National Schools’ Regatta was the vision of Desmond Hill OBE. Desmond was a teacher and Master-in-charge of Rowing at St Edward’s School, Oxford. Desmond wanted the crews he coached to have more opportunities to race in order to gain experience. After World War Two there were not many competitive races for junior rowers. In particular for school crews below First and Second Eight level.
Desmond was inspired to organise a regatta where crews had more than one race in a day. So in 1947, he issued invitations to the Third VIIIs of Shrewsbury, Bedford School, and Radley to race St Edwards on the stretch of river at Godstow, and so the “Colts and Third Eights Regatta” was born!
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.
Events 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!
Previous Chairmen of the Regatta
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 new Chairman in 2006. He leads the Committee’s resolve to ensure NSR will continue to provide a first class racing experience for the competitors and their coaches.
NSR is proud to be the premier junior rowing event for girls and boys, racing over three days with around 5,000 competitors.