Welcome to the Isle of Ely Rowing Club!

We were set up in 2004 with the intention of being a Community club – but what does that mean? 
  • It means that we are not an exclusive bunch of super fit, competitive demi-gods.
  • It does mean that we wish to make available the joys and benefits of rowing to all within the community who wish to become involved, regardless of age, disability or (lack of) experience; and to put back something into the community through our activities where we can.
Community club images

We obviously welcome, and indeed encourage experienced and competitive rowers. As well as enabling them to enjoy their sport, we draw from such people the coaching and support for those new to rowing and for all our other activities. 

But for anyone not yet involved, rowing may seem a bit remote and a bit mysterious. So, to set the scene:


The main role of the club is to provide boats and facilities for rowing. We have a wide range of boats; from small ones for one person (“single sculls”), up though boats designed for 2, 4 or 8 rowers.




Rowing Double


Rowing - Four boat


Rowing - Eight boat


Rowers in small boats (singles and doubles) can generally manage themselves; but 8 people in a boat would become chaotic if there wasn’t someone to manage them and make sure they are all doing the same thing at the same time!

So, an 8 always has a cox as “foreman / woman”. 4’s may or may not have a cox, depending on the experience of the crew. Singles and doubles are always “coxless”. 


Rowing style


Boats can be rowed in different styles. Just as swimming has breast stroke, backstroke etc; so rowing also has two distinct styles:

Sculling - where each rower has 2 oars – one in each hand,

and Sweep rowing, where each rower has just one oar (with alternate rowers pulling on opposite sides of the boat)

Singles are always “sculling boats”; “8’s” are generally “sweep boats”. Doubles and “4’s” can be used for either style. 

Sweep rowing

Types of boat

Types of boats

Finally, we have two different types of boats – we have racing boats (referred to as “fine” boats) in all sizes; and we have “recreational” boats in singles, doubles and 4’s. 

These are wider and more stable, and used for beginners and, as the name implies – for recreational rowing.

Never rowed before? – then come and learn

We run structured courses for complete beginners. There is no upper age limit. We regularly teach people in their 40’s and 50’s (and have occasionally taught over 60’s from scratch, and have provided a refresher course for someone in their late seventies who hadn’t rowed for 58 years). 

Obviously be aware of general health, but don’t worry too much about fitness. Rowing involves a lot of “technique”. The courses are all about learning the technique, not about trying to go fast; so you will build up your fitness as you learn. Ideally, you should be able to swim (just in case!), but we provide buoyancy aids for anyone concerned about their swimming ability. 

We generally run learn-to-row courses on a group basis, so you have the support not only of the coaches, but other beginners like yourself, who often will bond into crews to go out in larger boats as they develop in the club.

We don’t ask people to join the club until the end of the course. We sincerely hope everyone will, but if, after trying it, you decide it is not for you, there is no problem. You can walk away, having tried something new, met new people, ticked something off your bucket-list; and we wish you well in the future. 

For those who do join (we hope people on the course will), we provide the boats and continued coaching. Our aim is to keep rowing affordable. For 2021, we charge £60 for the short learn to row course, and subs for senior members are just £15.50 per month – compare that with gym membership which is typically £40 per month!

Interested? Contact the Club Captain.

Learn to row
Learn to row
Learn to row group

Recreational rowing

Although the public face of rowing is racing, there is also plenty of opportunities for non-competitive “recreational rowing”. Take a boat out on the river, get some exercise and enjoy nature and wildlife. We have boats suitable for people to take on tours and excursions (paddle down to a pub of your choice for lunch!). We would just ask that you have sufficient experience, go as a group (for example using one of the recreational 4’s), and check when a boat is available for a long outing (as we do need to share them within the club).

Recreational rowing

In practice, many of our members fall between racing and recreational rowing. They row mainly for pleasure and comradeship of being in a crew, but use the skills they gain for occasional local races against crews from local clubs of their own gender, age and ability. The sport is set up to provide these opportunities. Of course, for those who do want to race, we will encourage, coach, and provide equipment for more serious racing at local, regional and national competitions.

Club Junior rowing

Junior crew

We have a thriving junior section which operates mainly on Sundays, with some evening training for those with more experience. We welcome juniors from all backgrounds, and provide learn to row courses for complete beginners on a one-to-one basis. 

What age can juniors start? – well this depends as much on their physical development and size as on age – but typically from 13 upwards. Have a word with our Junior Co-ordinator

Junior rowing in “crew boats” (anything bigger than a single scull), is generally organised by school year, so they are in a crew with others of the same age and gender. 
We know that bringing up children, and children’s activities are expensive, so we keep our costs as low as possible. For 2021, We charge £90 for the learn to row course, but this lasts typically 3 months. Junior membership is then £8.30 per month. That’s just £2 per week! – compare the cost and health benefits with a large coke and chips at a fast-food joint!

Schools Junior rowing

Ely College logo

When the club was set up, some of the older people involved (those who could remember food rationing!) had been to state schools which offered rowing as a school sport. They felt they had gained so much in life from the comradeship and training gained from being part of a school “crew”. 

Whilst private schools can still offer this, state schools cannot now afford the cost of boats and the high coach to pupil ratio needed, so rowing in state schools has died out. The club has sought to bring this back, and has formed a partnership with Ely College. Initial enquiries attracted over 60 pupils to the club for a “taster day”, which has been followed by regular rowing for smaller groups. Logistics meant that sessions had to be run before school – and the fact that we had full turnouts at dawn on cold, wet winter mornings told us everything we needed to know about demand and commitment from the pupils. The club is working with the College to develop this relationship.

Older rowers and former rowers

Masters rowing crew

With a combined age of 141, two club members who returned to rowing after breaks of 25 and 40 years since rowing in their younger days – and still going strong!

It may surprise some that rowing is an ideal activity for older people – let’s face it – you do it sitting down; and the technique is all about smooth actions – no jarring impacts on your joints as you would get jogging. 

We are happy to have older people join our learn-to-row courses; but one group we are very keen to attract is people who rowed in their youth, but gave up under the pressures of jobs, families and home-making in the community. 

Hopefully they find these pressures reduce as they get older, and can come back to rowing, where they can regain that pleasure, and add much to the club. It’s amazing that even after many years’ layoff, the muscle memory is still there, so like riding a bike, you should find that you can still do it. 

If this is you, please contact the Club Captain


Generally, rowing can accommodate people with disabilities. We have had members with both physical and mental disabilities. The club has also had an arrangement with a local brain injury rehabilitation centre, to provide rowing as part of the therapy. 

If you want to know more, please contact the Club Chairman to discuss your needs and possible arrangements.

Group rowing days

We have from time to time held “corporate days”. Whether it is a business group or a social organisation, we can arrange a day’s rowing for the group using our recreational 4’s. We would provide basic training, and ending (if you want) with a “splash and dash” race between boats. 

Learning to row as a crew is the ultimate in team-building and working together, which builds strong bonds. It’s also fun! 

If you want to know more please contact the Club Chairman