Brian Ellis 1932-2018

On the last night of Town Bumps, over a hundred people rose to their feet to applaud a lost friend, Brian Ellis, who died on Tuesday June 17, aged 86. The assembled Champion of the Thames (‘Champs’) Rowing Cub members were celebrating the memory of one of the great characters of the River Cam, and remembered him too by chanting “Legs, Legs, Legs!” his famous coaching line, exhorting rowers to get their legs down for a really effective stroke.

Louise Affleck with Brian Ellis

Brian with Louise Affleck at Bedford Small Boats Head

President of the ‘Champs’ Club since 2008 (and a Vice-President of the Cambridge Rowing Association), Mr Ellis was often known as ‘Bogie’, a nickname he shared with his father. Last year, he celebrated seventy years ‘on the Cam’. Born in 1932, Brian used to come down to the river as a young schoolboy and offer to hold the horses during the bumps – in the days when bumps crews were still accompanied by coaches on horseback.

After national service as an army driver, Brian was briefly a chef at the University Arms. He joined Wallers’ Butchers that was run by the Weltons, a well-known Cambridge rowing family who understood his need to combine work with the river. Later, he worked with Malcolm Smith at Malcolm’s Meats before becoming a bus driver. On the buses, he was described as ‘always laughing, noisy and fun’.

He married Mary Haynes in 1953, with whom he shared a love of cycling, and often cycled a tandem to Hunstanton and back. They had a son and two daughters – Peter, Alda and Barbara (Barbara sadly died young aged 35 years). His daughter Alda recalls ‘‘we were always going for days out and if it wasn’t the seaside, it would be the banger racing. We were the first people in the street to have a car even though you did have to sit in the back with an umbrella!” Brian and Mary were devoted to each other, and Brian cared for Mary with great dedication in the last years of her life, carrying on preparing food for her even when she was moved to a nursing home. She died in 2005.

Brian in a scull

Brian in a scull

Rowing was a constant thread in Mr Ellis’s long and active life. First rowing as a 15 year old in 1947, starting as a cox because he was told he was too young to row. He was a serious competition rower over many years and a Champion Sculler on the Cam. His last competitive race was Town Bumps in 2000 with ‘Robs’. Eric Smith recalls: ‘Brian was tasked with filling the 12th boat. He announced that as this was his last competitive event he would only race for one minute – after that he would dip his blade and let the rest of us race. We ended up with 3 bumps and a row over (on the Friday night).’
He coached Richard Moseley as part of ‘Robs’’ First VIII when he first arrived in Cambridge in 1969 and started rowing for Rob Roy (‘Robs’). He also coached Richard Moseley when he was a member of the fastest four in Cambridge. Mr Ellis coached Christ’s College crews – but when the latter wanted to pay him and he said ‘just buy me a bottle of wine’.

One of his many successful scullers, Chris Owen recalls: ‘Brian first started coaching me in 2003, slightly bemused by a junior from 99s (not known as a sculling club) ploughing up and down the Cam powered only by brute force and ignorance. One of the most special wins for me was winning the fastest scull in the Rob Roy Small Boats Head, as Robs sculler, after Ben Caulton [who Brian coached in 2005-2006] had a few years before me and one Brian Ellis several decades before us both!’

Mary Twitchett says: ‘Brian started coaching me as a novice sculler in 2003 after competing for CUWBC as a lightweight. Brian never missed an outing. Always encouraging, always with a stopwatch – and always telling us “Legs, Legs”. We had an amazing two years unbeaten in local regattas and then Henley Veteran championship and National Rowing championships. In Vienna 2009, I won the World Masters in a double scull with Susan Brown. Without Brian none of this would have been possible. Pre-race, he would always say ‘Fill your lungs’ – it is something I still do pre-races and encourage the athletes who I coach to do. It calms your thoughts and reassures you that you are ready to race well’.

Brian with Mary Twitchett (r) and Linda Dennis (l) at Henley Veterans Regatta, 2006

Brian Ellis was quite simply an inspirational coach, determined, wryly humorous, with a natural gift for picking up on what a rower or a crew needed to think about on any particular day – he coached more than one generation of several Cambridge rowing families. Carole Mills recalls: ‘he coached both Louise Affleck and I until October last year when he could no longer get down to the river. Often, we’d arrive for an outing and he’d say ‘I’ve been thinking about you two’ and would come up with an innovative outing plan to get us thinking or working in a different way. He had a fantastic way of motivating us. I hear his voice in my head all the time when I’m racing, especially at the finish ‘now take it home!’ It was always worth racing well just to hear him say with great relish ‘we had a cracking race today!’

