The Rowing Courses: A Brief History




The Eton Rowing Courses were established in 1989 when John Langfield, an Eton master in charge of internal rowing at the time, came up with the idea of utilising the College’s enviable fleet of rowing equipment and facilities for the benefit of external students during Eton’s summer holiday period – a proposal that was widely supported by the College authorities. As founder of the Courses, Mr Langfield served for 10 years as Course Director before retiring in 2000, during which time the Courses had grown immeasurably in terms of both popularity and services to rowing.

Today the Courses are the largest of their kind in the world, and accommodate a total of roughly 230 boys and girls every summer, spread over three one-week Courses. Many of those attending come from countries as far afield as Hong Kong, Japan, South Africa and the USA. Since 1989, almost 5000 students have taken part on the Courses, with several going on to row for their country at an 
international level.

Who Can Attend?

Beginners usually make up about one-third of the total, and are particularly welcome, as are students of all abilities from overseas. Membership of a rowing club or a school boat club is not required.

The only qualification required will be the ability to tread water for three minutes, immediately followed by a swim of 175 metres in swimming kit; this will be tested at Eton on the day of arrival. 
We also request that students attending from abroad have a reasonable knowledge of the English language so that they can adequately understand the written and verbal instructions which they receive whilst here.

The Courses are open to boys and girls aged 12 - 17 when they arrive in Eton for the first day of their rowing course. (In other words we CAN accept applications from 11 year old students as long as they are 12 when they arrive in Eton, but we CANNOT accept applications from students who are 18 when they arrive in Eton, even if they applied for a place when they were 17).

Aims of the Courses

To experience rowing & sculling in Eton's unparalleled rowing environment : The Courses aim to introduce students to the sport in its entirety. Everyone takes part in both sculling and rowing, and opportunities exist to row on bow side and stroke side, and even to try coxing! How often can one stand up in a fixed pin/fixed seat eight that may be nearly 100 years old?! There are also other watersports such as kayaking and dragon boating included in the timetable. The outings on the water are also supplemented by land-based sessions - looking at video footage of the morning outings, or British Rowing videos, or learning about stretching, coxing, boat rigging etc.

To learn and improve technique, with excellent instruction, equipment and facilities: All participants receive instruction from qualified coaches and their assistants. 2-3 outings take place each day, using quality equipment ranging from Eton Phoenix single sculls to racing eights. Eton’s excellent rowing facilities include the international standard 8-lane course at Dorney Lake, as well as 3 boathouses on the River Thames. Parents of all participants are sent a report at the end of the Courses, completed by the Coach who instructs them during the week and monitors their progress. Usually we are lucky to receive visits from recent World Championship and Olympic Medalists, and in previous years these have included outstanding talks given by Matthew Pinsent, Sir Steven Redgrave and Tim Foster, helping greatly to motivate and inspire the students.

To enjoy a varied participation in every aspect of the sport, and other related activities. Eton College is a very enjoyable place to be in the summer holiday period, with a host of outdoor facilities available to students. The Rowing Courses appeal to all comers, whether serious junior rowers keen to make progress using the very best facilities, or simply beginners new to the sport keen to spend an enjoyable week outdoors in the summer. The most enjoyable activities cited by students from previous years have been the trips to Queens Eyot island (5 miles upstream by Dragon Boat), the visits to the River & Rowing Museum at Henley, kayaking, the talks by Olympic Gold Medalists, and the Procession of Boats on the final morning.

Eton College

Eton College, arguably the most famous school in the world, was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI and celebrated its 550th anniversary in 1990. It has educated 20 Prime Ministers and countless eminent men in all walks of life. There are currently 1290 boys at the School accommodated in 25 boarding houses and taught by over 140 masters. Eton is undoubtedly one of the best-equipped schools in the world, and like so many others, is keen to make its facilities and expertise available to visiting students during the summer holidays, including, of course, those taking part on the Eton Rowing Courses.

Eton College Boat Club

Eton boasts the largest school boat club in the world, and undoubtedly the most successful. Up to 2006, Etonians had won a total of 685 Blues in the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race. 
At Henley Royal Regatta Eton crews have won the Ladies Plate  24 times, the Princess Elizabeth 9 times and the Visitors once. There have been 68 individual appearances in the Olympics (including Matthew Pinsent, who has won gold medals at each of the last 4 Olympic Games, most memorably in Athens in 2004), and 135 appearances in the FISA Junior World Championships. Over 500 boys throughout the College row each summer term.

As part of its long-term commitment to rowing, Eton has invested heavily in financing and building an 8-lane international standard rowing course nearby at Dorney Lake  and this now features heavily in our Rowing Course activities. In terms of rowing facilities this Lake is second to none, having successfully hosted the World Rowing Championships in 2006, and the 2012 Olympics.