Guin Batten

Years1994 World Rowing Championships (1x 8th)
1995 World Rowing Championships (1x 8th)
1996 Olympic Games (1x 5th)
1997 World Rowing Championships (1x 6th)
1998 World Rowing Championships (1x 6th)
1999 World Rowing Championships (4x 7th)
2000 Olympic Games (4x 2nd)
2001 World Rowing Championships (8o 6th)
ClubsSouthampton University BC, Thames RC, Leeds University BC, Nottinghamshire County Rowing Association, Upper Thames RC, Leander Club
Height5’7.5″ or 172cm
Racing weight12 stone or 76kg
Born1967

The photo at the top of this page shows Guin (second from left) with her sister Miriam (left), Katherine Grainger and Gillian Lindsay after winning the silver medal in the quads at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000 and is from Guin Batten’s personal collection.

Getting into rowing

Guin took up rowing in 1986 when she went to Southampton University to read Ship Science, “Because my big sister Miriam was rowing there and thought I’d be good at it,” she explains, adding, “But I wasn’t. In fact, it took me about three years to win my novice pot.” This was surprising, because Guin had been an extremely sporty child, competing at English Schools championships in cross country running, javelin and shot put, playing county-level hockey, and also enjoying squash and “any athletics disciple other than tennis or sprinting” to the extent that her school, Dauntsey’s, created the title ‘Captain of All Sports’ for her because she was involved in so many.

Guin had thrived at Dauntsey’s where she boarded because her parents were working in the Middle East. One activity that had a formative effect on her, both then and at a key point later on in her rowing career, was table football. With the table in high demand, she quickly worked out that her best chance of getting a go on it was to get out of the boarders’ homework session ahead of the older boys who ‘ruled the table’. “The school had a system that let people who received good effort grades, leave the homework room half an hour early. I quickly worked out that if I was going to get enough effort points, I needed to make sure my work looked like I was trying really hard, even if I wasn’t getting top marks for content. Sure, enough I got the effort grades and was released from homework with all the bright kids. I would sit close to door, with my books packed up, and once the command was given, I could sprint to the table football and get on first. The un-written rule was that if you won, you stayed on; some nights I managed to stay on all evening,” she laughs.

With time Guin’s attainment grades started to improve too and at 16 she found out she was dyslexic.  

At Southampton, she threw herself into university sport, being elected as the Universities Athletics Union rep and competing in athletics, hockey, squash and cricket as well as rowing. As for her studies, she recalls, “I was in awe of guys in my year; they were so intelligent, and as I was the only woman in the department, they looked after me like a little sister and helped me to pass my exams, but I soon realised I needed to find a degree that was better suited to my fascination with sport.” She left at the end of her first year,

Women's four racing in wooden boat
Guin (at two) at Henley Fours and Eights Head in February 1987. The crew is clearly proud of their coastal credentials, as expressed by the seagull on their cox’s hat. (Photo: Guin Batten’s personal collection.)
Woman in sculling boat in red shorts
A historic occasion, although she wasn’t to know it at the time: Guin’s first sculling outing in Southampton in the summer of 1987. (Photo: Guin Batten’s personal collection.)

Sports science courses were becoming more available around this time, and Guin decided this was where her future lay. She had to take a year out while applying to read Human Movement Studies at Leeds Polytechnic (now Leeds Beckett University), though, and in the meantime moved to London where she slept on Miriam’s floor, worked as a cycle courier and rowed at Thames RC. “I made the second eight for the Women’s Head and we came 11th, but I got dropped from the crew after that,” she recalls.

Guin (at four) racing for Thames II at Reading Head in 1988. (Photo: Guin Batten’s personal collection.)

She continues, “There were the DAF Power Sprints that summer, and Thames had two women’s fours, but as wasn’t in either of those, I entered the Channel 4 ergometer competition. Back then, Thames only had one ergo, which was in the men’s changing rooms, so I’d dash in and do one-minute pieces on it when no one was changing. I discovered I was quick on the machine and was in the mix with people in the GB squad on it, but the issue was that I just couldn’t row.” The video below shows her winning by 5m from 1984 Olympian Kareen Marwick. “The prize was an ergo machine, so Thames then had two!” she remembers.

