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Rob Roy Boat Club junior squad launch crowdfunding campaign to keep oars in water

Rob Roy Boat Club juniors are running a crowdfunding campaign
Rob Roy Boat Club juniors are running a crowdfunding campaign

Getting the junior squad waterborne again in the new year is one of the main ambitions of Rob Roy Boat Club’s crowdfunding initiative.

They had launched a fundraising campaign to raise £10,000 to help replace the revenue lost by cancelled events in 2020, in order to keep the junior rowers afloat.

Rob Roy’s scheme has been so successful that they have now increased their target.

At the start of the 2020 season, the club were looking ahead to the campaign with the 60-strong junior squad, with at least eight of the top junior scullers aiming for GB junior trials.

They also had several 14 to 18-year-old crews heading for national championships and regional representation, and a new cohort of 13-year-old beginners going into the squad.

But, as with the rest of the world, the pandemic shelved those plans.

It also hit Rob Roy’s community programmes and events.

Without their own premises, the club use outreach programmes to help connect with others and this is through such things as a have-a-go-on-an-ergo session at Milton Country Park’s family fun day, Learn to Row bootcamps during Easter and summer holiday courses, and Try Rowing, which engages with Year 7 and 8 pupils.

They have also been hit without being able to hold any racing, with the Cambridge Small Boats Head, Cambridge Autumn Head and Frostbite regatta all cancelled.

The total cost of lost revenue was £5,5000 from the cancelled head races and £3,000 from the school holiday Learn To Row courses, and that is usually used to cover unavoidable running costs such as boat rack rents, insurance, registrations, repairs and maintenance.

With the coaching costs also having to be taken into consideration, as the junior squads had to go out in smaller groups because of Covid restrictions, it meant a total loss of £10,000.

Jo Burch, Rob Roy’s junior squad co-ordinator and part of the junior coaching team, said: “We decided to launch the crowdfunding appeal because we’d lost vital revenue during 2020, having been forced to cancel three of our major fundraising events due to Covid – and we wanted to try to make sure that, Covid-permitting, we can go ahead with all our outreach and junior squad programmes in 2021, including particularly our Try Rowing project for local state schools which pupils missed out on this year.

“We’ve kept the junior squad engaged this year with a series of different lockdown challenges.

“During the first lockdown, we awarded a batch of flapjack to the junior who recorded the most training hours land-training at home.

“Some of the juniors kept up a remarkable 20 hours a week all through lockdown.

“To reward the whole squad for taking part, we launched a ‘Lockdown Challenge Vest Design’ competition, won by one of our youngest juniors, Abbey Holdstock.

“We commissioned Talking Ts to make the vests and were delighted to be able to hand them out to every member of the junior squad when we were able to meet again in August.

“During the second lockdown, we lent our GB trialists our club rowing machines and they have been doing Zoom ergo sessions together with our coaches.

“Our strength and conditioning coach, Gosia Bieniek, of the Light Blue Clinic, has been running zoom S+C sessions with our performance squad, and we have now all returned to circuit training and squad runs in small groups, as well as getting back on the water.

“It is hugely rewarding that all of our juniors have returned to the squad after the lockdowns and all of them have remembered how to scull beautifully.”

While they are unable to replace the introduction to rowing for teenagers through the Try Rowing programme or the chance to trial for the GB national junior under-16 squad, the fundraising will help keep the junior squad on the water next year, paying for their insurance, registrations and boat rack rents.

Depending on government guidelines, it will also allow them to run the Try Rowing programme.

Burch added: “I’m delighted to say that we are very nearly there with our crowdfunding, which releases support from Sport England.

“I want to say an enormous thank you to all those who have so generously supported our appeal.”

For more information, visit crowdfunder.co.uk/rob-roy-boat-club-covid-fundraiser.

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