We chatted with Dickie Twyman, boatman at the St Paul’s Boathouse, to hear about his role within the rowing program at school and the vision for the Boat Club.
What’s your role within the Boat Club?
I am the boatman, meaning that it is my job to make sure that everything works as it should do. I ensure that all the boats are in racing condition, as well as looking after more quirky things like tailoring pieces of equipment for each of our rowers here. The boathouse has around 80 boats that all need to be looked after; the part of the Thames around here is very rough on the boats, with sediment causing a lot of wear and tear. It is a constant job to make sure that the equipment here is maintained at the level that will make sure we go into race days with the best chances of success. Marginal gains in this sport are so important.
What is your background in rowing?
I learned to row on the sea down in Deal on the Kent coast, racing most weekends in the summer months and picking up a few wins, before deciding to make the move to the river. Rowing on the sea is like mountain biking, with river rowing being the equivalent of road racing. I raced at Tideway Scullers for ten years once I’d made the move to the river.
How long have you been working here?
This is my tenth year here. I joined back in January 2010; the changes in the last few years, particularly with the arrival of Bobby Thatcher as Director of Rowing, have made it an incredibly exciting time to be part of the club. In my first year here, I sorted the racks out in the boathouse to give us some more storage space. Next year saw the focus on improving the workshop facilities, the third year a new lick of paint was given. Then we were able to refurbish the gym, thanks to the generosity of the parents. All these incremental improvements have pushed on performances here, resulting in our first major title, the Schools’ Head, in 2014 which acted as a springboard for the Henley win in 2015.
What stands out for you about the culture of rowing at St Paul’s?
The vision that Bobby sets out for the Boat Club here is that each year we demand to be better than the previous one. Resting on our laurels is not an option. Previously, the different elements needed to be successful were all present but now there is a clear plan and vision that connects all the dots. Last year was a truly exceptional one, where the six members of the 1st VIII who were eligible to enter the Junior World Championships returned as World Champions. It is exciting to be part of a culture that demands excellence.
Henley is coming up in two weeks’ time with the aim being to retain the Princess Elizabeth trophy, which the school won last year. We also have a quad entered in the Fawley. Last year we qualified a boat in this event for the first time ever and this year we hope to go one better, making it through a round or two. Progress every year, that is always the goal.