Leeds Met didn’t have a boat club so Guin rowed with Leeds University, who trained in York out of St Peter’s School BC. She organised the University’s first ever entry in the Women’s Eights Head, rowing in a boat loaned to them by Thames because they weren’t allowed to use the Leeds boat that they shared with the novice men.

In her second year, Guin switched her main sporting focus back to athletics. “One of my lecturers was Wilf Paish, who had coached the Olympic javelin thrower Tessa Sanderson, and he invited me to train with his elite group. There were about 20 of us including the long jumper Fiona May (who went on to win two Olympic silver medals) and javelin thrower Mick Hill (who later won four Commonwealth Games medals). Altogether, five of us went to the 1996 Olympics.”

“I learned so much about being an athlete during the two years I trained with Wilf’s group,” she continues. “While I never agreed with his philosophy on drugs (he thought as drugs were so hard to control, they should be allowed), he taught me so much in the two-hour journeys over the Pennines every week to train at Sale Harriers. Athletics is a tough sport, everybody wants a bit of you when you are doing well; the invitations to go to ‘meets’ come pouring in and with that come the opportunity to earn appearance money. But when you’re doing badly nobody cares. It can be lonely and soul destroying. Athletes develop a hardness that you don’t necessarily need in a team sport – these lessons helped me so much in the single.”

She rowed more again in her final year at Leeds, coming fifth at the National Championships in a Royal Chester RC pair with Emma Holman of Queen’s Park High School after some much needed technical coaching by Andy Turner. “But I still couldn’t row, to be honest,” she laughs, wryly. “It was really frustrating for Emma and I remember her saying at one point, ‘If only you could row, think how fast you could be!’”

After graduating, Guin moved back to London for a year, when she worked at Thames RC as the House Manager and decided to give up athletics. “It took a degree in physiology for me to realise I wasn’t ever going to make it as a shot putter,” she explains. “One day I was on a run with Kerry Jury who was one of the best heptathletes in the country at the time. We were chatting away and as we ran up the hill, Kerry was clearly out of breath. I had done no endurance training for 18 months and while I was ranked third in the UK and had become the inaugural British Universities Champion, I was an ocean away from being any good. So I decided to focus on rowing. It was my last chance to achieve my childhood dream of representing GB.”

That season she ended up stroking a Thames eight, which was coached by legendary Thames coach Noel Casey. “Noel’s way was to build athletes with a lot of spirit and guts. He didn’t do much individual technical coaching, but he trained us well and taught us how to be super tough,” she remembers. “The squad started that year over 24 women but by the end there were with only eight left. It was a very tough winter; I am convinced I made the crew as I was one of the few who were still standing by the end of it.” They won Club Eights at Henley Women’s Regatta and took the gold medal at the National Championships in 1992; the crew contained future GB cox Suzie Ellis and rower Kate Pollitt.

“I remember the racing season fondly,” she says now. “At Henley Women’s we were the first domestic crew to use hatchet blades. Naively we didn’t change the gearing, but it did allow us to have one of the most amazing races of my life. Noel instructed us not to win by more than half a length. In the final against Weybridge Ladies, we dropped the rate every time we pulled ahead by more than that. It’s the craziest feeling in the world to be crossing the finish line at HWR and be rating 22 going the same speed as your opposition rating 36. The Times described us as a stately galleon.”

Women's eight racing
Guin stroking Thames RC to victory at Henley Women’s Regatta in 1992. (Photo © John Shore.)

The following year, 1992-3, Guin went to Loughborough University to study for a Masters in Sports Science and rowed at Nottinghamshire County Rowing Association, which was a notable high performance club for lightweights, particularly lightweight men, at the time. Sean Bowden, the coach, told her she could only join the group if she had her own scull, so she acquired an insurance write off boat, which was held together by tape and was languishing on a rack in Thames. It was affectionately known as the ‘flexible friend’ (a catchphrase from an advert for a credit card brand at the time). “It lived on top of my car. Rowing at County was hard, the guys were quick, and at the weekends they’d go for warm-up run while I would start the 20km rowing session. They’d all overtake me on the water and by the time I finished and made it up to the cafe, they’d all be getting up to go out for their second sessions. My heart would sink. I was SO slow!” she says.

