|Years||1975 World Championships (8o 10th)
1977 World Championships (4x+ 10th)
1979 World Championships (8o 9th)
1980 Olympic Games (8o 5th)
1982 World Championships (2x 9th)
|Clubs||Wraysbury Skiff and Punting Club, Weybridge Ladies ARC, Civil Service Ladies RC, Borough Road College RC|
|Height||5’6.5″ or 170 cm|
|Racing weight||11 stone 5 lb or 72 kg|
The photo at the top of this page shows Rosie (left) with Astrid Ayling and their coach Ron Needs celebrating their win at Henley Royal Regatta in 1982. (Photo © John Shore.)
Getting into rowing
Rosie grew up in Staines-upon-Thames so was aware that rowing existed from an early age. Keen to give it a go herself, she tried to join Staines BC but it was a men-only club at the time, as was Burway RC which was on the next stretch of the river downstream. “Women could row at Weybridge Ladies ARC, of course,” she explains, “But I was only 16 at the time and it was a bit far to get there from home.”
Instead she took up skiffing, after she and a friend had spotted a man skiffing past one day. “My friend said, ‘Oh, I really fancy doing that!,’ so her husband yelled, ‘Oi, do you take lady members?,” and he said, ‘Yes,’ so we went and met him at the boat house and both of us started skiffing. She was instantly really very good but probably only did it for about 18 months whereas it took me a bit longer but then I became quite good at skiffing.”
In the spring of 1974 Rosie was encouraged to take up rowing by another skiffer, Chris Aistrop, who was by then training in the new GB women’s squad and went on to row that summer at the first World Championships that included women’s events. She joined Weybridge Ladies, which she could get to more easily now she was older.
At that time Weybridge Ladies and Marlow RC had an arrangement with Port Marly rowing club in France whereby the British clubs would go over there one year for some races and a jolly, and then the French would come back here the following year. Rosie went on one of these trips within a few months of starting rowing. “I was a really novice rower but finished up in a mixed eight when we were out there,” she recalls. “And I always remember easying as we came into the landing stage and the boat was absolutely sat and I thought, ‘Ooh, I like this!'”
She had her first taste in sculling in a ‘fine’ (as opposed to a skiff) single courtesy of Mike Spracklen, the GB men’s sculling coach no less, who was based at Marlow and whom she also knew because he skiffed a bit too. “I was very lucky in lots of ways with whom I happened to know and the connections that were made,” she reflects.
Rosie won the Ladies Single Skiff Championship from 1974 to 1976 and in 1978. She won the Ladies Doubles in 1974 with Janet Sarsby, and in 1975 with Sheila Cooksey, completing the ‘triple’ that year by winning the Mixed Doubles with Simon Sharp too.
International rowing career
Rosie put herself forward for the GB women’ squad in the autumn of 1974, and was selected to row in the eight at the 1975 World Championships in Nottingham.
Looking back on those Championships now, Rosie says, laughing, “I hadn’t been rowing very long, and so didn’t really realise how everything worked and so I thought that by the time we got to the World Championships we would row perfectly. That was how naïve I was!”
Full accounts of Rosie’s years rowing for GB can be found here:
In 1976 Rosie was the last person to be cut from the squad, having hoped to be in the coxed four until plans for a possible double scull were abandoned after which one of the scullers, Diana Bishop, got the bow seat of the four. Typically, Rosie is philosophical about this now and says, “I was obviously upset at the time. I remember confronting Penny [Chuter, the coach] in the car park and saying, ‘You’ll regret this!’ Of course now I’ve been a coach you see the other side of it but it made me more determined not less determined.”
She adds, “I actually had a fabulous summer in 1976. Sue Handscomb, Jean Guppy, Chris Grimes and I did a coxed four at Civil Services Ladies RC. I think I won something like 23 pots that season because we did fours and pairs, and I did a couple of singles. We won the National Championships. We won the Home Countries, and at that time you used to do a mixed eight as well the next day, and we won that too. I learned a lot about racing and being self-sufficient. Even things like the first time we tied the four on, it took us about 45 minutes because none of us knew how to tie the knots to tie a four on! So that was a fabulous great year and I think it laid a really good foundation for Sue and me for coming back into the squad in 1977.”
Rosie’s 1977 quad remained intact for the 1978 season, and raced at some European regattas but to her disappointment was not fast enough to be selected to go to the World Championships which were in New Zealand that year. However, they won the coxed quads at the National Championships where Rosie also got the bronze medal in the single sculls behind Pauline Hart (from the GB double that did go to the Worlds) and Sue Handscomb.
Rosie took a year off competing internationally during the 1981 season to concentrate on the degree course she was just starting and also to give her body a bit of a rest, particularly as she’d sustained a rib injury during the Olympics in 1980. That said her life can’t have had many dull moments that year as she coached the Oxford University women [more on this below – Ed.], commuting from west London in her Mini. She also kept moderately fit doing a bit of training; “Nicola [Boyes from Rosie’s 1979 and 1980 eights] and I used to lift weights a couple of times week together too,” she adds.
