After one of the worst ever winters for rowing – the majority of the Heads cancelled because of high river flows all over the country – this should be a pivotal moment for our Club, our rowers, our staff and all our members. The clocks change this weekend and we should be looking forward to a wonderful spring and summer – the regatta season should soon be underway, Henley Royal Regatta will be offering a new event for student women’s eights, the Opening Ceremony for the Tokyo Olympics is scheduled for 24th July.
As I write this message I am looking out the window at a beautiful blue sky, the river flow is dropping steadily and there is a gentle wind. What could be wrong with this picture?
Sadly, as we now know, appearances can be deceptive. The spread of the Coronavirus around the world has had a devastating impact on every single person, every business, every institution – there are no exceptions. On Tuesday the Committee took the inevitable decision to close the Club for all activities. Our athletes have been allowed to take equipment home to continue their training – on Monday evening I followed one of our women rowers across Henley Bridge, towing an ergometer over her shoulder!
Henley Royal Regatta has been cancelled, the announcement being made on the same day as the Olympic Games in Tokyo were postponed to 2021. This has had a huge impact on our Leander rowers – both those at Caversham with Team GB and those training at the Club. Some will face the challenging decision to continue for one more year than they had planned – some may decide to call it a day. Happily, for most of our rowers training from the Club their target is the Paris Olympics in 2024. Our coaching team will be working hard to adapt training schedules to cope with a summer season with, possibly, very few regattas.
The Club has battened down the hatches – our office staff are working from home, our house staff are engaged in a ‘super spring clean’ and there is a Duty Manager on site to ensure the security of the Clubhouse. Sadly, the seemingly splendid initiative to provide takeaway ‘crew meals’ from the Clubhouse has had to close down – most of our crews have gone back home while other administrative obstacles have been uncovered.
May I wish you all a safe and healthy next few months. There will be an end to this dreadful pandemic – may it come sooner rather than later.
Mike Sweeney CBE, President