The National Schools' Regatta is the largest regatta for juniors in Great Britain. Held annually in May, the regatta offers events for Junior rowers between J14 and J18. The regatta was first raced in 1947, and has since grown to what is a world class event enjoyed by clubs and schools across the United Kingdom.
History of the NSR
Not long after the end of World War Two, competitive rowing for Schools was very limited, particularly for crews below First and Second Eight level. In 1947, as a result of a desire to provide wider experience and competition, Mr Desmond Hill, then Master-in-charge of Rowing at St Edward’s School, Oxford, issued invitations to the Third VIIIs of Shrewsbury, Bedford School, and Radley to race St Edwards at Godstow, and so the “Colts and Third Eights Regatta”, now the National Schools’ Regatta, was born.
More than sixty years after its founding, the National Schools Regatta, or NSR, is today a very different proposition. It has evolved into an event that is the largest domestic rowing event for girls and boys of school age, run over three days with around 3,500 competitors contesting 50 different events.
Until 1973 the Regatta took place at a number of venues in the Thames Valley; four years at Godstow was followed by one year at Eton and a year at Radley, and then from 1953 ten years at the Nautical College at Pangbourne. At that stage the steady addition of new events resulted in the Regatta needing a new home which it found a mile upstream of Pangbourne at the Childe-Beale Trust Estate. The introduction of the new events meant that the original name was no longer appropriate, and so it was in 1964 that the Regatta was renamed The National Schools Regatta.
During the next decade, Junior Rowing flourished, helped by the creation of the first World and European Junior Championships which took place in Ratzeburg in 1967. The NSR continued to expand and flourish in the idyllic setting on the Childe-Beale Estate, but bad weather conditions rendering the course less than wholly fair, and the opening of the six lane course at Holme Pierrepont meant that it was only natural that in 1973 the Regatta should move to its sixth, and current home, at the National Watersports Centre.
In 1979 the committee introduced the first event for Girls (4+), and the Regatta continued to see a steady increase in popularity. Desmond Hill continued as Chairman of the Regatta until his death in 1984, and today his founding and administration of the Regatta is commemorated on the reverse of the Medals presented to successful competitors.
David McLellan followed the Founder as Chairman, and the event continued to grow apace following the steady expansion of events open to Girls from 1985 onwards. In 1987 an unfortunate milestone was achieved when the whole Regatta was abandoned due to the weather, but three years later in 1990 the expansion of the programme led to the introduction of a two-day regatta. Inevitably further innovations followed, such as the addition of J14 Octuples in 1991.
Peter Politzer assumed the Chairmanship in 1996, and under his careful stewardship the NSR continued to reflect and encourage the increasing popularity of Junior Rowing. In 2004, after a six year period in which J14 events were withdrawn due to the pressure on the programme, a third day was added to the programme which allowed the readmission of J14s to the Regatta.
Following the 2006 event, George Hammond became the Chairman, and he leads the committee’s resolve to ensure that the NSR will continue to provide competition for as wide and as high quality an event as is possible. It also intends to help nourish Junior Rowing as a whole which, through its charitable status, it has been able to do by supporting various causes.
Until 1973 the Regatta took place at a number of venues in the Thames Valley. There were four years at Godstow, followed by one year at Eton, a year at Radley and then for ten years from 1953 at the Nautical College at Pangbourne. However, as new events were added and the Regatta became more popular it needed another new home. By 1964 it was clear the event was appealing to a much wider rowing network. The original name was no longer appropriate, and the regatta was renamed The National Schools’ Regatta. The idyllic setting of Childe-Beale Trust Estate was found a mile upstream of Pangbourne and became home until 1973.
As the regatta expanded so did the river banks with supporters! The welcoming atmosphere encouraged spectators to cheer from the banks of the river but sadly bad weather conditions often caused the course to be at times unfair. A six lane rowing course at Holme Pierrepont, Nottingham, opened in 1973 in time for the Junior World Championships. It was meant to be and NSR moved to its sixth home at The National Watersports Centre, Nottingham in 1973 too. In 2016, NSR moved to it’s current home, the 2012 Olympic rowing venue, Dorney Lake.
Event for Girls:
By the 1970’s more girls were rowing and in 1979 the Committee introduced the first Girls event. The Junior Coxed Fours event was popular and was won by Walton Rowing Club in 1979 and 1980.
In 1985 Girls Championship Singles was added to the programme followed by more events after this. The regatta now boasts equal racing opportunity for girls and boys.
Three Day Regatta:
In 1990 the race programme was expanded further to form a two-day regatta. This allowed more events to be accommodated with the addition of J14 Octuples in 1991. Sadly the J14’s were taken out of the regatta in 1998 due to lack of time. However in 2004, a third day was added to the programme and the Junior 14’s were back!
Desmond Hill OBE gave his time as Secretary of the Regatta until his death in 1984. His founding and administration of the Regatta is commemorated on the reverse of the NSR Medals. Desmond Hill worked very closely with a team of colleagues and between them all they laid the foundations for National Schools Regatta to flourish. Always one of the team, Desmond resisted the title of Chairman and the setting up of a regatta committee.
Lt Col David McLellan OBE followed the Founder as Chairman. The event continued to grow apace following the steady expansion of events open to Girls from 1985 onwards.
Peter Politzer assumed the Chairmanship in 1996. Under his careful stewardship the NSR continued to reflect and encourage the increasing popularity of Junior Rowing.
Seventy years after its founding, National Schools’ Regatta attracts crews from the length and breadth of the U.K. and Ireland.
George Hammond became the Chairman in 2006.
NSR is proud to be the premier junior rowing event for girls and boys, racing over three days with around 5,000 competitors.