Furnival Sculling Club

Furnivall Sculling ClubRowing club based in Hammersmith, London. Established 1896

A journey about 4 blokes trying to qualify for Henley

Tuesday, 18th June 2019

12 months ago, our M4- raced at Twickenham regatta and came 2nd to a very good Ardingly M4- who later went on to qualify for Henley Royal Regatta. That race set in motion an aspiration to attempt to qualify a M4- from Furnivall for the Wyfolds at HRR, something that hasn’t happened since 2002. Fast-forward 12 months later and the final phase of our training is underway.

Furnivall is not your average club. Our membership is broad in terms of diversity, and what we offer as a rowing club. We have a lot of professionals in our club who are time-poor. Herein lies the first challenge we would have to overcome if we wanted to stand a realistic chance of going to HRR; how do we find enough water time together? Thankfully, Furnivall's flexible approach to training, by both our coaching and management team, make that obtainable, allowing us to train when we need to and can, rather than being dictated too.

Like our club, our crew isn’t conventional in the slightest. We’re verging on being lightweights and not all of us are over 6’ nor in our early twenties. We range from 24 to 35, 69 kgs to 83 and we sure as hell aren’t hung up about erg scores!

Dan is the baby of the crew and a lawyer - we also trust him to steer after only rowing for 18 months. Pierre is our charming french finance professional, elder statesmen at 35 and our stroke rower. Luke is a construction professional who was probably rowing before he could walk and provides the good looks and midships grunt. And finally me, the 69 kg engine room who is another construction industry (railways though) project manager and a gig rower originally from Cornwall.

Despite our unconventional qualities, we make it work. We have to, because we believe in our goal and in each other to deliver. We work around each other's hectic work commitments and somehow we find the time to get training sessions in. Even if this means agreeing to trailer to Henley or Cambridge and do 5-6 outings in a weekend to make the most of good water. Maybe not rocket science for some crews and clubs out there, but this is a big deal for us and a big behaviour and mindset change.

Our journey has been a long one. As a crew we’ve come a long way and we’re still gelling and learning as we go. We all bring something to the boat but learning how to row with each other has been half the battle. Like many crews, we’ve had our ups and downs - learning to trust, tolerate and respect each other has been hard at times, whether that be dealing with my general mental wellbeing issues, trusting Dan to steer the boat and not kill us (moderately successful to date), Luke’s relentless drive for perfection every stroke or Pierre having a habit of doing what he wants, when he wants. So very French.

We’ve come a long way individually of course. I’m unlearning 15 years of habits from rowing Cornish pilot gigs, Dan's learning how to steer a coxless boat when he has only been rowing for 18 months and Pierre's learning to do what he is told, when he is told (still working on that bit!).

Every time we go out, we make small improvements, fine-tuning the boat, our calls, our set-up - working together as a crew pushing the performance envelope of what is possible - especially for ‘corporate athletes’ such as ourselves. Of course more is possible: plenty of clubs up and down the country have professionals who row and who train more days a week than we do. But that's not the Furnivall USP. We provide flexibility to accommodate those who want to row at a decent standard but can’t commit to what other clubs expect of you just to pull on their unisuit - never mind get in a top boat.

That's the great thing about being part of a club like Furnivall and having an aspirational goal. It’s working towards something, learning as you go, feeling that reward, sense of achievement and accomplishment - especially as a small underdog kind of club. There have been plenty of moments so far where we have surprised ourselves and our coaches along the way. It’s about having a supportive coaching team who push you to places you don’t want to go. Not letting your crew down, but most importantly, not letting yourself down.

In the last few weeks things have really clicked for us. Our bad strokes, dodgy pieces and downright atrocious outings are outweighed by the good ones. The momentum is building and each session we feel more confident that we have the speed and technique needed to carry this off. Can we qualify? I honestly don’t know; we can’t control the uncontrollable and are solely focussed on rowing our very best race we can when we go to Qualifiers on Friday 28 June. Maybe, just maybe, we will qualify a boat from Furnivall Sculling Club for Henley Royal 2019 and write a new chapter in the story of this small, quirky and eccentric underdog of a club.

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