The young volunteers behind the National Schools Regatta live stream
One of the features of any large rowing event is the reliance on volunteers to undertake the majority of the work. Headline sponsor, Charles Stanley, provide invaluable funding for filming National Schools’ Regatta. Their sponsorship provides for the production crew, kit and big screens at the venue, with the filming being undertaken by a small volunteer army of enthusiastic students from Holyport College and Eton College.
Holyport College is a free school (academy school) created in 2014 and benefits from having Eton College as it’s educational sponsor. In year 7 & 9 the Holyport children are able to do their PE at Dorney Lake and although not a rowing school the children are encouraged to row at local clubs including Eton Excelsior, Maidenhead & Staines rowing clubs. The current chairman of British Rowing, Mark Davies is a governor at the school which recently received an Outstanding assessment from OFSTED.
Fiona Lunney is both a rowing coach and a teacher at Holyport who in the past has worked for British Rowing as a community sports coach. Having learned to row at Headington School Oxford, she qualified as a coach at the age of 16 and has coached at Southampton University & Claires Court School. “I was keen for the kids to get involved in a regatta when NSR moved down from Nottingham. It’s great for them to see what goes on and for the last 2 years, we have taken 20 kids to help with the filming of the live stream. They will be manning the cameras down the course for the live stream on Friday as well as running the social media feeds for the event.”
Once the Holyport College kids have completed their duties on Friday, Eton College steps in to take over media duties. The boys are part of the Farrer Crew, the group of boys who look after the production side of the Farrer Theatre at Eton. Steve Hermes, former master in charge of rowing at Eton and NSR committee member, says the boys have a real passion for what they do. “They don’t need much persuading to get involved in an outdoor production on the scale of NSR, it’s a great experience for them. Some of them are studying drama at school but most are involved in the theatre as part of the co-curricular activities.”
Hermes, a housemaster at Eton, helped to facilitate the transition to Eton Dorney when the Nottingham venue was not available in 2016. Now he works as the liaison between the regatta and Dorney Lake, built by Eton College at a cost of £18m. Eton funded the entire project with the exception of the finish tower for which they received funding of around £400,000 from the National Lottery.
In addition to the kids helping with the media from Holyport and Eton College, there are a vast number of volunteers involved with NSR. Hermes told WEROW: “The committee, who are all volunteers themselves, work incredibly hard to make sure the experience of the athletes, parents and supporters are first in their minds. But they are also keen to ensure that the experience of all the volunteers is a first class one, without whom it would be impossible to run NSR. I think we are one of the only major regattas that pay for the accommodation of all the umpires and we have 60 of them working each day.”
NSR do bring in paid support staff for security, gate duties and catering but the vast majority of what happens at NSR happens because of volunteers.
National Schools Regatta is certainly the largest junior regatta in the UK, possibly in Europe and who knows, possibly the world, and what’s more, it’s growing. “Sculling is growing, girls rowing is growing and despite the competition changes this year, the number of entries was up on last year,” says Hermes. “With the addition of NSRi, we are keen to open the sport up, attract and include more young people into the event whilst ensuring the experience remains world class.”