A Rob Roy BC junior girls’ quad made history last week racing at Henley Royal Regatta in the first round of the Diamond Jubilee Challenge Cup. This was the first time a junior crew from the Club has raced at Henley, the most prestigious club regatta in the world.

Even more impressive is that all four girls in the crew come from local state schools and only took up rowing because of the Try Rowing schools outreach programme provided by Rob Roy Boat Club.

The crew was:

Grace Church and Abigail Jackson of Parkside School

Eloise Cotrel and Prune Lestienne of Chesterton School

Prune had jumped into the crew at the last minute replacing Lily Martin of Parkside, who was ill with covid. (Lily, devastated at missing out, also started her rowing career at Try Rowing, where she had insisted on taking part in the gym selection tests, even with a broken arm).

Although the crew just lost their race against Bedford Modern School, the commentators praised their determination and rhythm, set up by stroke girl, Grace Church: ‘Quad sculling at Henley at its finest’ was their comment.


Director of Junior Rowing at Rob Roy, Jo Burch was at home with covid, watching the live stream at her desk: ‘We are all so proud of the girls racing heroically in dreadful conditions. I was in floods of tears at the end of the race! We saw the raw talent in these girls aged 13, when they took part in our Try Rowing outreach project a couple of years ago, and have watched them mature into outstanding oarswomen. They arerole models for the rest of the squad not only in their sculling ability but in their determination and commitment to their training, to their schoolwork (they have all had A levels or GCSEs this year), and to the teamwork which is needed to make a squad like ours so successful – they have even put in the time to coach the next generation of pupils at this year’s Try Rowing project!


The Try Rowing Boat Race Day this year is on Thursday 7thJuly, on the Lake at Milton Country Park. The event is now one of the sporting highlights for pupils at Chesterton and Parkside Schools. Jo Burch, who coordinates the annual outreach project says, ‘Pupils work incredibly hard to be selected during our gym testing sessions; they’re a joy to coach during training at Milton, learning difficult sculling skills very quickly; they push themselves each week on the rowing machines during the ergometer relay challenge; and then they all give everything they’ve got on Race Day.”

Carl Humphries, Head of PE at Chesterton agrees. “Selection for Try Rowing is massively prestigious among the pupils – to be able to introduce them to a new sport which, for some of them, becomes a life-long passion, is a real privilege”.

Try Rowing is funded through a legacy from ‘Curly’ Galbraith, who started the junior rowing squad at Rob Roy BC many years ago: “Curly’s legacy also allows us to award Try Rowing scholarships to deserving, inviting them to row with the Rob Roy BC junior squad next year. Not only are we grateful to Curly’s family but we’d also like to thank the Cambridge Sport Lakes Trust, which manages Milton Country Park, for their support.”