Marlow Rowing Club- The Junior Squad

‘At the Fawley Sir William Borlase, striking 35, lead Marlow Rowing Club, also striking 35, by 3/4 of a length.’ 3/7/2014. Henley Royal Regatta.

This was the impossible situation, the reality that no-one could have anticipated three weeks earlier. Marlow’s junior men’s quad, the indomitable champions of National Schools, the Schools Head of the River and the National Sculling Head, were trailing in the final of the Fawley Challenge Cup to a crew put together by local nemeses, Sir William Borlase. How could this be possible? What had happened to the crew that had looked so dominant a mere four weeks ago at the National Schools Regatta? These must have been the thoughts running through the heads of Harry Glenister, Sholto Carnegie, Charlie Simon and Josh Kent.

Coming into the enclosures, it certainly looked to everyone like SWB would walk away with the ultimate schoolboy sculling prize for the second year running. And then it happened. The Marlow crew of last year were famous for their mid-race pace as well as their sprint in the final few metres. The dynamic of the race changed; the raw power of that Marlow crew, three of whom went on to represent GB in the Coupe De La Jeunesse/Junior World Championships, eventually showed through. With a devastating final sprint, Marlow broke the resolve of Borlase and completed the set of junior titles with a 1/2 length victory. However, this momentous victory only served to emphasise Marlow’s status as a junior rowing powerhouse; their performances this year have only built upon the foundations laid down by that superbly talented quad from last year.

The Junior Men’s Squad

Although these guys may not be as strong as the quad from last year, they’ve consistently competed toward the top of their age group and have racked up some impressive results, including a win in J174x at the OJSH and a fourth place in J4x at the HOR4. Speaking to Bret King a few weeks ago, he emphasised the importance of Alex Haynes to the J men’s squad; his involvement with the GB system has continued the legacy that Marlow have of producing international standard athletes. At NSR, Marlow finished 8th in the medals table with 2 golds, 2 silvers and 2 bronzes. I’m going to take a quick look at the boys performance at NSR.


Although not at the top end of junior sculling, Marlow’s younger crop have been laying down solid foundations for the future with some excellent results in J15 events. Marlow are traditionally very good at targeting this age group [think back to the Russell/Haynes combination at J15/J16 and, further back, the J16 quad with Seb Devereux which won J164x at NSR in 2011] and this year is no exception. A bronze medal in this category is certainly a very good start and Bret spoke of his satisfaction with the progress of these guys. They also raced well in the J15 quad category, where they boated two crews. Interestingly, their second crew won an excellent silver medal in J154X+2 so it’ll be good to see what sort of quad they can boat next year. Watch out for these guys.

CH1x [Alex Haynes]

It was a bold decision to race at Championship level by Alex and the time in his final would have seen him win the gold medal in the J171x [albeit conditions did change throughout the day]. He finished up fourth in an extremely strong field containing two of the top three from Nov GB Trials and I actually think this was a good result going forward for Alex, particularly when you look at how close he was to Chris Lawrie. Alex has a certain dynamism to his sculling ability, which is complimented by his height and 6:18 2k ergo. He’s the main man of the Marlow junior quad and rumour has it that he’s moved into the stroke seat; we shall wait and see whether this has a significant effect on their speed. His development as a sculler and continued affiliation with the GB junior program will be critical to the success of the MRC junior men’s squad.


These guys performed as I expected them too and placed third in a very competitive semi-final. They won’t come close to repeating the feats of last year’s crew but these boys are in a band of about 6-7 crews who could all challenge for a Friday spot at Henley. Obviously, this depends on the quantity and quality and foreign entrants but Marlow certainly stand a good chance. They haven’t been racing in their wing-rigged empacher and have reverted to the conventionally rigged shell used by their J16’s last year. Seeing as their girls have a fluid-design quad for themselves, a move back into the top boat may add a few crucial seconds. Chris Tebb, Alex Haynes’s double partner earlier in the season, is another athlete to watch out for from this crew.


Caption- The CH4x racing in their time trial at NSR.

Marlow’s junior women’s squad speaks for itself. They’ve racked up some seriously impressive results through the year at WJ18 level and will be eyeing HWR and HRR with excitement. Their top crew have an absolutely star studded line-up, with all four of their girls J17 and in the GB system. A little review of their performances at National Schools….


The dominance of Henley was the realy talking point in this race but Marlow do have some real promise in this age group. They finished second in this event but were comfortably ahead of the chasing pack. As ever, their system of nurturing athletes from a young age looks to have paid off and they have some excellent athletes for the future. Obviously, everyone [myself included] likes to wax lyrical about the total domination that Henley have exhibited over junior women’s rowing but you’d be a fool to write Marlow off. With the impressive system of experienced coaches, great equipment and a legacy of producing top class athletes, I think the local rivalry between Henley and Marlow will produce some fierce battles over the next few years.


