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Cygnet Rowing Club
on the Tideway since 1890
CSSC Sports and Leisure


Cygnet is the Civil Service Rowing Club, so do I have to be a civil servant to join?

Absolutely not. However if you are a Civil Service Sports Council (CSSC) member you will benefit from a reduced annual subscription.

What facilities are available and what do you have to provide yourself?

Most importantly the club has a fantastic fleet of racing boats from eights to single sculls. The active members, assisted by past members and fund raising, buy these. The club has a well-equipped gym affectionately known as The Shed. The boathouse has large changing rooms, hot and powerful showers, club room, kitchen and it's own bar. There are also many social activities held in conjunction with BBLRC, our sister club. We also own a bungalow in Shepperton at which we hold regular sculling camps

All you have to provide is suitable rowing clothing and plenty of enthusiasm.

What is suitable rowing clothing?

Specialist rowing clothing is readily available and you will need to get some club kit if you take up the sport and start racing. Generally tight fitting sports kit, such as running or cycling gear is good to start with. Leggings will be required in the winter as will a wind or waterproof top. Conditions on the Tideway can vary from sublime (calm and sunny) to ridiculous (rough and windy) and you're likely to get wet either way. It's always best to bring a dry change with you. You will also need wellies although there are some available at the club.

What sort of boats will I be rowing in?

There are many types of rowing boats including touring boats, gigs, skiffs, coastal and surf boats. Like the majority of rowing clubs our fleet is made up of fine boats or racing boats, which are the long narrow boats that you may have seen in the Boat Race or the Olympics. They are designed for racing and that's exactly what we hope you see you doing!

Is there a regular meeting place for members?

Members meet regularly for training and rowing at the Civil Service Boathouse. Squad training happens all-year-round on Saturday and Sunday mornings and on Tuesday and Thursday evenings as a minimum. Mid-week training in the summer is mostly water-based and in the winter will be a mix of ergos, running, circuits and weights.

Will rowing take up much of my time?

Frankly yes, at least if you want to become any good. It takes time to develop both the technique and the fitness for rowing so if you think you'll struggle to make two evening in the week and at least one morning of the weekend then it might not be the sport for you!

Am I expected to race?

Cygnet is a racing club and most people who join generally try some racing, even if it's just small local events. We also provide for those members who want to take their racing as far as they can. However, we appreciate that not everyone is keen on competition and we also offer the option of social rowing.

What competitions are held throughout the year?

The Club competes in regattas in the summer and head races in the winter which take place on the Thames and in the provinces. In addition we go on tour in October with an annual pilgrimage to Dusseldorf for the Rhine Marathon. There's also the option of a trip to compete in the British Indoor Rowing Champs and members have also been known to compete in the odd marathon or triathlon!

What is regatta racing?

Regattas are short distance match races  and the distance raced varies between 500m sprints to the International standard of 2000m.

The regatta season in the UK is generally between April and August and there are events all over the country. Regattas take place on various types of water including rivers, reservoirs, canals, docks and purpose-built rowing lakes. At some events you will only race side-by-side with one other crew or you might find yourself racing eight boats abreast down a multi-lane course.

Racing is divided into different categories depending on your experience and you should only race crews of a similar standard. There is a points system in place which means that you progress up through the categories as you compete in events.

For most club rowers the pinnacle is to qualify for racing at Henley Royal Regatta. This takes place around the start of July and the racing season for most clubs is generally structured around it.

Occasionally winners may receive a medal but generally in rowing, the winning crew members each get a 'pot' to celebrate their success. This pot is inevitably a pewter tankard (occasionally glass or earthenware), engraved with the regatta logo and is perfect for drinking a celebratory beer out of!

What is Head Racing?

A Head Race is a long distance, processional time trial and was originally conceived as a way of keeping fitness up during the cold winter months. Inevitably competition between rival clubs developed to see who could be fastest over the longer distance. This competition became organised and formalised to see who could become 'Head of the River'.

The Head Racing season in the UK is generally between October and March, with events all over the country but the most prestigious occur right outside our front door on the Thames Tideway. There are also other, local head races on the Tideway as well as specific events for Schools and Masters. These events take place over the length of (or part of) The Championship Course which is most famously used by the University Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge. Unlike the Boat Race however, the majority of Head races are usually raced down-river on the ebb (outgoing) tide from Mortlake to Putney.

Although the Boat Race (which is actually a match-race rather than a Head Race) attracts the most attention, the Tideway Heads attract the most competitors. The Eights Heads in March has a maximum entry of 420 boats and the Fours Head in November has over 500! With such a large entry, crews in Head Races are sorted into a divisions with crews of a similar status. Pennants are given to the winning crew of each category and while you may have bragging rights over local rivals there is only ever one crew who can claim to be "Head of the River".

Cygnet RC compete in all the main Tideway Heads as well as other local Head races, both on on off the Thames.

Our boathouse is also a popular boating venue for visiting crews. Along with BBRLC we aim to offer a friendly welcome and organised boating service for what can be thousands of visitors on Duke's Meadows. Club members are strongly urged (i.e. expected) to volunteer a few hours help on big Head Race days to 'put a bit back into the sport'.

So how much training will I have to do?

We don't expect to arrange your life around your rowing but if you want to race, we do ask for minimum commitment to the training programme and outings, which varies depending on which squad you're in. We also understand that you can't always make every session so in order for the coaches and captaincy to manage your availability we have an on-line spreadsheet.

Are all levels catered for?

We consider all applications over 18 years old and cater for all levels of experience from novice to elite. All we ask is that you are reasonably fit. A previous sporting background is preferred but not essential.

Must I be able to swim?

Effectively, yes. You should be able to swim 50 metres in light clothing or rowing kit. We are obliged to test your swimming ability if you join the club. Non-swimmers will be considered but must always wear a pfd while afloat which they will have to supply themselves.

Is Cygnet a men-only club?

No, Cygnet is an open club but by default almost all our rowing members are male and our boat fleet is sized for men. We do have female members and they are generally coxes or coaches but we very much encourage them to go rowing or, more usually, sculling. However, because we share the boathouse with our 'sister' club, Barnes Bridge Ladies Rowing Club (BBLRC), the majority women chose to row with them. They are a women-only club and have more suitable equipment for female rowers. 

OK I fancy having a go, what will happen when I come down?

If you have never rowed before then we will ask you to join one of our Learn to Row courses.

If you have rowing experience, contact the captain who will meet you and give you a tour of our facilities