London Youth Rowing was founded by Jim Downing in 2004 with his vision formed on the bank of Henley. Fourteen years on, the first Quad has pre-qualified for Henley to represent LYR Globe Juniors.

Under the direction of Head Coach Maurice Coughlan, who started coaching at London Youth Rowing in 2005 the journey has been long and challenging but a committed group of young rowers have reached the pinnacle of the sport. Recent success has included winning the Pairs Head and Inter-Regionals for James Watson-Gandy and Bo Hughes. The pair have also recently qualified to represent GB in the J16 GB v France Match.

James Watson-Gandy and Bo Hughes spoke of their excitement in the countdown to the Fawley Cup, to become the first pre-qualified Crew for Henley Royal Regatta. They will race in the Quad with Jake Offiler and Ronnie Richardson.

James recalled, “I really enjoyed rowing after I signed up for a Learn to Row Course and then wanted to join a Club, which happened to be Globe Juniors.”

Bo was inspired by the chance to try rowing in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park:

“You found me in the Olympic Park, that’s where it started for me! I came across LYR and they were saying have a go during the summer taster sessions.

“I had the balance and some vague control and the LYR Coach Jenny said come down to a session at the Docks (now Royal Docks Adventure Centre). If I hadn’t tried rowing at the Olympic Park, I don’t think I would have tried it at all. I knew it as a sport vaguely! But rowing was never something I had thought about.

The progression from taster to joining recreational sessions and a development squad is the pathway London Youth Rowing are developing across London. As part of Active Row funded by Sport England and Tideway, there will be 8 hubs for recreational rowing East to West including the Olympic Park.

Bo recalls: “I was invited to join a session at the Royal Docks and it was suggested I join Globe Juniors. But I wasn’t sure. I wondered about rowing taking all the days in the week away from me! Once a week, gradually became twice a week and then eventually 5 or 6 days a week. Everyone was really friendly, started to know more people and laugh and joke with the group I got to know at rowing.

James reflected on the balance between rowing and preparing for GCSE exams this summer. “We’ve all had exams most days and got into a good routine. I kept training and that was my break during revision periods. I needed to get out the house and train, it was an important balance.

“For me rowing is the chance to be with your mates, go out on the beautiful water and de-stress.”

Bo talks about the hook of rowing compared to other sports:

“The constant opportunity to push yourself, I always felt I could do better, I felt like I was giving it everything to reach the limit. As I trained more, I wanted to progress more. I continue to push myself now and give it everything. Looking back, I never thought I would love rowing. But everyone can access rowing and give it a go, you will definitely get a lot fitter!

Now the whole family have been inspired by Bo to row at home (with a rowing machine provided by LYR).

“My whole family have tried rowing and do some ergs at home now! Now Dad has his exercise kick, and enjoys going to the outside gym regularly.

James captured the excitement of the Crew for Henley: “Last year, unfortunately we just missed out. It’s really exciting, we will perform at the very best we can. It’s time to go and smash it! We’ve had amazing support from our Coaches led by Maurice and it’s so focussed, we’ll be ready.”