She did, however, go to GB trials, but wasn’t selected. Her pair finished third out of five at the final assessment at Hazewinkel in April but, frustrated that two former internationals were given places on the team despite one not having taken part in the pairs trials and another having been in the fifth-placed boat, she rang the (volunteer) Chief Coach Ron Needs to ask why. “And he replied, ‘Guin Batten, you are too small, you will never be an international rower,'” she recalls.

Today, Guin is quick to emphasise her admiration for Ron and the enormous amount of work he did for British women’s rowing, but at the time, this was a huge personal turning point. She decided that single sculling was the only way ahead for her. “I’m one of those people for whom, being told that I can’t do something really makes me want to try and do it.” At the end of Guin’s career, she says, “I had a lovely conversation with Ron, and while he didn’t recall that phone call, I explained how important it was. Without it I don’t think I would have had the hunger to achieve what I did.”

Although the NCRA setup provided a structured programme and a group to train with, coach Sean Bowden was only able to spare “about five minutes at the end of the last session on a Sunday” to coach her, and she needed a lot more technical input. This arrived unexpectedly in the form of Rosie Mayglothling, who was then an ARA Regional Development Coach based at Holme Pierrepont in Nottingham. “Rosie’s office was in the finish tower, and I think she used to watch me go out on my own in my single,” Guin recalls. “One day she said, ‘If you come at 4pm on a Tuesday. I will coach you’. So that’s what I did.”

With only a few of Rosie’s coaching sessions under her keel, but now in a borrowed Ray Sims boat that was actually the right size for her (the flexible friend having finally foundered), she won at the National Championships in 1993 by over seven seconds after an epic race against Olympian Kim Thomas, to whom she’d lost by a foot at Henley Women’s Regatta a few weeks earlier. This gained her selection as the England sculler at the Home International. She also raced in the new World Cup women’s single sculls event Henley Royal Regatta. As she had to qualify for this, and as competitors for this time trial are set off in alphabetical order, having a surname starting with ‘B’ meant that she was the first woman ever to race over the Henley course in an open event for women, rather than an invitation event (as the ‘experimental’ women’s races in the 1980s had been).

“As I turned onto the course for the qualifiers, I could feel the weight of history on my shoulders, and it felt good,” she recalls. “In the first round, I was drawn against Elizabeta Lipa, the reigning Olympic Champion, who was famous for her very quick starts. I knew I would be cannon fodder, but I wasn’t prepared for her to follow my every move.

As I put my boat on the water, out of the corner of my eye I could see she quickly come out of the boat tent to boat too. On the way down to the start she just followed me, and every time I turned to do a burst, she did the same. By the time we were attached I was so psyched out! I couldn’t understand why she needed to intimidate so much before the race. After all, she was Olympic champion and I had only won my novice singles race at Nottingham Regatta in that May.

Then the umpire stood up and said, ’Batten, Lipa, I will start you in the following manner; Attention, Go!’, and Elizabeta was off! It was amazing. It sounded like a washing machine. But suddenly it all fell into place. She didn’t speak any English and rather than trying to intimidate me she was following me as she thought I knew what I was doing! As she backed it down onto the start for the proper start, she had the biggest grin on her face and we laughed together. Determined to savour the moment of racing such a brilliant sculler, I had sneaky look over at her after the first stroke but by then she had a half a length on me and the race was effectively over. We would meet again in the semi-final of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.”

  • Coach in red t-shirt talking to sculler in grey t-shirt
  • Woman sculler in green lycra at start
  • Woman being presented with gold medal

International rowing career

After being coached by Rosie and training alongside lightweight international Helen Mangan all winter, Guin was selected as the GB single sculler in 1994. “Exactly a year after that phone call with Ron Needs, when he told me I’d never row for Great Britain, I came seventh at the sculling World Cup in Duisburg,” she explains. “Rosie did a phenomenal job, teaching the technique I’d been so desperately missing.”

