UK Armed Forces Rowing (UKAF Rowing) promotes and coordinates rowing across the Armed Forces and brings together the best rowers in order to field competitive crews at selected high-profile regattas and championships, both indoors and outdoors.

Last week UKAF Rowing hosted two fantastic Team Forces events at the Henley Royal Regatta in support of our service rowers. The first was held at the Upper Thames Rowing Club, the home of UKAF Rowing, where the gym was transformed into a dining room for the 130 supporters, hosts and athletes attending. The event gave guests the opportunity to meet military athletes and other Team Forces beneficiaries and before lunch two of our grant recipients also talked about their upcoming water-based expeditions. Craig Wood, a former British Army rifleman who wants to become the first triple-amputee to sail solo, non-stop and unassisted, across the Pacific. And Zara Lachlan, who, at just 21 years old, plans to row solo and unsupported from mainland Europe to mainland South America. Both were inspirational to listen to and helped showcase how Team Forces is able to change lives by making the unattainable possible.

The following day UKAF Rowing hosted a slightly different second event for around 50 guests which was kindly sponsored by our Platinum sponsor Palo Alto Networks. The venue was located at the starting point of this famous race so there was lots of action to watch. After a fabulous meal all the attendees were then hosted on a boat which travelled alongside the famous course. Several rowers in attendance were able to educate those on board on what it felt like to take on the exhausting 2,112m endurance row! The course is only 80 feet wide, which makes it very tricky to race without clashing oars, and slightly longer than the usual 2000m international courses.

The UKAF Rowing club is growing year on year and members are selected as necessary to form crews for Henley Women’s Regatta (HWR), Henley Royal Regatta (HRR),and the British Rowing Senior Championships – with the aim of winning! Indoor Rowing is becoming increasingly popular and earlier this year athletes represented the UK Armed Forces at the World Rowing Indoor Championships in Prague, Czech Republic.

2024 has been UKAF Rowing’s best year to date, the squad began training in March to prepare for the San Diego Crew Classic competition in California, USA where the men’s eight gained second place in the Men’s Varsity Copley Cup Invitational and came third in the ACRA Men’s Collegiate International. Unfortunately, due to military commitments, only one of the crew could participate in the Henley Royal Regatta but due to the depth of talent in the UKAF rowing squad they were still able to field a competitive Wyfold coxless four to race.

Henley is an incredibly special regatta in the rowing world which attracts the world’s best, but especially so this year as the unique nature of the event also sees juniors and local club athletes racing on the same water as Olympians who will be at the Paris games in a few weeks. This is the fifth year that UKAF Rowing has raced at Henley. Last year they had two women’s crews represent UKAF at Henley Women’s Regatta and the first ever UK military women’s eight enter the Henley Royal Regatta. Commitments of a career in the Armed Forces depleted this year’s squad but the men’s four is a great reflection of the services; it includes athletes from the Royal Marines, British Army and Royal Air Force, commissioned officers and noncommissioned, and homegrown talent which had never rowed before joining the military, to athletes who have represented the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford and Leander Club. Military life makes training as a squad extremely difficult due to the demands of the service and although the squad put in a fantastic effort, they were sadly beaten in their heat by a crew from Germany.