A superb showing from Heidi Long and Molly Harding to take the prize ahead of crews that train specifically for this boat class. Their celebration on the finish line showed how much this victory meant to them and the fact that they beat Eton Excelsior, one of their major rivals in the quad, will have made it that bit sweeter. If you count the quad, this is Heidi’s fifth NSR gold; a quite remarkable achievement, particularly in light of the fact that she represented GB a few weeks previously in the sweep team not sculling! They beat a very talented BGS crew, who took the J162x prize two years ago, into silver but it is important to note that the quality of the field was strong throughout.


I put my money on Marlow beforehand and the girls duly delivered in what Bret King described as ‘the best girls quad race in some time’. Marlow were led to the 1000m mark by a very classy Gloucester Hartpury crew but the girls had a blistering second half to take the win by 1.7 seconds. When I spoke to Bret earlier today, he described the difficulty with staying on top from here on in; crews such as Gloucester Hartpury, Headington and Eton Excelsior will be tracking Marlow eagerly. It is also worth noting that Gloucester Hartpury were arguably missing their best athlete at NSR; Flo Pickles was racing for GB at the Junior European Championships. However, this takes nothing away from a very mature and accomplished display of sculling from Marlow. At HWR, their speed out of the start will be key over the shortened course and they have a pretty challenging first draw, coming up against local rivals Sir William Borlase. With Gloucester Hartpury presumably back to full strength, this should be a fascinating encounter in the run-up to HRR.


Caption- The Marlow CHG4x with the Sherriff cup at the National Schools Regatta.

I was extremely fortunate that, at a recent event, Bret King, head coach of the junior women’s squad, came and spoke with me about the progress of the junior squad. Here is some of what he had to say…

My Question- ‘Obviously losing the entirety of your Fawley winning quad from last year must have been hard. How has this season been for you?’

Bret: For the boys, it has been very much a building season. Obviously we lost Fraser Russell to Sir William Borlase at the beginning of the season but Alex Haynes stayed and we’ve looked to build around him. We’re pushing all the time. The J16 squad are progressing steadily but weren’t ready to compete in force at NSR. The J15 squad have been excellent, picking up some great results at Bedford SBH earlier this year and consolidating this with a few medals at NSR.’

My Question- ‘How did your girls enjoy boating an eight at SHORR? A welcome change from sculling?’

Bret: ‘We were pleased with their performance at the women’s head of the river but not so much with SHORR. The draw is a bit of an issue as they don’t rank crews aside from Headington. We had some issues with crews around us along with minor injury concerns. As a club, we are also weakened by school commitments which has always been an issue for us!’.

My Question- ‘You continually turn out quality crews year on year. The Thames Valley is well known for its excellent junior pedigree, is there something in the water down there?!’

Bret- ‘I wish! Obviously Henley are superb. Their quality at J14, 15 and 16 is amazing. In terms of our club, we have the JDS [Junior development squad] where we teach kids how to row from a relatively young age. We then select athletes from there; for example, Molly Harding has been with us since she was 12 and Heidi Long has been here since she was 13. We feel that this breeds competitiveness which permeates through our squad; the catchment area is something of a stronghold and we’re always pushing for higher standards’.

My Question- ‘Obviously your girls squad is particularly strong this year. How do you view the challenge presented by crews such as Henley, Headington and Gloucester Hartpury?’.

Bret- ‘After National Schools, we went straight back into the training because it is always harder to stay on top. Obviously we’re aware of the challenge so we’re focused on keeping the girls and boys fit and healthy while ensuring we’re doing the right things to maximise each day as it comes. Henley will be excellent over the next few years and we know they could turn out a quality crew. Headington have a very good half of their eight and raced extremely well at National Schools while Gloucester Hartpury have eight strong athletes with four girls in the GB system; Tom Pattichis is very fortunate in that respect! However the girls performed to their best at National Schools and were never phased by Gloucester or Headington; there’s definitely more to come!’. 

Marlow rowing club 17 gold

Caption- The WJ174x celebrate their win at the OJSH- they also set the fastest time of the day.

My Question- ‘Obviously the NSR and SHORR are titled as being schools events yet a lot of the entries are still taken up by clubs. Do you think that the term ‘national schools regatta’ has become a bit of a misnomer?’

Bret- ‘It’s been going for a long time so it’s become renowned as the national schools’ or ‘schools head’. Although 60% of the entries are probably from clubs, it is unlikely to change as the term is just too strong. The British Championships is an obvious alternative but the timing of the event [mid July] means it doesn’t attract a lot of the top competition’. 

Once again, it was an absolute pleasure and privilege to talk with Bret King, who has been very supportive of my attempts to branch out my website. Keep up to date on Marlow’s progress as we look towards Henley Women’s Regatta and then to Henley Royal in just under a months time!

Can Marlow’s girls take the ultimate prize and win the Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup? Can the J4x claim a scalp or two in their attempt to retain the Fawley cup? All shall be answered in the next month; these are truly exciting times for Marlow Rowing Club!