Hammersmith club wins on Henley debut

A new Hammersmith community rowing club made an impressive debut at Henley Royal Regatta when their crew won its first race on Wednesday.

Fulham Reach Boat Club will officially open in September, teaching rowing to children from state schools and to members of the local community who might not normally get a chance to be involved in the sport.

Programme director Steve O’Connor [second from left in the above picture] put together a crew with three friends to race at Henley as a way of spreading the word about the new club and they made an immediate impact, beating York RC by almost four lengths in the first round of the Wyfold Challenge Cup for coxless fours.

“We went off like a rocket and took a while to settle because we were a bit nervous, but once we settled it was fine and we moved away and were pretty controlled and confident,” said O’Connor.

The new Fulham Reach Boat Club will be near Hammersmith Bridge
The new Fulham Reach Boat Club will be near Hammersmith Bridge

“There’s no better way to put the word around rowing circles than with results so I went through my rolodex of retired rowers and found a few.

“We’ll try to do as well as we can and then go around talking to people about the club.”

The new boat club is being built within a development of 700 flats just east of Hammersmith Bridge, as a requirement imposed when planning permission was granted.

Building will be finished at the end of July, a fleet of brand new boats is set to be delivered in August and school rowing will start in September, with four local academies already signed up

“There’s a real community focus and we’re trying to deliver it in a way that hasn’t quite been done before,” said O’Connor.

In years to come, Fulham Reach BC hope their home-grown rowers will compete at Henley but for now the aim is mainly on bringing new people into the sport.

“The fun bit of rowing is racing and doing well so we will have that route,” said O’Connor. “But our priority will be teaching people the basics, getting them confident with the water, and working with schools.

“If we have people who are keen for Henley success, initially we would look at passing them on to another club. Five or six years down the line it might be different but at the moment the focus is on participation rather than performance.”

O’Connor’s crew will be lucky to make it past Thursday’s second round at Henley, though, as they face the favourites from local club Upper Thames RC.

“We’ll be up against it tomorrow,” he said. “We’ve got a really quick start so we’ll race to the Barrier [a third of the way down the course] and see where we are.”

Find out more about Fulham Reach Boat Club on their Facebook page

Martin Gough writes the weekly rowing blog The Rowlup – http://www.therowlup.com – out every Friday

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