Changing lives through PE and Sport

History of the Borlase Boat Club

Timeline 1921 - 2001

• It is generally believed that the Boat Club was formed in the academic year 1921-22. However, an item in the Borlasian magazine of 1963 states that “rowing began at Borlase on October 5, 1913”. Unfortunately, there are no Old Borlasians living who can verify this fact and its accuracy is questionnable. An early reminiscence is that Dr H C Cronyn FRCS was “the first small boy with a loud voice to cox the Borlase crew in 1921”.

• 1925 The club is reported as having two clinker fours with fixed pin riggers and fixed seats, but no coach. The school’s first four in that year had an average weight of 9½ stone! The original colour of the blades was dark red with a double dark blue bar. This was probably based on Marlow’s cardinal red colour.

• 1934 Russell Sage joined the school staff and became the first proper rowing coach. He had rowed for Queen Mary College, University of London as a student and at the time was rowing at Marlow rowing club. On his arrival, the Boat Club “had not a boat to its name”.

• 1952 The Boat Club borrowed an eight from Marlow rowing club called Queen Mary to record the first ever win in an eight, which was at Maidenhead Regatta. At the time, the Boat Club still had only two clinker fours.

• 1955 A group of Old Borlasians raised money to buy an eight for the Boat Club, which was named “Baggy” after a previous Headmaster.

• 1956 O’Brien Rowe, an Old Borlasian, presented a silver bowl to the Boat Club in memory of his uncle F W Rowe to be awarded annually as a sculling trophy.

• 1956/57 Up until now the Boat Club had its quarters at Hobbs boathouse on the town side where Tierney Court now stands. In this year, the school found themselves without a boathouse and thanks to the President of Marlow Rowing Club, Derek Mays-Smith, and a sympathetic committee, the Boat Club was provided with a complete bay in the Marlow Rowing Club boathouse and use of the changing facilities. In this year, it was recorded that two eights and two fours were now being boated.

• 1957 Boat Club subscriptions were ten shillings for beginners and one pound and one shilling for all others.

• 1958 R R Rudd, an Old Borlasian, presented a cup to the Boat Club to be awarded annually for junior sculling.

• 1959 The school eight was placed thirteenth in the School’s Head of the River and recorded wins in junior eights at Marlow Regatta, as well as several other wins in eights. This was a relatively successful period for the Boat Club.

• 1960 The first appearance of a Borlase eight in the Princess Elizabeth Cup at Henley Royal Regatta. This year, the school’s eight was tenth in the School’s Head of the River beating other prominent rowing schools, such as Winchester and Westminster. This was also the year in which the race between the school and Old Borlasian crews (in eights) was started; the first race being won by the Old Borlasian crew.

• 1963 The first Borlase Boat Club Regatta provided several events for the boys. Scratch fours for seniors and juniors and single sculls for seniors and juniors. Previously the only competition for the Boat Club had been house rowing.

• 1964 Mike Muir-Smith (1958-1961) became the first Old Borlasian blue. He rowed at three in the victorious Cambridge crew in the Boat Race of that year.

• 1967 The Boat Club acquired its first fine sculling boats. These were two fibre glass singles made by Eton College.

• 1969/70 In this year Tony Craig joined the school and started coaching rowing. He eventually took over from Russell Sage in 1972, who had completed 38 years as Rowing Master and Coach.

• 1975 Chris Langridge became the second Old Borlasian blue rowing at bow in the victorious Cambridge Boat Race crew.

• 1976 Nigel Reid became the first Old Borlasian to win a World Championship medal and further international success followed. Nigel was world lightweight eights champion in 1977, having won the silver medal in the same event in 1976. In 1978, he was again world lightweight eights champion. In 1979, the lightweight eight was fifth and in 1980 he was again in the World Championship lightweight eight. This is a remarkable record and Nigel is still very much involved in rowing today.

• 1980’s This was a golden period for rowing at Borlase under the direction of Tony Craig. At the time, there were three school teachers who were coaching relatively few crews. There was a shift in emphasis to racing in fours rather than eights.

• 1983 Borlase won the four’s cup at the National Schools’ Regatta.

• 1984 Borlase won more events in fours than any other rowing school. A composite Borlase and Shiplake College coxless four won the Visitor’s cup at Henley Royal Regatta with Borlasian Lance Robinson at stroke. Lance went on to stroke the Great Britain junior coxless four at the Junior World Championships that year.

• 1985 Old Borlasian E.T.R Cook donated a magnificent £15,000 to the Boat Club.

• 1986 At the National Championships, Borlase won gold in the coxless fours and silver in the junior sixteen coxed fours. The J16 crew went on th represent England in 1986, 1987 and 1988.

• 1987 Old Borlasian, Mark Buckingham, was fourth in the World Championships rowing in a coxless four. In the 1988 Olympics, his crew was also fourth in the same event. Thus, Mark became Borlase’s first rowing Olympian.

• 1988 A major change for the Boat Club as the school becomes co-educational and girls start rowing. This led to an increase in numbers at the club and the demand for more boats and coaching. In this year, the boys J16 four won both the coxed and coxless events at the National Championships and the coxed four event at the National Schools’ Regatta having won at the School’ Head of the River earlier in the year – a “grand slam” crew.

• 1990’s The club’s success continues with girls adding to the established boys’ success.

• 1990 the boys win the silver medal in the junior coxless fours and bronze medal in the junior coxed fours at the National Championships.

• 1991 Tony Craig reported in his well established hand written newsletter that “the boat club membership totalled almost a hundred, of which 55 were girls”. There were about fifteen crews in training.

• 1992 The first year that Borlase had girls at the National Championships, where they won a silver medal in junior women’s fifteen quad sculls. In this year, the Boat Club saw a significant change of emphasis to sculling, rather than rowing which eventually led to a complete changeover with sweep oar rowing being dropped altogether.

• 1993 At the National Championships, the school probably produced their biggest haul ever winning their first gold medal in sculling in the junior fourteen quad sculls event and bronze medals in the women’s junior fifteen double sculls and women’s junior sixteen quad sculls events. This year was also the first race for girls between the school and Old Borlasians.

• 1995 Tony Craig retired from teaching and thus left his post as master in charge of rowing at the school. This was the end of an era which led to a change in the way the Boat Club was managed and pupils were coached. The Boat Club had recorded 22 wins in the previous year.

• 1997 Old Borlasian, Jason Keys, won the silver medal stroking the Great Britain lightweight eight at the World Championships.

• 2000 The annual event between the Boat Club and Old Borlasians is expanded to become a mini Regatta with Old Borlasians rowing and sculling with and against Boat Club members racing in quads, mixed eights and scratch coxed quads

• 2001 The Boat Club gets its first professional coach in Russ Thatcher as director of coaching after having coached the club’s first boys quad in previous years. The Boat Club has no official teacher in charge of rowing and coaching is by one or two teachers and outside non-teaching help. The club’s administration and finances is managed by the Boat Club Parents Support Group. Club membership averages 60 to 70, equally split between boys and girls.

Footnote: These historical notes from a variety of sources compiled by Richard Bedingfield, which range from articles in the Borlasian magazine and old Boat Club files to Richard Bedingfield's father’s memory, which is still good at nearly 90 years of age. Richard would welcome any further historical information or corrections, if anyone has them.

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