Catching up with the Dorney Crew

A team of 450 volunteers are supporting the Samsung World Rowing at Eton Dorney this weekend – the Dorney Crew.

Event organisers aimed to get a mixture of experienced volunteers for the Samsung World Rowing Cup at Eton Dorney. Many would be veterans of the Olympics and Paralympics in 2012, together with new volunteers, working at a rowing event for the very first time.

After speaking to a range of volunteers around the venue, it appears that the volunteer organising group has clearly hit the mark…

Looking after such a large volunteer workforce is a difficult task – one that has been given to a team of people including Richard Chapman, who has travelled down from Gateshead to take up his role.

Richard is a Sport, Lifestyle and Health Development Manager for Gateshead City Council and has a keen interest in rowing – both as a competitor and as a coach. He volunteering at the World Rowing Cup because he is “particularly keen to put something back” into the sport he loves.

Working alongside Richard is Georgie Glover, a philosophy student at Cardiff University, who considers volunteering to be “good fun” and “very helpful to future employers in terms of indicating commitment and willingness to go the extra mile.”

The six members of the Dorney Crew over in Results Distribution, meanwhile, are celebrating their second anniversary as a volunteering team. They first got together at the World Rowing Junior Championships here in 2011, as part of the London Prepares Series, and also supported the Olympic Rowing Regatta last year – disseminating and circulating official results right across the venue.

Since first volunteering together two years ago, the team has kept in regular contact – getting together occasionally. All six members of the team have applied to volunteer at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow next year, and are waiting to hear if they’ve been successful.

On the water, the Water Safety Volunteers are a specialist team of experienced boat drivers who play the crucial role of ensuring safety for all of the athletes and officials. They arrive at the venue at 5am and get out on the water immediately.

“I volunteer because I enjoy what I do,” said Colette Johnson. “I feel that I’m in a very privileged position to be so close to the action and have some interaction with the competitors.”

Volunteers in Athlete Services are closer to the competitors than most but for Harriet Wilson, a student at Sheffield Hallam University, the best thing about volunteering can be the people you work with. “I love meeting new people,” she said, “and I love the sport itself, so just being part of the event is very important to me.”

Our final stop on Saturday was bag drop – meeting the people responsible for the personal items of hundreds of rowers during practice and racing.

Jill Harris is a retired nurse from Somerset, who says that she has become something of a ‘serial volunteer’.

“It’s become extremely addictive,” she said. “At the bag drop, the athletes leave their kit and clothing while they are out on the water. So I get to meet all of the rowers and talk to them! I’ve gradually met more and more people, and I really enjoy the experience.”

Working alongside Jill is Eleanor Myles-Hook, a student at the University of Kent. Eleanor has rowed at Dorney herself, and volunteered at the Paralympic Games last year. When she heard that international rowing was coming back to the London 2012 venue, she jumped at the opportunity to be a part of it.

“My role here allows me to watch some of the rowing and it’s great to meet everyone. There is a really good atmosphere, and it’s really helpful for networking as I’m always looking for contact that could help me with future career opportunities.”

Rowing clubs up and down the country are looking for volunteers to keep their boats on the water. If you think you might like to get involved, visit www.britishrowing.org/taking-part/volunteering.

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