200 years of rowing history celebrated
Great Britain’s Leander Club, based in Henley-on-Thames, England, is currently celebrating 200 years since its foundation in London in 1818.
The club was founded when six gentlemen first set out in ‘The Leander’, a clinker-built cutter, from Searles’s boathouse on the south bank of the Thames in Lambeth, London, on the site of what is now St Thomas’s Hospital.
Some 40 years later Leander moved upstream to Putney to avoid the congestion and pollution which had become prevalent in London throughout the 19th century. But it wasn’t until 1896 that Leander finally developed its clubhouse in Henley.
That development coincided with the foundation of the modern Olympic Games. Leander athletes have since gone on to win 124 Olympic medals, as well as three Paralympic golds, as member of the British Rowing Team.
“By that standard we regard ourselves as the most successful rowing club in the world, as our Olympic tally is the envy of many entire nations,” said club president Jeremy Randall.
Leander has been similarly successful at Henley Royal Regatta where, by coincidence, the club has so far notched up 199 wins in its first 199 years and is looking to record its 200th win at this year’s regatta, which starts on 4 July.
The club’s bicentenary events began earlier in the year, with the publication of a book ‘Leander: The First 200 Years’ and has since been followed by celebratory dinners in Dublin, Sydney, New York, Johannesburg and Dubai, allowing the club’s worldwide membership of 3500 to engage in an event.
Other events include an exhibition at the River and Rowing Museum in Henley, which will last until 16 July, and the ‘Hippo 200 Project’ in which local clubs, schools and organisations are invited to decorate hippos as part of a community-wide project to raise awareness of the Kafue River & Rowing Centre, World Rowing’s clean water project in Zambia.
Leander’s vision for the future includes sharing its hard-won expertise with others in the sport.
The club’s schools outreach project is already reaping rewards by attracting new talent from local, non-rowing, state schools. Having expressed an interest in the sport boys and girls can then be directed to other rowing clubs in the area while some are recruited to the high-performance programme at Leander.
Its elite rowing programme has generated an enviable degree of success over recent years, with sporting legends including Pete Reed, Debbie Flood, Steve Redgrave, Vicky Thornley, Matthew Pinsent and Anna Watkins.
The club’s fledgling coaches’ outreach programme has drawn support from both British Rowing and World Rowing as it seeks to nurture promising coaching talent in developing rowing nations.
Details of Leander and its bicentenary programme can be found at www.leander.co.uk