Diversifying Rowing -Hinksey Sculling School and Janousek & Stampfli

Janousek & Stampfli Racing Boats

Diversifying Rowing -Hinksey Sculling School and Janousek & Stampfli

A lack of diversity is one of the greatest threats to rowing. This is not hyperbole nor is it a classic opening salvo to draw in ambivalent readers and self-generate headlines. It is simply a statement of fact and a reflection of where the sport currently is.

Rowing has long been the preserve of the white and privileged but, increasingly, efforts are being made to address the chasm that exists between what rowing is and what rowing needs to become, both socially and from a sporting context. At Janousek and Stampfli, improving diversity and inclusion is one of the single-most important aspects of their corporate mission and they are constantly seeking partners from within the sport to co-commit to our objective. Step forward, Hinksey Sculling School.

Initially founded as the UK’s first community rowing program, Hinksey have undergone a remarkable ascent to the summit of junior racing. With two Henley Royal Regatta finals in three years – including last year’s fabulous Fawley Challenge Cup campaign – the club regularly out-competes programs far larger and wealthier. Director of Rowing Bodo Schulenburg was told when arriving at Hinksey that it would take a decade to invigorate a club like Hinksey to success. He has achieved this in less than half the time.

What truly differentiates Hinksey from their competitors though is their commitment to diversity and inclusion. They have a robust bursary fund which enables them to offer competitive rowing to a selection of athletes for free and they pull talent from state schools across Oxfordshire. In 2024, 35% of their rowers come from non-white ethnic backgrounds (a statistic that would put most UK-based programs to shame) but Bodo believes there is still more to be done. “We have certainly tried to make the sport as accessible as possible but still see a large drop-out, particularly from non-white athletes, at J16 level,” he explained. “The pressure to succeed academically is so much greater for these families. As a sport, we need to do more to ensure there are pathways for these young people to flourish both on and off the water.”

Hinksey also approach coaching in what many might consider a novel way. “We do not coach so much as mentor,” explained Bodo. “We want to develop people as well as athletes. We do not do anything differently on or off the water, but we do take careful time to identify and invest in future talent. We want to explain in clear terms the steps to success and how, together, we can take them.”

Where inclusion is concerned, rowing has an image problem in its use of harder-line coaching and ‘no-nonsense’ style approaches from program directors. Bodo’s attitude is not only more conducive to sustainable involvement in the sport but clearly delivers results that are comparable with any other performance program in the country.

Janousek and Stampfli first became involved with Hinksey in September 2023, supporting the squad with boat loans and rentals. Although other manufacturers had stepped in before to help, none had the resolve to commit to a longer-term partnership, which Janousek and Stampfli CEO Mark Banks and chairman Andre Perez were very keen to do.

“When Janousek and Stampfli changed ownership in 2021, one of the goals of our chairman and new owner of the company was to find ways to increase diversity and inclusion in the sport of rowing,” said Mark. “We liked how Hinksey went about growing their program in providing inclusion and diversity in the local community and not just high performance. We felt it was the right club to help support.”

“I do not want my crews arriving on the start line of major competitions and worrying that bad equipment will mean they cannot show the very best of themselves,” commented Bodo. “It is hard to overstate how little Hinksey have available to us; we boat out of shared spaces and lift weights in a shed. The latest shells are not something we can afford to purchase so for a top-level British boatbuilder like Janousek and Stampfli to offer their support is vital for our continued success.”

Janousek and Stampfli have lent Hinksey a junior women’s eight and junior men’s quad to support their efforts in not only qualifying but attempting to win the Prince Philip Challenge Trophy and Fawley Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta 2024. That is without taking into consideration the many trophies on offer between now and then, including national titles at the National Schools’ Regatta.

“Janousek & Stampfli wants to encourage other British clubs and schools to foster and promote diversity and inclusion,” said Mark. “Sport in general is a great equaliser and there is no reason why rowing should not be playing its part in promoting greater social integration and opportunities. We are open to speaking to other schools or clubs who are making a genuine effort towards D&I to find ways to help them secure boats with advantageous financial arrangements. Furthermore, we would be happy to provide them and their coaches with coaching advice or masterclasses.”

Such opportunities are rare in rowing and stay as such if it were not for the top-level advocacy from brands like Janousek & Stampfli. Without this support, it is hard, and often near impossible, for programs to grow participation and competition on a shoestring budget. What Hinksey have achieved in the past few years is nothing short of extraordinary and proves the model that results can be fostered in an environment that promotes inclusivity above all else.

To deal with the threat that a lack of diversity poses to rowing, one program is not enough. We need more. Janousek & Stampfli stand ready to support the right program.