On 25-27th May 2018, the first National Schools Regatta Indoor (NSRi) event launched on the banks of Dorney Lake, the legendary London 2012 Olympic Rowing venue.

The on-water regatta was established in 1947 and attracts over 4000 junior competitors each year. The new indoor event was born from the ongoing drive to make the iconic regatta fully accessible to the entire rowing community.

Hosted by London Youth Rowing (LYR) on behalf of NSRi, over 80 young people from 10 different schools and rowing clubs across the nation competed on rowing machines in individual and team events. Those aged 13-18 years old took part in a 500m individual sprint event, while teams of five competed for the fastest time over 2000m. 

Gunnersbury Catholic School, Rutlish School and Mossbourne Victoria Park Academy represented LYR’s Active Row programme on the day. Active Row provides 76 schools across London with indoor rowing machines, full time coaches and access to on water rowing thanks to funding from Sport England and Tideway. Active Row students were offered free entry to relay teams in an effort to encourage those from non-traditional rowing backgrounds to experience the regatta.

Gunnersbury Catholic School have been involved in Active Row and its predecessor programmes for eight years. 20 boys raced at NSRi, bringing home the gold and silver medals in the Junior 14 relay event, a bronze medal in the Junior 15 relay event and a bronze medal in the Junior 15 individual sprint event.  

Jake Barker, a competitor from Gunnersbury Catholic School said:

‘My favourite thing about today has been seeing the amount of people that are actually involved in the sport and have a passion to do rowing. It’s always good to have people compete against each other, a good competition makes the sport even better.’

Ryan McCormack, PE teacher at Gunnersbury Catholic School said:

‘Today has been really competitive, it seems all about the racing. Everyone has been cheering everyone on, even other schools. Being here is incredible, we walked along the length of the lake before we got here to let the boys soak in the experience. I don’t think many of them have been to a facility like this before so they’re a bit ‘mind-blown’ by it. I think they seem more interested in rowing on water now. A few have already signed up to sessions after half term.’

Some competitors had also competed in the National Junior Indoor Rowing Championships (NJIRC) earlier in the year. NJIRC is the largest indoor rowing event in the World of its kind, attracting around 2500 competitors between 11-18 years from all over the country.

NJIRC was Megan Duthart’s first rowing competition, which says she looks back on as ‘one of her favourite competitions.’ It sparked her interest in pursuing rowing more seriously at Thames Rowing Club, and also in stepping into the world of coaching.

Attending NSRi as a coach for Sir Richard Reyond’s Catholic School, Megan said:

‘I think that today has been great. Our squad doesn’t have a natural route into rowing, and indoor rowing lessens the boundary between those that cannot afford to row and those who can. I think this event is really inspiring for our juniors. They started really nervous and then realised that it’s filled with kids like them at schools just like theirs.

You don’t have to be an Olympic rower to row. It’s so important for LYR to exist. LYR breaks down the elitist barriers that rowing puts up. Everyone can row, just like everyone can run!’

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