The Windsor Boys’ School Boat Club
Patrons: Sir Matthew Pinsent OBE, and Zac Purchase MBE, Adam Freeman-Pask OW
In 2020 The Windsor Boys’ School Boat Club celebrated its 80th anniversary, having been founded in 1940 by members of Eton Excelsior Rowing Club, in an attempt to keep their club active during the Second World War. By the end of the 1950s the club had moved into its present boathouse on the River Thames, adjacent to the school’s playing fields. The success of the club soared in the mid-1960s, with an eight competing at the Henley Royal Regatta in the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup. As with many clubs, the cycle of fortune fluctuated and the early 1970s saw a downturn in the club’s fortunes.
More recently, the club has flourished, earning a nationally recognised reputation for excellence, particularly in the field of crew sculling. In the 1990s The Henley Royal Regatta instituted a race of Under-19 quadruple sculls, The Fawley Challenge Cup. Our record in this prestigious event is unrivalled by any other club or school.
In 2017, the school finally realised its long-held ambition of winning again The Fawley Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta, an achievement which was literally been the talk of the rowing world, following some incredible races. In 2018, remarkably and against the odds, and with 1 change to the previous year’s crew, we defended the title, and the performance has been regarded as the finest example of junior quad racing ever. In 2021, we made the final again, sadly losing, but in 2022 we had our names on the trophy again.
As a state comprehensive, we have broken traditional barriers of class and elitism in the sport, by consistently performing to a very high level whilst having extraordinary width of participation. Over the past few years, the top quad has made quarter final, semi-final appearances as well as the final, in 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2021, & 2022. An eight has also qualified in both 2016, 2017 and 2018 which means 13 boys (including the cox) have raced at the royal regatta each year. In 2022 we achieved 3 boats qualifying to the regatta with 2 quads and an eight!
At National Level, the past 5 years have seen sensational results as the Boat Club has won multiple national titles across all three National Events, including a double Gold in the National Championships winning both the double scull and the quad scull. TWBS were the only school or rowing club to win two championship Gold medals. In 2022, the form continued as the top rowers of the school won medals in all 3 championship sculling events, including winning GOLD in the Championship Singles, Doubles and quads events. The Club also won GOLD at J14 J15 level and Bronze at J16 level. By far The Windsor Boys’ School Boat Club was the highest performing club at National Level in the whole country.
Internationally, success has been incredible. In 2017 and 2018, Bryn Ellery and Tom Smith Won x3 silver medals between them at World Championship Level. We have had multiple boys achieve Great Britain vests at both European and world championship level. In 2022, Marcus Chute Won the European Championships in the single scull, an unprecedented performance. 2 more boys achieved GB vests at the World Rowing Championships.
The coaching team is led by Mark Wilkinson, a former student and multiple Henley winner himself, who has built up the standard of rowing in the last few years to the incredible level it is now. He is a Lead Great Britain Rowing coach in charge of the U19 Men’s Sculling. His expertise in developing young rowers to achieve their very best is matched only by his understated modesty about his success. He is supported by a team of coaches that are all old boys of the school too, who work tirelessly to give as much opportunity in Learn to Row and Performance rowing as possible.
In Year 9 boys start with a simple capsize drill and swim test, before developing their sculling skills on the River Thames throughout the whole of year 9 and 10. The aim is to give as many as possible the opportunity to row. Racing comes thick and fast in the summer and the aim is to get as many boys as possible up to a racing standard. Gym sessions from 7.00 am during the winter and early morning sessions on the river during the summer months mean that the boys’ skills develop quickly. As boys move into year 11, the training increases and the targets get higher, with representational honours on the card. The system at Windsor Boys’ is progressive, and hopefully by the time boys reach the sixth form their skills will be highly proficient, and they will have a really good understanding of what it takes to perform to a high level as an athlete. For those who don’t quite make the lofty heights of representing their country there is still plenty of opportunity to enjoy the benefits of being a rower, including a very active racing programme across all the year groups, and of course, all the health benefits of being very fit.
Over the last few years, the Boat Club has done a lot of travelling, including Belgium and France competing in International Regattas, racing in St Petersburg, Russia, and many training camps during the Easter holidays, usually to France and Germany too. We also race extensively across the whole of the UK. The Boat Club also runs Summer Learn to Row Camps and Middle School Clubs for Girls and Boys – look out for details!
We take enormous pride in the achievements of all our boys at all levels, from our Junior 14”D”s through to our international representatives. We know that such success does not come easily and is gained only through a dedicated approach and a great deal of hard work. We are also aware that such involvement contributes in many ways to the development of outstanding young men.
See www.WBSBC.org for more information on The Windsor Boys’ School Boat Club
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