If you think about the best schoolboy sculling centres in the UK over the past decade, there are a few names that immediately come to mind. Sir William Borlase and their three wins in four years in the Fawley Challenge Cup from 2012 to 2015. The Windsor Boys School and their remarkable consistency at the summit of schoolboy sculling. And then, Claires Court School (CCSBC).
Ever-present with the big boys since re-emerging on the scene in 2013, the club has a proud history of launching young athletes into the national and international rowing community. The club was founded in 1985 and row out of Maidenhead Rowing Club, nestled in the Thames Valley. It’s an ideal location to produce a conveyor belt of sculling talent; the club have had numerous athletes represent Great Britain and have also collected three Fawley Challenge Cup trophies (two in association with The Windsor Boys School) in their 37-year tenure.
The quickest acceleration of the CCSBC program has come in the past decade, after Tom Jost and Chris Clark took over the program in 2012. The club’s first appearance as a complete CCSBC unit at the Henley Royal Regatta was in 2013, after a stellar season for their J16 cohort. Although they exited in the first round, it set their stall out as a club to watch.
CCSBC’s program is built in cycles, with development years beginning at J15/J16 level so that those athletes can pass through the program with every intention of winning national silverware when they reach J18. The club’s crowning glory came in 2016, when they not only won the Fawley Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta but also secured the historic ‘Triple Crown’ – winning the boys quad title at both the Schools’ Head of the River and National Schools’ Regatta alongside their Henley triumph.
Like the boys, the girls are following a similarly patient, well-thought-out approach. Last year saw the club qualify their first female junior crew for Henley Royal Regatta whilst they won a silver medal in the double at the National Schools’ Regatta. Although the boys program is a little way ahead in terms of maturity, the girls squad are benefitting from the same impressive coaching regime and results are already beginning to show.
Entering 2022, as the world steps carefully out of the COVID-19 quagmire, there is perhaps nobody better suited to lead the club forward than a sculler who rose up the ranks to win Henley in 2016 in a CCSBC vest. Alex Richardson, who featured in every HRR CCSBC quad from 2013 to 2016, took over from Tom Jost at the beginning of the 2021/22 season and is already preparing his squad for a busy summer of racing. “We typically have our four fastest athletes in the quad, with a view to settling in the top three or four boats in the country,” explained Alex. “The eight is our second crew and is set up with the target of qualifying for the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup and potentially making it through a round or two”.
WinTech Racing have partnered with CCSBC for several years now, stretching back to Tom Jost’s takeover of the program. Although the club have several different brands in their boathouse, Alex described our shells as the backbone of the fleet. “Simply put, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do without the help and support of Oarsport and WinTech Racing,” he said. “We won the 2016 Schools’ Head of the River in a WinTech Racing International and they’re just phenomenal boats. Our whole squad train and race in their singles, doubles and quads throughout the season”.
For this season, Alex feels the club and current cohort are in a good place. COVID-19 disrupted their cycle of growth, after a very promising 2019, which meant 2020 and the possible culmination of years of hard work was ruined. The club are back on track now though and mixing it up with the top schoolboy quads again. “We’re really excited for the summer and I think we’re capable of having a strong season, in both the eight and the quad,” said Alex. “Critically, the depth is there and I’m hopeful that we’re going to be able to boat not only a highly competitive quad but perhaps one of the fastest eights CCSBC has ever backed”.
With multiple athletes, boats and priorities to juggle, Alex knows he can rely on the support and service of Oarsport and WinTech Racing. “They’re really responsive,” he commented. “Whenever we have an issue or a question, Andrew always responds incredibly quickly and is full of helpful recommendations and suggestions”.
Some might say that the golden years of CCSBC are behind them. A Henley win, backed up by a remarkable Triple, alongside another Fawley Challenge Cup final berth in 2017, represents a pretty lofty goal to match let alone exceed. But, as is so often the case in competitive sport, success breeds success. Tom Jost and Chris Clark put the club firmly back on the map. Alex Richardson wants to be the man to take them forward to greater, brighter, silverware-laden heights – and WinTech Racing are excited to enable that journey.
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