In normal times, I spend a fair bit of time in the Lea Rowing Club bar. The main attraction (besides the reasonably priced beer) is the chance to catch up with members old and new. Invariably this means hearing rowing stories from days gone by.
Many of them stick in my mind. Working men from the Lea turning up at Henley Regatta and embarrassing all the gentlemen. Transporting boats to regattas in the back of a hearse. That time a headless circus bear was found floating in the canal. And countless tales of winning medals – on the Lea, on the Thames, and on the international circuit.
After all, while Lea Rowing Club is now more than forty years old, the origins of our founding clubs stretch back two centuries. Thousands of people have been involved over the years - men, women, rowers, coxes and coaches. There is an awful lot of colourful history to shout about.
But life moves on, and some people aren’t around any more to tell us their stories. For that reason, we’ve launched FRIENDS OF THE LEA, a long-overdue initiative to allow past and present Lea people to stay connected and support the club.
The idea is that anyone can sign up to be sent quarterly updates on the Club’s activities, and get invited to brilliant events that bring everyone together, including an annual party. There’s also a range of special merchandise in the works. All we ask is for you to consider a regular donation to the club by standing order.
In doing so, you’ll help us write new stories for future generations. One of our key charitable objectives is to make top-level club rowing achievable – and we want to chalk up wins at Henley Regattas. We have the facilities, athletes and coaches to do this. But we need to ensure our fleet of racing boats is up to their standard.
Our hope is that FRIENDS OF THE LEA will help to secure this important target in future. For this reason, we’ve decided that all net proceeds from the scheme will be used to buy rowing equipment, under the discretion of the Captain.
I’m keen that we kick off the scheme with a big bang. So I’ve laid down an ambitious “THREE PAIRS CHALLENGE”: if we can raise £25,000 by the summer, the club will buy a brand-new racing shell for each of our men’s, women’s and junior squads. We’re already halfway there – but we need your help to reach the target.
Lots of rowing clubs have initiatives like FRIENDS OF THE LEA – but none of them have the unique and special history that we do. I hope you’ll consider supporting us, and look forward to welcoming you back to the bar in the not-too-distant future, hearing your stories about time at the club – and hopefully writing some new ones.
Matt Pooley, Club Captain
If you would like to become a FRIEND OF THE LEA please visit learc.org.uk/support-us.