After doubling with Astrid Ayling at the 1982 World Championships, Rosie trialled again in 1983. The sculling squad finished up being a bit of a “mess” that year, as she puts it, and in the end she just attended the World Championships in Duisburg as reserve. “1983 was an interesting year for me because I also got married and my wedding ended up clashing with the trials. I was given permission to not do the Saturday but had to get up really early to go to Nottingham on the Sunday to do the trials… and they were blown off.”
Reflecting on her rowing career, Rosie puts some of her success down to not having the natural aptitude that some of her team mates did. “I wasn’t good,” she says, “And that meant I had to put my heart and soul into it and train hard and as a result I improved in the end more than some of the people who initially did better because they were more talented.”
As well as attending the World Championships in Duisburg as reserve, Rosie was also appointed as Assistant Team Manager.
She’d gained useful experience for this role in 1981 when she wasn’t competing but went to the World Championships in Munich to carry out a sociological study on the team. “I ended up being out there for a month, and finished up helping with the transport and various other things, so in 1983 it wasn’t such a huge step up for them to say, ‘Would you be the Assistant Team Manager?'”
Rosie was also Assistant Team Manager when the World Championships were in Nottingham in 1986, which led to her meeting Princess Anne, and in 1987.
Rosie has spent her working life in sport, mostly in rowing, and mostly with a development focus. And has loved it. Looking back now on her career so far, she says, with her typical glass-half-full attitude, “I just think I’m a very privileged person to have spent my life playing in sport.”
Oxford University women
Via a contact that she thinks came through Sue Brown, who was in the GB women’s team at the 1980 Olympics with Rosie and was also at Oxford University, Rosie became lead coach for the Oxford University women for two terms through to their Boat Race in April 1981.
“All I’d really got going for me was that I’d been an Olympic rower,” she says, although she had also done her bronze and silver ARA coaching awards by this time and was doing a degree in ‘movement studies’ (and English) which could also be described as PE.
The project was a great success for all concerned, Rosie explains:
I was very lucky because the Oxford women at that point used to spend the first term based at St Edward’s School and the Master in Charge there was Mike Rosewell who knew me from skiffing. He was very generous with his time and he came out with me quite a lot when I coached the women and he gave me some good advice about what I needed to do.
There were some outstanding women in the group and we won both the Boat Races bot for me the most shocking thing was that straight afterwards, most of them said, ‘Right, that’s it, I’m off now.’ and I said, ‘What do you mean you’re off now? Why don’t you go to GB trials?’ So after that I was able to get some of them to lift their heads a bit and go to trials.
Some time that winter the Oxford women were contacted by the children’s TV programme Blue Peter who wanted to film presenter Sarah Greene learning to row. Rosie took two Oxford crews to London for a day, and stuck Sarah in the middle of one of them. They finished by doing a mock race with Rosie improvising and using her pink woolly hat as the starting flag.
Rosie started work as one of the Amateur Rowing Association’s National Coaches in September 1983. In doing so she became probably only the second female professional coach in the country – outside schools – after Penny Chuter. This forcibly brought her competitive career to an end as she no longer met the ARA’s ‘amateur status’ requirements which remained in place until 1998.
Her responsibilities as National Coach were vast, covering both the development of domestic women’s rowing at junior and senior levels and also being Women’s National Squad Co-ordinator. The first part of her role involved visiting clubs all over England, running women’s training weekends in various places, and it even took her to Hong Kong where she tutored a 10-day coaching course.Admirably [and not just because I’m biased – Ed. (cox)], Rosie included the development of coxes in her brief, The 1989 Almanack noted that, “On the initiative of Rosie Mayglothling, the National Coaches have set up a ‘coxing society’ whose aims and objectives are to recruit, encourage, develop and improve standards of coxing; to feed back to boat builders and clothing manufacturers the requirements of coxes, and to obtain recognition that a cox is a skilled, trained specialist and is an important integral member of the crew.”
Initially, of course, her role as Women’ Squad Co-ordinator involved her in selection decisions affecting people whom she’d rowed with previously, which she inevitably found very difficult.
Development work in Sheffield
In 1988 Rosie had been promoted to Senior National Coach but in the autumn 1989 she partly left the ARA to take on a new role based in Sheffield. Funded jointly by Sheffield Polytechnic (now Sheffield Hallam University), the [Henley] Stewards Charitable Trust and the ARA, her brief was to develop rowing at the Rother Valley watersports centre and at the Poly. As well as running the project, she also analysed the impact of marketing activity within it as the subject of a research-based MPhil at the Poly where she also did some lecturing in sports development.
Sadly, the Rother Valley scheme didn’t really work in the end for multiple reasons, all of which were outside Rosie’s control. She had a lot more success coaching in Sheffield though, where the University, Polytechnic and club all row from the same base on a reservoir. She got the University and the Polytechnic working together to the extent that they raced a composite eight at Henley in 1990, and she also helped to facilitate the three organisations to plan a new boathouse together and helped them to apply for a grant.