“After Duisburg, I had enough World Cup points to be funded by World Rowing to attend the other World Cup Regattas. But I had no spare money, so when I got the letter congratulating me on my selection as the GB single sculler for the World Championships in Indianapolis, I sat down and cried. It was going to cost me £1,500. At the very moment I had finally achieved my dream, I couldn’t afford to go. I wrote to everyone I knew and asked for £50 with very little effect, but it was the old boys at the Thames RC bar whom I had served on all those long weekend afternoons who gave me enough to go. A few years later they formed the Thames Charitable Trust.” 

Two women
Guin (left) with sister Miriam at the 1994 World Rowing Championships. “Our mum gave birth to two-thirds of the openweight team that year,” Miriam points out. (Photo: © Rosie Mayglothling.)

By now, Guin was training in her single at Thames RC again, and was working as an exercise physiologist for the British Olympic Association Medical Centre at Northwick Park Hospital in Harrow. Her professional insight told her that the GB women’s training programme wasn’t building a sufficient endurance base, so she and Miriam began following GB men’s coach Jurgen Grobler’s programme, which Tim Foster used to fax through to them.

Having the right coach and the right training programme are obviously critical, so things were looking up, but as the summer progressed it became clear that Guin would need to find another coach because Rosie was expecting her third child just before the 1994 World Championships. “I was devastated,” Guin remembers, “And although Rosie was trying hard to find a way to keep coaching me, I wasn’t mature enough as an athlete to be able to make it work.” Rosie introduced her instead to Miles Forbes-Thomas. He was coaching the lightweight sculler Peter Haining, who had won the first of his three consecutive world titles the previous year. “Miles’s programme was pretty similar to Jurgen’s. His style at the time was all about attention to detail, which was exactly what I needed. It all worked really well and we made a good training group,” she explains.

Guin continued be the GB single sculler through to 1998, racing at four World Championships and the 1996 Olympic Games. Although this reads as a five year-long focus on single sculling, she did explore the idea of joining the GB eight in 1996. The background to this was that, after GB women’s rowing had become so run down in 1994 that only three openweight athletes (Guin, her sister Miriam and Jo Turvey) were sent to the Worlds that year, a wealthy businessman and former rower called Larry Tracey had offered to fund an eight (including subsistence grants for the athletes – this was before National Lottery funding came in) through to the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. This squad was coached by Bill Mason, who was on secondment from Imperial College, and had coached the 1993 World Champion lightweight women’s four. With so few women around who had international experience to draw on, Bill was keen for as many who had that experience to be involved as possible, both openweight and lightweight. For the 1995 season, though, she opted to remain in the single scull.

The 1996 Olympic Games were the first for which qualifying was required for the rowing events, and the first opportunity to achieve this was at the 1995 World Championships in Finland. Guin finished eighth, which secured the single sculls spot for GB, but the eight failed to qualify. On their return there was pressure to strengthen the eight and funding was withdrawn from Guin. “It was hard as I had reduced my hours of work so I could do enough training, I had stopped renting and was sofa surfing to save money,” she says. “For a few nights I even slept in the Amateur Rowing Association changing rooms when I couldn’t find a bed. Of course, I finally got ill. The pressure to give up the single and go into the eight came to a head on training camp in Banyoles. Bill and I were playing table football like we had so many times in the boat club bar. It was four-all with one ball to play. I said, ‘Bill if you score this goal, I will go into the eight. But if I score, I will stay in the single and we will never talk about it again’. He said, ‘OK,’ I scored and in effect won my selection for the Atlanta Olympics on a game of table football!”

Once out at the 1996 Olympic Games, Guin beat Elizabetha Lipa in a late charge to the finish line in the semi-final to secure her place in the Olympic final. It was a sweet turnaround from their very first race in Henley. Guin went on to finish fifth, equalling the previous best performance by a British woman in the event, by Beryl Mitchell/Crockford in 1980. The eight did qualify for the Olympics but never fulfilled their potential, despite recording a world best time at the final Olympic qualification regatta that season.

  • woman rigging single scull
  • Woman sculling on flat lake
  • Woman using weights machine
  • 2 women in double scull
  • 2 women in red tops on the Tideway
Guin qualfying for the final of the 1996 Olympic Games.

