Letter from Andy Greenwell

Dear Nick,

I saw, in the ARA's "Regatta" magazine, that you are trying to find ex-members of the University of Warwick Boat Club.

I rowed for Warwick from October 1967 until May 1970, when occupying the Registry and trying to sack the Vice Chancellor (Black Jack Butterworth) and his business cronies seemed to be more important.

For the first year or so we borrowed boats from Stratford on Avon Rowing Club, and used to paddle up and down past the tourists in Stratford on Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings. In those days you could follow that with a stroll across to the theatre to buy a cheap (on-the-day) ticket for the evening's performance, followed by a pint or two in the Dirty Duck and a bit of shopping in the afternoon. I seem to remember that this arrangement came to an end when Stratford accused UofWBC with damaging some of their boats, (which we knew nothing about, and which is the sort of problem that you always seem to get when two clubs share a boathouse).

Godfrey Bishop (the Captain, ex-Kingston on Thames RC and whom I later met (in 1989) as a rowing coach at Worcester) and (I think), Don Trenear-Thomas, managed to get permission to row between Warwick Castle and Barford Weir, with a wooden boathouse which had been in use at the main Warwick campus moved to Barford next to the Warwick Bypass. He also got a floating landing stage, a new 4- (Sims?) (from the Rootes Memorial Fund, I think) and some second-hand restricted 4+ and I think a clinker or restricted 8o, I believe from Kingston. Some time later we sank in mid-river in the 8o, as it was a bit leaky and filled up before we could finish the outing.

I also recall a one piece wooden (?shell) eight being purchased from Kingston, and a motley crew of London-area-based UofW BC members assembling one vacation to row it downstream through Teddington and Richmond locks to Sims at Putney to be sectioned. This half-marathon journey down onto the tideway was because couldn't afford to hire one of the boat lorries which used to carry one-piece eights up and down the Thames Valley to regattas in the 60s. I don't think the De Graaf tri-axle boat trailer had been invented then.

We used to race at Stratford and Evesham Regattas, and one summer, four of us raced a Novice or Senior C (= Sen 4 or 3) 4+ at Egham, Maidenhead, Henley Town & Vistors and Staines. I don't think we won, but it was useful experience and useful flag-waving for the very new University (the first undergraduates to be accepted by Warwick only started 2 years before our year).

We also raced against the 'local' universities, Birmingham, Aberystwyth, and Leicester, and I remember one memorable set of fours races on Edgbaston Reservoir in the snow, followed a few weeks later by a race against Leicester at Barford, also in a snowstorm. I think that would have been in 1969. We had taken the sectioned restricted 4+ and the oars to Edgbaston on a roofrack on my mini-van, with the riggers, seats and all 5 of us crammed inside.

I subsequently gave up rowing for nearly 10 years, as I got a job in Bedford and thought the boat club there were an unwelcoming lot. However in 1979 I began going out with young woman who had stroked the OUWBC boat, and started rowing again for Sudbury RC in Suffolk. We raced quite often at Cambridge, all over East Anglia and the south east. When I split from the OUWBC lady, I rowed for Bedford for a couple of years (and realised that the unwelcoming lot of 10 years before were really quite a good crowd), stroked one of their eights at the Tideway, etc.

In 1983 I got a job in Cheshire and rowed for Northwich RC's Vet B crews until about 1987, including going to the FISA Vets in Ghent in an eight in 1984. We didn't win, but since we had Kingston on Thames and Lea RC in our final, we didn't do too badly. I started umpiring around that time.

In 1987 I took up coaching a small WJ15 squad at Northwich, who'd had a few outings for a 'fun' inter-schools regatta. I taught them to be less of a nuisance to the rest of the crews on the river, by rowing competently, and subsequently won numerous regattas and heads with them, getting a 4th in WJ16 8o in the Nat Champs in Strathclyde in 89, a 2nd in WJ4+ at Nottingham the following year, and representing England in the Home Countries International later in 1990. Since I was learning coaching, weight training instruction etc. about half a step ahead of the girls, I think we did pretty well. We also had quite a good time, racing in London and Bedford, Gloucester and Ross on Wye, Glasgow and Sheffield and anywhere in between. In my spare time I was the NW Region's Junior rep on the ARA Junior Rowing Commission.

In 1990 I moved clubs to row for Runcorn RC, and last weekend I was organising the officials for the Runcorn Eights Head, over 500 competitors racing a distance of 5500 metres. I currently do a bit of ergo-ing and sculling, but haven't had time to race for a couple of years (I have a number of other interests which are quite time consuming).

Well, that's told you a great deal more than you wanted to know, hasn't it?

I think the point I'd like to make, is that the rowing I learned at Warwick gave me an easy entry into a social and sporting scene when work took me to a strange town (whether it was Cambridge or Cheshire). I've rowed in some crap crews, and some that were pure delight (a scratch outing in a new boat with Peterborough's Sen 1 4+ on the Nene one evening, when I was over there on business for a couple of days, for example) but I'm sure that outings on the river over the last 30 years have helped to offset the stresses of work, (first in Finance, and later in IT), and kept me sane.

The only other person I still know from Warwick rowing days is Neil Wigglesworth, who was at Warwick at the same time as me, and who has been a stalwart of John O' Gaunt Rowing Club at Lancaster, and Lancaster Regatta, for at least the last 15 years. He's still racing in Vet 4 events.

Andy Greenwell.

ex- University of Warwick BC (1967-70) 
ex- Sudbury RC (1979-80) 
ex- Bedford RC (1981-83) 
ex- Northwich RC (1983-90) 
Runcorn RC (1991 - present) 
WGBC (2007 - present)