There are a few honours in UK-based student rowing that hail above all else. Securing the Victor Ludorum (the overall team points trophy) at BUCS Regatta ranks highly. Providing athletes for the British national to race at the U23 World and European Championships is certainly another. Standing tall above all else for performance programs though is a win at Henley Royal Regatta, the world-renowned festival of rowing and the pinnacle of the UK domestic season.
Despite only taking the full-time reigns two years ago as Director of Rowing, Rob Dauncey has already achieved two out of three with his charges at Durham University. BUCS Regatta was a palatinate parade in 2023 with Durham collecting 784 points at the National Watersports Centre. Their outstanding weekend centred around gold medals across championship and intermediate events, including the men’s championship pairs and the women’s championship coxed fours. This year’s U23 World Championships – which took place in Plovdiv just days ago – saw five Durham athletes compete in varying boat classes across both men’s and women’s categories.
Filippi have a long and proud association with Durham, dating back to the tenure of former head coach Wade Hall-Craggs. Through our UK dealer, Paul Willis, we’ve supplied them with numerous high-specification shells to transport them to greater and greater heights. Under Dauncey, this support has only increased in breadth and intensity and that golden victory on the sun-soaked waters of Henley remains a target we are committed to supporting Durham achieve.
Since Hall-Craggs stepped back in 2020 – following 20 years of phenomenal success – Dauncey has arguably taken the boat club to a new level. “I first realised we were moving well at BUCS Head in February 2022,” he explained, when catching up with Filippi a couple of days before the U23 world championships were due to start in Bulgaria. “You’re never quite sure how you’re trending in comparison to the other big programs as we don’t travel down south to race too much. At BUCS Head, we had an amazing run and just swept up. That indicated that we were onto something positive.”
Dauncey’s focus was resetting the basic principles of a performance-powered program and reawakening what was a sleeping giant. “It’s about setting standards for the people that are in that program,” he said. “As the head of the program, I must lead from the front. People obviously need to buy into that but if they don’t see the standards being set from the top, they won’t invest in the way they need to for us to achieve success.”
“Durham has achieved some amazing things over the past few decades, but we have not won that much at Henley Royal Regatta. That’s the big goal – to create crews who can compete at the very highest level.”
After a semi-final showing in the Temple Challenge Cup in 2022, the obvious challenge facing Dauncey – and much of the rest of the rowing community – is staring down the barrel of Oxford Brookes brilliance. At Henley Royal Regatta 2023, Brookes won all three student events alongside a host of other categories. “We have to find our own path to create a situation where we can compete with the likes of Brookes,” said Dauncey. “Clearly, we’re not there yet and that is the big step. They are a juggernaut and have a rich history of winning at that level. We need to find a way of challenging them on that front. At BUCS Regatta, our men’s eight did well but were still quite a way behind Brookes. We need to close that gap”
An insurgency is a cause that Filippi relish and we are fully focused on providing Durham with the finest boats to do battle with. “I’ve been using Filippi since 2000 when I was coaching on the national team and running a group of scullers as a high-performance program,” said Dauncey. “I’ve used a lot of brands over the years but for a program like Durham, all the various factors that go into selecting a boat-builder point towards Filippi. From pricing to after-sales service, they’re simply exceptional at what they do”
Paul Willis, our UK representative, has established a strong and lasting relationship with Durham and this was a key factor in encouraging Dauncey to stack his boatshed with Filippi shells. “I’ve known Paul for nearly 25 years and he’s a fantastic guy,” he commented. “He always bends over backwards to help. He will go the extra mile and find solutions to any problems we might have.”
It is often difficult for coaches to articulate why they opt for one boat-builder over another. For Dauncey, the choice is very simple. “I look at what the best people in the world are doing,” he explained. “Having coached on the national team for a long team, you go to a lot of international events and speak to a lot of selectors and decision-makers at federations. The best people in the business are pre-dominantly using Filippi and there must be a very good reason why they’re doing that. Top athletes and coaches buy Filippi to win.”
In the hunt for Henley glory, and the continual advancement of a program already driving back towards the top of the rowing tree, Dauncey’s equipment mantra is straightforward. “The question isn’t why would I buy Filippi – the question is why wouldn’t I buy Filippi.”