Agecroft are one of the most instantly recognisable rowing clubs in the UK. Famed for their red strip, fierce racing mentality and perpetual pitch at the Jackson Trophy, the Salford-based institution are one of the first names that come to mind when we consider the rising force that is northern rowing. The mission is clear – to provide a supportive and inclusive environment for rowers of all ages and abilities to develop their physical and mental strength, teamwork, and leadership skills through the sport of rowing.
Filippi have had a long and successful relationship with the boat club, one we’re immensely proud of as the leadership committee work hard to drive the sport in their region. James Harris – who has been club captain since 2019 – is particularly focused on the benefits the sport can have on and off the water. “We believe that rowing is more than just a sport – it is a way of life that promotes health, wellness, and personal growth,” he explained. “Our goal is to create a community of rowers who support and inspire each other to achieve their full potential both on and off the water. Agecroft is very fortunate to have been fully redeveloped over 20 years ago with a new purpose-built boathouse in a central location with good transport links. This is thanks to the incredible foresight and hard work of the committee at the time, many of whom are now trustees of the club. To maintain this foresight we cannot stand still, so our development framework is reviewed every year to ensure we keep looking forward.”
As with many clubs, the 23/24 season has been stunted due to poor weather and a variety of racing cancellations. “The squads are all growing in number, but sadly the weather impacted most of our senior group racing plans through the Autumn,” said James. “The summer will be a test for all our crews and coaching team, especially as we will be looking for a Head of Rowing shortly, our first full time club professional coach.”
With the concentration of national racing so heavily focused on the south of the UK, it can be a struggle for clubs like Agecroft to boat and maintain competitive crews. They have done a remarkably consistent job, producing units for Henley Royal, Women’s and Masters Regattas year-on-year. “Talent comes in two forms; it is either cultivated by the incredible coaching team we have, or it comes to us when people move to the area,” explained James. “We attract talent by being visible on the national circuit as well as utilising social media to highlight the many benefits of rowing at Agecroft. In the case of the masters group, it is often just about talking through how to balance the competing demands of work, family & rowing that helps nudge people back into the sport after a prolonged break.
Building on this, the clear divide in representation – both from a participation and competition perspective – between the north and south is something that Agecroft are fighting hard to arrest. “Club rowing at a senior level in the north is constantly in competition with the draw of the Thames Valley clubs, so the northern clubs need to be able to welcome more people into the sport, which isn’t easy when space and equipment is often a barrier, develop these new athletes, which requires high quality coaching input, and then retain them,” highlighted James. “Part of the challenge is that we don’t have a major summer event in the north that could pull all the clubs together, especially if it was seen as a potential qualifying event for HRR, as Chester Regatta used to be. In the northwest region alone, we have some excellent school/junior, university, senior & masters rowing, and we need to be able to build on this to grow participation and deliver better and better race results on a consistent basis.”
Filippi have been working closely on this mission with James and the team for over ten years. The club took the decision to focus on our shells for their senior athletes and, as a pairing, we have not looked back. “The relationship with the UK Filippi team has been exceptional in helping us understand what’s best for the club by listening carefully to our needs and making suitable recommendations,” said James. “Their knowledge of their own products has been invaluable for us. We always know we will get an honest viewpoint, whether we are looking for a new first eight for one of the senior groups or a second-hand boat to fill a gap in the fleet.”
Building on that, James added that the help received beyond the water from Filippi UK has been invaluable. “Filippi UK are wonderfully supportive in all aspects. The team of Paul, John, Steve & Neil are on hand whenever we need them, with great spares availability, and help at regattas where needed too. The growing number of Filippi boats, both club crew boats and private singles, at Agecroft speaks to this support.”
People like James – who has over 40 years of experience in the sport – are what make clubs like Agecroft tick. “There have been numerous highlights – watching the club perform at the highest level, getting inner-city kids onto the water for the first as part of the Greater Manchester Youth Rowing programme, winning Henley Master’s Regatta three times – but what really stands out to me was coaching a University of Exeter LW4x at a camp in Kingston,” said James. “We were working with another coach who was formerly at Agecroft, prior to them going to EUSA in Istanbul, and seeing the level of improvement that a camp can make both to the crew’s speed but also their excitement for the event ahead. Supporting other clubs to achieve their goals through the Agecroft network is a real delight for me.”