STAGING British Rowing Awards: Volunteer of the Year and regional winners - British Rowing

British Rowing Awards: Volunteer of the Year and regional winners

Congratulations to Ellen Mitchell from Grosvenor Rowing Club – winner of our National Volunteer of the Year Award!

The British Rowing Volunteer of the Year is for volunteers who have contributed significantly to their sport, for the benefit of the wider rowing community, in 2019. All nine of our regional winners have made outstanding contributions in different ways, making it a particularly difficult choice to choose a winner. Thanks to everyone for all their hard work!

In 2019, Grosvenor Rowing Club celebrated its 150th anniversary and this year’s winner Ellen Mitchell worked tirelessly to organise special events on the club’s behalf. This included a prestigious 150th Anniversary Ball for 280 people at Chester Cathedral in October.


Ellen’s citation summarises:

“This Ball was the highlight of our club year with speaker Tom James and guest of honour the Duke of Westminster.

“Ellen researched and contacted all the other clubs who were founded in the same year inviting them to the Ball and our Dee Autumn Head in October.

“She worked many, many hours to achieve what was a real success with numerable events, whilst also rowing and working full time, but always remained calm and focused on what needed to be done, and the truly best thing about her achievements is the lasting legacy she has created not just within the club and its past and present members, but in Chester and the rowing world, it is truly awesome.”

Ellen also contributed in many other ways, including:

  • Created and posted ‘Sesquicentennial Sunday’, an initiative where every Sunday photos of past crews and events appeared on the website to help re-engage past members
  • Contacted all clubs worldwide that were founded in 1869, inviting them to the Dee Autumn Head and to the 150th Anniversary Ball
  • Organised a row past at Henley, including recommending method to choose crew to represent the club
  • Engaged with Chester Historical Society, organising an evening at the club and a quiz
  • Sourced a quality commemorative medal to be given to each club member as a memento of the 150th year

Ellen was one of nine regional winners shortlisted for this category and selected by our Regional Chairs. Congratulations to our regional winners – who are listed below, together with highlights from each of their citations.

Trevor Rainbow (East Midlands)

Trevor was appointed as Club Captain of Nottingham & Union Rowing Club in 2015. As a volunteer, he devotes between two to five hours per day at least six days a week to coaching in addition to keeping track of finances, greeting prospective members, maintaining boats and purchasing new equipment, plus many other things. He attends East Midlands Rowing Council meetings and is on the Nottingham Regatta Committee.

The junior section has grown from fewer than a dozen to well over 100 thanks to Trevor and Club Coach Paul Stevens organising a series of learn to row courses, with juniors achieving success at national events.

Trevor has also driven forward a scheme for the redevelopment of a rowing centre on Trentside with Nottingham Rowing Club.

Ellie Darlington (Eastern)

Ellie volunteers as captain of the Cantabrigian Rowing Club senior women’s squad – consisting of over 35 women aged from 18 to 50. Over the last seven years, Ellie has been instrumental in making Cantabrigian the top women’s club in the city.

She has created a pathway from learn to row courses right up to our (now successful) senior squad. The success of this is demonstrated by the high percentage of learn to row grads that we retain – currently around 85% – and the rate at which we can develop new joiners to compete at higher levels.

Ellie is an inspirational individual who leads from the front and helps people to achieve more than they themselves thought they would be able to. She has grown our club, improved the experience of our club members, and made it more successful.

Pauline and Geoff Higgins (Northern)

Pauline and Geoff have been involved with Queen Elizabeth High School Boat Club for over 20 years. They devote all their time to the club and its members.

Their dedication and commitment to the sport is inspirational. This year alone they have introduced 80 young people to the sport of rowing.

Geoff and Pauline’s enthusiasm for the sport encourages people to get involved with rowing.

Tessa Millar (Thames)

Tessa has been volunteering at Imperial College Boat Club since 2014.

Despite her full-time job in the City, she makes it to every water session, four times a week at unsociable times! Tessa has come on every training camp – using her annual leave – as well as every race around the UK.

Tessa gives her heart and soul into coaching us student rowers. What makes her different is the positive reinforcement that she gives every crew she coaches. It is not a cliché to say her smile brightens up the gloomiest of 6pm winter sessions.

This award would be eagerly welcomed by every rower and cox at ICBC who all know how much we owe Tessa.

Simon Thompson (West)

Simon has been helping many university students – 49 students this year – to complete the learn to row course for fixed seat rowing at Falmouth University and Exeter’s Cornwall campus.

Without Simon, none of the students would have been able to access this amazing sport or have had the encouragement to improve.

Simon has been working tirelessly, coxing sessions for students at least twice a week, organising lifts and running land sessions to help as many students as possible get involved and enjoy gig rowing.

He is incredibly dedicated to the sport, his club and the students’ participation. Simon is an inspiration to us all and we love being able to go out rowing with him!

Anna Jethwa (West Midlands)

I am nominating Anna because she has helped double the numbers of juniors at Stourport Boat Club this year. Six years ago, we had six juniors.

In June 2019, I was asked to start a new project, a junior development squad with four new J11-J13s, an age group at the club where we had no juniors at all. Before the end of the summer we had a committed group of 22 new juniors! Anna has helped volunteer at least twice a week.

Anna is a positive role model for the juniors, always positive and calm. She has helped inspire the new group and they know that it is not always about winning, but about enjoying the journey.

Chris Turner (WAGS)

Chris gives up so much of his time to making sure City of Bristol Rowing Club thrives. He leads the trustee board as chairman, is webmaster – having created the entire club website himself – and is the senior women’s coach.

In the past few years, the squad has progressed further at Henley each year, reaching the semi-finals in 2018 and the finals in 2019. The squad still maintains a range of experience levels.

Chris also contributes to the club in many other ways and the City of Bristol would be a very different place without him.

Meri Middleton (Yorkshire)

Meri is a committed member of our women’s senior squad at City of Sheffield Rowing Club. She has been the women’s squad leader for three years and deserves recognition as a volunteer.

Our squad includes women of all abilities and all ages, but despite this diverse group, Meri selects crews which allow us to train at our desired levels. This works because of her excellent communication. We have regular squad meetings, so for feedback on how we think things are going, plus crew emails and numerous WhatsApp groups. She is always available for a chat if any of us have concerns.

Meri has made a real difference, not only to the women’s squad, but to the whole club with her positive attitude.


Thanks to the British Rowing Awards Panel for their time – Nick Hubble (Chair of the Sport Committee, British Rowing), Harpreet Robertson (Head of Membership & Customer Relations, Football Association), John Hedger (World Rowing Events Commission) and Marieke Bal (Head of Membership, British Rowing)

We are celebrating the winners of the British Rowing Awards 2020 all the way up until 31 December so please keep and eye out for other winners #BRAwards2020