Maggie Phillips (née Lambourn)

Maggie is on the far left in the picture above, taken at the 1974 World Championships in Lucerne. (Photo © Chris Aistrop.)

Years 1974 (4+ 11th)
1975 (8o 10th)
1977 (4+ 9th)
Clubs  Abingdon RC, Civil Service Ladies RC, Kingston RC
Height  5′ 9.5″ or 176.5cm
Racing weight 12 stone
Born 1951

Getting into rowing

Although she was a sporty girl at school, and quite a good long- and high-jumper, by her own admission Maggie didn’t particularly excel at any sport. When the opportunity came up for sixth formers to row one afternoon a week via an arrangement with Abingdon RC, she grabbed it straight away because she, “Rather fancied going out on the river rather than running round a hockey pitch.”

Her first win was in Girls’ School Restricted Coxed Fours at Reading Town Regatta in 1968.

1968-Abingdon RC ML is blond at front - year of first win as Junior

Maggie is the blonde girl slightly to the left of centre in the front row of this photo of Abingdon RC’s 1968 season wins. (Photo: Maggie Phillips’ personal collection.)

After Maggie left school she joined the Civil Service as a cartographer, but had to put her rowing on hold a her initial two-year training course included night-school classes. However, as soon as she’d completed this in July 1971, she remembers, “I went straight down to Civil Service Ladies Rowing Club!”

She competed at the first National Championships in 1972, getting the bronze medal in the coxed fours in the CSLRC second boat, and then winning the event in the club’s top crew the following year with Chris Grimes and Clare Grove (as well as Mary Mackay and cox Pat Sly).

International rowing career

Chris, Clare and Maggie went on to row in the GB women’s coxed four which competed at the first World Championships that included women’s events in 1974 – in fact, as it happened, in the very first women’s race of those Championships.

Full accounts of Maggie’s years rowing for GB can be found here:

1974 | 1975 | 1977

1974-Maggie Lambourn at Oxford City Regatta-Abingdon Herald

Maggie shows off her new GB blazer at Oxford City Regatta just before setting off for the World Championships in 1974. (Photo by a local paper from Maggie Phillips’ personal collection.)

Having competed for GB in 1974 and 1975, she remembers going to the first set of trials for the 1976 Montreal Olympics season but, she says, the Amateur Rowing Association made it clear right from the outset that squad would be very small that year, “And I worked out I wasn’t going to make it.” She did, however, return to compete in the larger team that went to the Worlds in 1977.

She didn’t trial in 1978, largely because it was known long in advance that there would only be a very small squad once again as the World Championships were in New Zealand. “We were told that we might have to make a financial contribution,” she remembers, “And on top of that there would be a long acclimatisation training camp, so we’d need to take unpaid leave, and all that just wasn’t practical.”

She went to the first set of trials for 1979, but the level of training involved wasn’t compatible with her work at the time, and so she retired from international racing.

Later rowing career

In early 1983 Maggie moved to Kingston RC and had a fun couple of season rowing mostly in a four and winning at various domestic regattas and also competed at a number of World Masters Championships, never coming home without a medal.

Coaching

Almost as soon as she stopped rowing internationally she began coaching at Civil Service and when she later moved to Kingston RC, took on a novice men’s four “of rugby boys from Rosslyn Park” who won their novice pots at their first regatta.

In 1985 she coached the club’s men’s second eight which qualified for the Thames Cup at Henley Royal Regatta and then pulled off the impressive feat of making it through to the Friday. “We had an incredibly lucky draw, I might add,” she says, adding, “And when we saw it and realised that getting to the Friday might be possible, Angus Gait, whom we’d drafted in to the seven seat to add a bit of experience, complained bitterly that this was going to cut down on his drinking time!”

The next year, 1986, she helped Tim Bramfitt to coach a Kingston coxed four which won a gold at the Nations Cup (ow known as the Under-23 World Championships) and went on to race at the full Worlds too. On the back of that, she was asked to take on a crew management role for an Under-23 Leander eight in 1987 and then did rowing admin there for several years. She became one of the first female members of the Club when it ceased to be men-only in 1997.

Umpiring

Maggie qualified as an umpire in 1982, having turned to it initially because she couldn’t get a place on a coaching course. “That year the schools had decided that any of their teachers who coached rowing had to have a Bronze level coaching qualification, so the courses were packed,” she remembers.

“Only three out of the twelve of us in my umpire training group passed the exam,” she continues, “And even I didn’t get it all right. Tommy Thomson and Harry Prior were my assessors and when I was talking to Tommy at a regatta some time later I mentioned that I thought I’d got one one answer completely wrong, and he said, ‘Yes you did, but you were so convincing in giving us the wrong answer anybody on the river would have believed you!'”

She gained her multi-lane endorsement in 1995 and passed the FISA exam in 1998.

Having been a member of the jury at the World Championships in 2010 in New Zealand, she was selected as one of three British umpires to officiate at London 2012, making her the first British woman to umpire at an Olympic rowing regatta. She was one of the 14 umpires from the 20-strong jury to be selected to umpire a final, taking the women’s eights.

2012-small and cropped

Maggie at the 2012 Olympics. (Photo © David Tarbun.)

Editing the Almanack

In 2011 Maggie became the Editor of the British Rowing Almanack after helping Keith Osborne edit the last of his extraordinary run of 50 editions. Under her management it is accurate, comprehensive, readable yearbook which is a credit to the sport’s governing body.

Diamond Jubilee Medal

To mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year in 2012, the Chairman of British Rowing invited the organisation’s members to nominate people who had gone that extra mile for our sport and who through their dedication have helped to lay down a legacy for future generations of rowers. Maggie was chosen to be one of the 60 recipients as recognition for her contribution to so many aspects of rowing (she has also put in many hours on the microphone as a commentator and just as many on the stopwatch as a timekeeper).

In summary

When asked which of her many, different rowing achievements she’s most proud of, she pauses for a long moment, before answering, “In hindsight, although not at the time, it’s probably racing in the very first race for women at the World Championships in 1974 at Lucerne. At the time it was just losing another race, and being drawn in the first heat was just luck, but it was a hugely significant moment for women’s rowing.”

Maggie Phillips (c) John Shore

Maggie Phillips. (Photo © John Shore.)