1997 was a transformational year for the GB women’s squad, with the arrival of full-time Chief Coach Mike Spracklen (initially funded by Larry Tracey), the establishment of a dedicated (albeit lacking in facilities) training base at Longridge near Marlow, a change of focus to crew sculling, and – crucially – National Lottery funding for the athletes from May onwards, which enabled them to train full time.

Guin continued training with Miles Forbes Thomas. She had accepted an invitation to train through the winter in Hong Kong with Jane Hall and Nial O’Toole. In 1997 she came sixth at the World Championships. Her coaching partnership with Miles came to an end after that. “In Hong Kong I had picked up a breathing condition after a chest infection and my progress had plateaued in training. Something needed to change. Mike had come over to the UK and his crews were doing well, so in our wash up meeting after the Worlds I told Miles I would be joining the Longridge group; he could come if he wanted to.”

“Training during the winter of 1997 and the spring of 1998 was amazing. The highlight was five waves of six scullers racing against each other in Banyoles; 30 female athletes training! Win your wave and you go up for the next run, lose and you go down. GB women’s rowing was on the up and it felt so good to be part of it. Gone was the years of only three people training with no money. Training programme-wise, it was working out for me. After years of low intensity and high mileage, Mike’s high intensity was looking good,” she recalls.

“But my mother had been ill with cancer and she died just before the final trials in April 1998. My world fell apart and then just days before the trials, a bus wrote off my sculling boat. At the trials a young, up and coming Scottish sculler called Katherine Granger beat me. I had to race the World Cup early races and beat Katherine to gain selection as the GB single for the World Championships, which I did. By then I was being coached by Louise Kingsley. By the time I got to eth Worlds, I was ranked third on paper going into the final. At 1,000m, I was still on for medal. The conditions were fast but the water was getting rough. I came sixth. My years in the single had come to an end. It was time to team up with all the other amazing women I had been training with.”

Mike Spracklen that it was she should try a crew boat and he was keen to build a quad. In 1999 she stroked a fairly inexperienced quad, which came seventh at the World Championships; enough to qualify the boat for the Sydney Olympics, though. “It was exciting winter that became a really challenging summer. Mike was distracted by a lot of things and the amount of training we did on the water was down on the successful years before. The wider group started to lose confidence in Mike, I think, and as a result the group training at Longridge was scaled back to only the quad and the small boats,” she says. “We learnt a lot from 1999, but in the wash up Miriam and I realised that we had not done enough water training. We had to do more in the Olympic year.”

The 2000 Olympic season started with training camp in Australia in September 1999. Unfortunately, after going all that way, Guin was troubled by some odd injuries in her right elbow and never got onto the water. The long flights there and back left her with very sore neck and by late autumn the muscle in her left arm was wasting away, and in February 2000 she was diagnosed with a budging disc in her upper vertebrae. She eventually only got back in a boat in late February.

Selection was to be done in doubles as this was to be the top boat. Guin and Miriam, for the first time in their careers, were in the same crew. But they had lost some much time training together and were playing catch up. “Just as I got back into training Miriam needed to take time off because she was suffering from for over-training syndrome,” Guin explains. “This meant we didn’t race the April final trials but did a special race later against the winners Gillian Lindsay and Frances Houghton. We lost. I remember driving back to Henley from Nottingham and we stopped off at Warwick Castle where we walked around and tried to process our disappointment. It was a real low point.”

“Miriam and I were to join Sarah Winckless and Katherine Grainger in a quad but we continued to train in doubles,” Guin continues. “Interestingly in training after that trial we seldom lost. I’m not sure why we couldn’t make the double work when it mattered; did we want it too much or did we need more time to get out fitness back?”  

Eventually, after a difficult early season involving more injuries and crew changes and other issues, Gillian Lindsay replaced Sarah Winckless in the quad, which became the top boat. “The original quad with Sarah was a quick boat (winning at World Cup II in Vienna, albeit against slightly depleted opposition), but with Gillian it was another step up,” Guin remembers. “Every stroke was locked on, every stroke was full pressure. I was challenged to row longer than I had ever done, so much so that I would get rubs on the side of my waist from the finish. We encouraged Mike to give us more training, to the extent that the week we left for Australia we did 330km, with five sessions a day. Even a technical paddle was done at UT1 or threshold, and we never cut our mileage. The EIS exercise physiologists came down to measure a week of our training and I was amazed when they told us the level of intensity and mileage we were doing. Being small and having a small set of lungs, Mike’s training was more useful for me.”

