Recently Press Officer Shaun Johnson interviewed Dr Pooley, to learn about the success of the Eton College Boat Club at the National Schools Regatta. It was wonderful to see the return of the NSR after its cancellation last year and Dr Pooley touched on this.
How did Eton do in the National Schools Regatta this year?
I was delighted with the performance of all crews. The Eight, Second Eight and Third Eight all won the gold medals in their events. We knew that the Upper Boats crews were strong this year and so it was very pleasing to see them realise the potential that we had seen in them. Eton had two Year 11 crews competing as well but, given how much time on the water that they have missed in the last two years, they are still on a steep learning curve. Nonetheless, Colts A made the final and Colts B won a bronze medal in their event.
What has been the most significant challenge posed by COVID to rowing this year?
Once our rowers returned from lockdown, there were restrictions on Years 12 and 13 training together and so we had separate training groups. They had to keep away from each other at all times but thankfully these regulations gradually relaxed and we were able to put crews together in the normal fashion. As the event was the first major rowing event in a year and a half, there were all sorts of COVID specific issues that had to be dealt with but everyone nationally worked together to make sure that the event went ahead, albeit with a reduced number of events.
This year Eton College became the first boat club in recent history to win the 1,2,3 of 1st, 2nd & 3rd eight at the National Schools Regatta. What did this mean for the Boat Club?
This clean sweep at the top end of NSR has been done before, but only by Eton we think. Not many schools have as many boys rowing as we do and none have their own Olympic standard rowing lake, so we do have significant advantages. However, our rowers and their coaches still have to do the hard work to make the crews reach their potential.
As far as records go, the crews try to concentrate on the process of what they are doing in training and in races. If they get those things correct, then the results tend to follow. Record times are very condition dependent (wind, steam etc.) but always nice if they come your way. We are the current holders of the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup for schoolboy eights at Henley Royal Regatta and the Eight is currently training hard in their desire to retain it. Henley has been moved to mid-August this year and so they are giving up most of their holidays in pursuit of that goal.
This has been the first time in over a year that many of the rowers have been able to take part in a competition of this nature. How valuable in your view is the competitive element to become better rowers?
Being out on a water in a well-drilled eight is always enjoyable. Training can be arduous but the summer racing is the high point of the entire season. The competitive element is there every day in that boys are striving to be the best that they can be at all times. They compete against themselves in land training, against each other on the water and for seats in the boats. Once the crews are selected the focus changes to beating the opposition. There are all sorts of ancient rivalries between the major rowing schools. Recently St. Paul’s School in London has been the dominant force but Eton could be said to be the leading school rowing programme at the moment.
Would you like to see more Eton boys engage with rowing throughout their career at school?
Currently we do have a good number of boys in the Boat Club but we do believe that rowing is good for anyone in all sort of ways. One area that I think boys could make more of is the opportunity for informal outings from Rafts in the summer.
The return of competitive sport has certainly been long awaited, and we wish the Boat Club luck in their summer ahead! You can stay updated with their news here