Regional Coach in Nottingham
Rosie then moved to Nottingham to take up an ARA Regional Development Coach job based at Holme Pierrepont. “I had to do three things,” she remembers. “One was to bring some national activity to the centre. The second was to develop some local activity at the centre, and the third was to bring some regional activity to the centre. So I decided that probably the best thing to do was then to create a regional women’s group which was known as the East Midlands Women’s Rowing Squad. I also organised regular Women’s Training Days with Ron Needs along much the same lines we’d done when I was first a National Coach.” These development weekends, “Kept a whole generation going,” according to Olympic medallist Cath Bishop, at a time when GB women’s rowing was at a low point. They certainly played a part in developing a number of oarswomen who went on to represent GB.
Learning about other sports at the Sports Council
In 1996 Rosie moved to Bedford to work for the Sports Council. Initially she was the liaison for Sport England in rowing but after a while asked to be transferred to netball so that she could learn more about another sport.
And back to the ARA
Rosie returned to what is now British Rowing in 2001 when she was appointed Technical Co-ordinator for the GB Rowing Team, a role that particularly suited her inquisitive and reflective approach. She became Director of Pathway Development in 2015, a post she held until 2018.
Rosie is Chair of the FISA Competitive Commission and was elected to the FISA Council’s Executive Committee in 2018.
“Wherever you are, there are talented women around”
Throughout her career Rosie has set up and run several schemes designed to nurture oarswomen, either as part of her job at the time or on a voluntary basis, in locations not served by the main hub of GB squad activity.
The first of these was in Wallingford in about 1983, but later she set up a regionally-based group in the North West, and then the East Midlands group described above.
In the late 1990s she realised that a number of the women she knew from these groups, and from her time as an international, had reached ‘veteran’ age and happened to be members of small clubs where they had no opportunities to row in eights with people of their age and standard. She then set up a masters group, known informally as UK Gold (they always raced as their clubs as they felt it important to fly these flags), which raced successfully in the UK and at European and World masters events for over a decade.
One thing that the National Squad Co-ordinator’s job description didn’t actually involve was coaching GB crews, but Rosie got her first taste of international coaching in 1986 when she was asked to take on the women’s double for six weeks in the run up to the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
She then coached the lightweight women throughout the entire season in 1988, although she could only really get out with them at weekends as she was busy with her National Coach duties during the week and had two small sons by this stage. She took the lightweight four to the World Championships where they came fourth after an unfortunate crash during the warmup for their straight final.
“The following year – 1989 – I took the group again but I kept saying to Penny Chuter [Director of International Rowing], ‘I can’t keep doing this!,’ because my boys were quite young,” Rosie explains. “So about six weeks before the World Championships Bob Michaels took them on. But because I’d coached them up to that point I did go to the World Championships to watch them race and they won the silver medal.”
In 1990 she coached Helen Mangan and Felicity Medennis-Leach in the lightweight double for the World Championships in Tasmania, and then coached Helen again in the lightweight double for the Worlds in 1992 and 1993 – on both occasions with Trisha Corless.
Rosie had a particularly busy summer in 1994. A quad she was coaching, drawn from her North West group, represented England at the Commonwealth Games in Canada. She also went to the Worlds in Indianapolis to support Guin Batten whom she’d been coaching in Nottingham. And she had a baby.
Rosie has several publications to her name. In 1989 a paper she co-authored, entitled The Dedicated Few: The Social World of Women Coaches in Britain in the 1980s, was published in the journal Sport and Leisure. She has also written two books: Rowing: The Skills of the Game came out in 1994; and Rowing and Sculling, which she wrote with her son Tristan, a professional rowing coach, was published in 2015.
Out of everything she’s achieved, Rosie is proudest of having identified in the mid 1980s that what women’s rowing in the UK needed was a major event in about June which could be a focus for that part of the season. The result was Henley Women’s Regatta.
In 2003 Rosie’s friends from UK Gold presented a trophy in her name to the regatta, which is currently awarded to the winner of the Senior Double Sculls, in recognition of her achievement in winning the ‘experimental’ women’s doubles with Astrid Ayling at Henley Royal Regatta in 1982.
When Rosie was first in the GB team in the 1970s, British women’s international rowing was in a highly experimental phase, and it could be argued that those who rowed then were unlucky that their careers happened to fall at a time when money, equipment, coaching, knowledge and numbers of other women were in short supply. Had they been born later, they could have achieved more, some might say. Rosie doesn’t see it like that at all. “We always stand on the shoulders of the people that came before,” she says. “Rowing changed my life,” she says, happily. Having gone to a secondary modern school which channeled its pupils into secretarial work, “Which didn’t interest me,” she says, Rosie was inspired by the university-educated women she met in the squad to get a degree herself (and later another one), and has never looked back.
In 2019 she was awarded the British Rowing Medal of Honour and the OBE for services to rowing and to gender equality in sport – richly-deserved recognition for her achievements.
© Helena Smalman-Smith 2018.