“The Olympic Regatta was a release from the training,” she says. “There was very little pressure as no one expected us to do well. We even surprised ourselves when we won the race for percentage times that all of the British crews did just before we travelled down to the Olympic regatta course at Penrith Lakes. After the heats we realised that, on paper, we were ranked fourth. A medal was in touching distance! The final went exactly as we had planned, other than the crazy move Mike asked us to put in. We had only just been able to hold a mid-race rate of 34 but he wanted us to put a 36spm step into the race plan. It was that move just after the 1,000m mark that secured us a medal, and the last 10 strokes that secured the silver. If you want it enough, you can always find the last 10 strokes.”

This was the first GB women’s Olympic medal at the Sydney games – an absolutely outstanding achievement.

4 women in Team GB suits
Miriam, Gillian, Katherine and Guin: the first British women to win an Olympic rowing medal. (Photo: Guin Batten’s personal collection.)

In 2020, the quad got back together for a reunion paddle, 20 years to the day since their Sydney final.

  • 4 women sculling
  • Guin, Gillian, Katherine and Miriam in 2020

Guin continued in the squad in 2001, hugely motivated to try and win a gold medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004. But she had somewhat disappointing early season in her single, followed by sixth place at the World Championships stroking the eight (her only international appearance as a sweep rower). In 2002, more motivated than ever to get back on track for Athens, she spent three weeks in Canada training hard with Mike Spracklen (who had moved there after his contract wasn’t renewed following the Sydney games), feeling quite unwell, but putting this down to a bout of flu she’d had plus the effects of jet lag. She’d actually developed a type of post-viral fatigue syndrome, and although she raced at the two of the World Cup regattas that summer, withdrew from the team on medical advice after that.

Having worked her way back to fitness, she finished quite a long way down at final trials in 2003. “I remember coming off the water and I thinking, ‘I don’t care any more’. I didn’t feel that upset because I hadn’t won. And I knew the flame had gone. It was time to leave. Some people close out their careers on their terms while some get spat and I feel got spat out.”

She retired from international rowing at that point and wrote at the time that she did so, “With a light heart and a huge memory.” In her public announcement she thanked all of the coaches who had helped her on her way, including, “Noel Casey, who taught me that tough wasn’t tough enough and who sat down with me in 1992 and set in motion the dream of taking a quad to the Olympic Games; Rosie Mayglothling, who took me from a no one to an international sculler in exactly 12 months; Miles Forbes-Thomas, from whom I learned the need to leave no stone unturned and who took me to places I never would have gone – to the good times we had out there on the water; Louise Kingsley, who got me at my best – we made a great team and so nearly got the bronze in 1998; and above all to Mike Spracklen, the master of masters, the man who has made hundreds of athletes gods in their sport…. Mike, to you I owe so much and you are forgiven for telling people that I am ‘four foot nothing’.”

Guin concluded her 2003 season by winning the Open Single Sculls at Henley Women’s Regatta for the third year running.

Full accounts of each of her years representing Great Britain can be read here:

1994 | 1995 | 1996 | 1997 | 1998 | 1999 | 2000 | 2001

2 women with rowing suit
Guin and Miriam with a signed all-in-one from Sydney 2000. (Photo: Guin Batten’s personal collection.)

Funding

From 1997 to the end of her career, Guin was support by the National Lottery. She’s quite clear that the 2000 Olympic medal would not have been won without this public support. But before that, the economics of being an international rower were dire.

At Henley Royal Regatta in 1993, she slept in her parents’ camper van in the competitors’ car park (which is strictly against the rules), for instance, and during the regatta in 1995, a poignant sticker on her saxboard read ‘Sponsor the GBR 1x’.

In 1996, the Women’s Eights Head of the River Race supported her with a donation of £1,000. While this was purely philanthropic at the time, the race has since benefited handsomely as Guin has been Chair of the event since 2009.

