all experience learning to row and a huge junior programme with more than 100 girls signed up this year.

“We have people from all backgrounds and education, private and state schools. It really is the town’s club.

“The boat naming ceremony of refurbished boats came as a surprise and I think the recipients were all delighted with the recognition.”

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