Josh Lyon and Filippi

The Wingfield Sculls are universally renowned as one of the most challenging rowing competitions in the world. Set on the championship course, a handful of scullers pit their wits against each other in a side-by-side epic that twists and turns through the beating heart of England’s principal city. Previous winners have featured Olympians, World Champions and Tideway legends.

In 2023, it was Josh Lyon, a sculler who is rapidly making a name for himself in the purple of Reading University Boat Club, who claimed the men’s title ahead of a stacked field. Josh’s season has gone from strength to strength, including claiming the U23 pennant at the Scullers Head of the River in September. All of this has been achieved in a Filippi shell, to cement our long-standing partnership with one of the UK’s foremost sculling centres. We caught up with Josh shortly after his Wingfields triumph to discuss his remarkable start to the season, evolution in the single and what he hopes to achieve in the coming months.

First of all, a huge congratulations on winning the 2023 Men’s Wingfield Sculls. How did it feel crossing that line first?

I think it was relief initially. It’s a really long race which I didn’t have all my own way, and I think I came into it with a bit of expectation, so I was quite relieved when I crossed the line. Once I had caught my breath, that’s when all the other emotions set in. AllMarkOne captured a great shot of my head in my hands under Chiswick Bridge – I think that really says it all. I was just very overwhelmed at what I had just won.

How do you go about preparing for a race of that nature i.e. the long distance combined with the side-by-side element?

The Wingfield Sculls wasn’t actually on my radar until some friends at London Rowing Club mentioned it to me after Pairs Head. I then discussed with my coach, Chris Bartley, about the possibility of racing it and how we were going to prepare. If you ask any of my friends, they will say I am quite competitive so I was never really concerned about the race being side-by-side. I find it much easier to bury yourself when you can see your opposition. I think its one of the things that makes the Wingfields so unique – very rarely do you get to go five or six abreast for a 6.8km race! I think half the challenge of a race like the Wingfields, or any other long Tideway race, is the mental aspect – they are a lot longer than most races, and sometime in less than ideal conditions. I remember telling the RUBC coaches to follow the crew ahead of me so I could just paddle in their launch wash, to get comfortable with the shell rolling all over the place. Most would hate this, but I was having a great time! The day before we headed down to the Tideway to do a full course loop and a few short pieces to just get used to the larger river, and then a short pre-paddle on Thursday before the race.

You have had a blistering start to the season – what is driving that growth and speed? 

Haha, who knows! I just stick my blades in and pull hard! Last year I was on placement working as an accountant and was on a reduced volume programme as I had much less time than the other students. Although this didn’t really hinder me, I think coming back onto the full programme that RUBC offers has helped drive my cardio and strength base on and will have certainly contributed to some early successes. Being more present around the club and being able to train with people just makes completing the programme that much more enjoyable, which I think has tangible effects in athletes’ performances when it comes to racing.

Reading University are renowned as a centre of excellence for sculling. How has their program shaped your development? 

So I joined RUBC back in 2020, coming from Bedford School where I predominantly swept but did do a year of sculling in my lower sixth year. It was unfortunate that I joined university in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to an interesting university and training experience to start with. This being said, even with these barriers the coaches were so supportive and accessible to assist us getting through the various lockdowns. I think that’s when I realised that I had found a pretty special club, and an even more special coaching team. What the coaching teams does really well at RUBC, is that they develop not only the athlete but the person as well. I think a big thing here is the culture – everyone is very friendly and supportive of each other. We have people who have been to the World Championships and people who just come down for some fun – yet they all train together. I think this sort of atmosphere just makes it really easy for people to get stuck in and work their way up the squad.

I think during my time here, the programme has gone through a few iterations, but always kept the same focus – moving the boat effectively. We don’t always get the biggest or strongest athletes to start with, but I think we create really effective boat movers.

Reading came close to the Prince of Wales Challenge Cup in 2022 – is that the ultimate aim of the program? 

I think due to the nature of the Prince of Wales, winning is always going to be tricky. It is such a cut-throat event which always attracts the likes of Leander along with some strong Dutch entries. Henley is always a special event to be a part of, and we normally just take each day as it comes. In 2022, a lot of things fell into place for us and it was a really fun crew to be a part of; certainly a fairy tale ending to a successful university season. As a university, the BUCS events are pretty key to showcase our success to the university. As the only pure sculling university, bringing back the gold medals in the championship and intermediate events is always the aim – I think the ultimate aim of the programme would be win gold in all six of the championship and intermediate sculling events.

Do you prefer racing as a single sculler or as part of a crew?

I really enjoy getting out in my single. I enjoy the challenge of it and I find single racing really fun as the lead can change so easily and you can increase boat speed to quickly. However, there is something special about crew sculling. I have been fortunate enough to be a part of some great crews in my time at RUBC.

After a succession of strong head results, what are your main aims for the 23/24 season?

I came up with this aim when I went to my first BUCS regatta – win gold in Ch1x, Ch2x and Ch4x. Maybe this is the year…?

As men’s captain in 23/24 I also really want to achieve a great set of squad results. We had a strong intake of freshers this year, and I’d really like to build on previous RUBC success.

How have Filippi and their shells supported you in racing to date? What is it about Filippi that you like the most? 

I bought my F22 back in 2021 where it had been used by the New Zealand team at the Tokyo Olympic games. Paul at WW Marine was really supportive throughout the process. In fact, when there were some shipping delays, he set me up with one of his demo boats so I still had one of their top quality shells to train in. To date, I’ve only had one incident in my single, and Paul was fantastic in checking over the boat and ordering me the necessary spare parts to get it all fixed. Filippi have long been supporting RUBC with a fleet of boats – both the men’s and women’s squad have Filippi shells as their top boats and these have given us the platform to deliver time and time again when it counts. For me, there is something about Filippi that is just right. I think they provide the perfect blend of stability along with response. I find I can really feel how the hull is moving through the water which enables the crew to better understand how to go faster.

Where we are

Find out where we are next


Filippi branded clothing

Share this post

Scroll to Top