Foot stretcher and stern canvas of sculling boat
Proudly displaying the Women’s Eights Head of the River Race logo on her boat in 1996. (Photo: Guin Batten’s personal collection.)

Going into that season, Guin realised that she wouldn’t be able to do the training she needed to if she worked full time, so she cut her hours and assessed her three main outgoings: rent, her car, and food. “I had to eat, obviously, and I had to have transport to move my boat about, so I created something I called ‘housing sponsors’ to avoid paying for accommodation. I networked like mad, and house sat for people if they were away on holiday or whatever. On one occasion I met someone at a dinner and I moved into his house five days later for three weeks because he was sailing across the Atlantic. I’ve never met him since! On one occasion I slept at the ARA on a physio couch. And all of that was good for my bank balance but I started to get ill because I didn’t have a home and didn’t have my space. And then Georgie and Charlotte Everys, who had a house near Henley, became my housing sponsor. They were my biggest supporters and I owe them so much.” she says.

Ironically, she finally landed some personal sponsorship (from Land Rover) in 2003, the year she retired.

woman sculling with Land Rover on her top
A publicity shot for Land Rover. (Photo: Guin Batten’s personal collection.)

Life after the GB team

The energy and determination which got someone as short in stature as Guin to the top of her game have been channelled into a huge range of rowing-related activities since she stopped competing internationally.

At work, she’s held management positions at Sport England, UK Sport, the British Olympic Association, the Youth Sport Trust and British Canoeing.

As a volunteer in rowing, as well as continuing to chair the Women’s Eights Head of the River Race, she has been a member of the FISA/World Rowing Council since 2004, was a member the Athletes’ Commission from 2005-2009, Chair of the Rowing for All Commission from 2010-2020, and was elected Chair of the Coastal Rowing Commission in 2020. She’s been a Steward of Henley Royal Regatta since 2011 and on its Management Board since 2012. In 2013 she qualified as a British Rowing umpire.

The female Stewards of Henley Royal Regatta in 2018. From left: Sarah Winckless, Fiona Dennis, Dr Dame Katherine Grainger, Miriam Luke (née Batten), Annamarie Phelps, Guin, Dr Lady Ann Redgrave. (Photo: Miriam Luke’s personal collection.)

But some of her most creative uses of her skills have been in various adventures on the water. At this point it’s worth emphasising that she’s an accomplished sailor as well as a rower. Unusually, Dauntsey’s school owned a sail training vessel called Jolie Brise, which she sailed on while she was a pupil and later, eventually gaining her First Mate ticket, and serving as Watch Leader in the 1986 Tall Ships Race. This offshore experience has proved at least as useful if not more so than her rowing background in planning and completing a wide range of challenges.

In 2003, she set the record for the fastest solo crossing of the English Channel in an Olympic-class sculling boat, in a time of 3 hours and 14 minutes, some eight minutes faster than the men’s record.

woman sculling with sunset in background
Rare perfect conditions for sculling across the Channel in 2003. (Photo: Guin Batten’s personal collection.)

The following year she won the senior women’s title in the Devizes to Westminster endurance kayak race, with Louise Carey, finishing in a time of 22 hours 4 minutes, and in 2010 completed a solo crossing of the 60km “Zero Degree” channel between Fulmulah Island and the Vaadhoo Atoll in the Maldives, in a coastal single scull.

Woman in coastal sculling boat
20k to go after five hours of sculling on the Zero Degree Challenge. Despite the heat, Guin’s wearing leggings to respect local modest dress codes for women. (Photo: Guin Batten’s personal collection.)

Stepping up even further, she skippered the first British women’s crew to row the Atlantic from west to east, on a route from New York to the UK which they completed in 48 days in 2016.

women in ocean rowing boat called Liberty
Guin (standing in the stern) and her crew arrive off the Bishop’s Rock Lighthouse in July 2016.

Having developed a taste for rough-water, salty rowing she devised the ‘Foot of Britain’ challenge from Land’s End to Broadstairs in Kent, which she completed with a team in 2017, followed by the ‘Toes of Ireland’ row in 2019, both in a coastal double scull.

© Helena Smalman-Smith, 2022.