Carole Mills with Brian at Henley Vets – 2016

A gifted rower in his own right for many years, he was a most constructive and positive coach, and in old age cut a dignified figure in a thick blue jacket and bike helmet, riding his electric bike on the towpath – a long way from the horse-riding coaches and cedar-skinned sculls of the 1930s and 40s. Mr Ellis – and his inimitable smile – will be remembered with deep admiration and affection by many members of the Cambridge town clubs, especially ‘Robs’, ‘Nines’ and ‘Champs’, with which he had the closest associations.

Brian Ellis

Brian with his trusty electric bike, ready to coach scullers

Obituary kindly written by Jeremy Musson

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Brian Ellis

It is with profound sadness that we announce that our Club’s President, Brian Ellis, sadly passed away yesterday evening. Our flag will fly at half-mast for the rest of the week.

Brian’s contribution to sculling, to rowing, and to Champs has been incredible, and the most fitting tribute we can pay him is to row our hearts out for the rest of the week – hear that powerful and motivating voice in your ears, leave nothing on the river and, even though you are in agony, ‘relax’!

18 June 2018

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Champs Eights Head 2018

Champion of the Thames RC will be running Champs Eights Head on Sunday 20th May 2018. Divisions are at 12:00, 13:30 and 15:00 with racing on a 1450m course from the Plough to the site of the former Penny Ferry pub.

Fastest Women’s Crew 2018 and Course Record Holders

Fastest Men’s Crew 2018







Entries are accepted in the following categories:

College Mens 8s:        Mays Divisions M1, 2, 3, 4, 5 + GoR

College Womens 8s:   Mays Divisions W1, 2, 3, 4 + GoR

CRA 8s:                    Championship, Club A, Club B, Novice, Masters, Junior

College crews, please note that your category is the division in which your boat will start in this year’s May bumps (e.g. Trinity Hall women’s first boat will race in the W2 category).

CRA crews, event categories are defined as per criteria set out in CRA winter league races (see the eights head page for full details).


As usual we will be awarding tankards to category winners (if collected at the prize giving these come with a complimentary fill of Milton Brewery beer). The fastest crews will also be awarded the John Stewart (Men’s) or Helen Patterson (Women’s) Trophy. Additionally we will have tankards for Champion Coxes awarded based on lines taken around Ditton corner, and crew awards for the best start as judged plus the opportunity to take home a Magnum of Champagne for the fastest crew that breaks the current course record.

Entries will be accepted though our online entry form

Entries will close at 6pm on Wednesday 16th May.

£8/seat (£64/crew) if payment received on or before Wednesday 16th May

£9/seat (£72/crew) for payments received from Thursday 17th May until the morning of the race.

Any queries, please contact the event organiser Jen Bromley:



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CCJSH 2018 – Cancelled

It is with heavy heart  that the event committee have come to the decision to cancel Sunday’s event in its entirety due to the forecast conditions.

The forecast hasn’t changed enough for racing to be safely possible. We will be expecting a strong flow on the river due to recent rainfall, coupled with a strong, gusting wind in the opposite direction which will lead to white horses on the more exposed parts of the course. Add this to the low temperatures with additional wind chill and likely snow which will make conditions on the bank difficult at the landing stages and on the towpath, we feel that the risk to competitor’s and coaches safety is too high to proceed.

We will be issuing refunds minus a 10% levy which we are keeping to cover event overheads that we cannot recoup (equipment hire, facilities hire and first aid cover).

If you are yet to pay your race fee, please do so for 10% of your entries.

Thank you for your understanding, the 2019 event is scheduled for Sunday March 10th and we hope that you will all be able to join us then.

Jen, Sam & Carole

CCJSH 2018 Event Committee

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Eights Head Photos Available!

Thanks to all 116 crews that raced on Sunday 21st May. Those of you who were eagle-eyed may have noticed that we had photographers at the start and at the railway bridge. Details of how to view and get (free!) high resolution versions of the images can be found on the Eights Head page.

We hope to see you all for the next edition of the race on 20th May 2018


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Champs Eights Head Booking now open

The Champs Eights Head will take place on Sunday 21st May 2017

Division times 12:00 noon, 1:30 pm & 3:00pm

Go to the Champs Eights Head page for more information and to Enter.

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Junior Sculling Head – 19th March 2017

For one last time due to the (almost finished!) redevelopment of race HQ, the Junior Sculling Head will be a CRA event. For more details and entry forms, visit the CCJSH page.

Entries are open via our online entry system and will close on Monday 13th March. Any enquires should be directed to

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Pots for this year’s inductees in IM3

The new Men’s A Crew starts on the right foot. On Saturday the 1st of October, we got our first pots as a crew in the IM3 4+ category with a time of 10:47 over 2.6k, just 10.6s ahead of Hughes Hall. We race2016_01_10_im3-winnersd at a steady 28, masterly stroked by Geraint and authoritatively lead by our cox Gemma. Matt at number 3 is an experienced rower, but Michel and myself at bow and 2 respectively, are the off-spring of the induction programme, which the club runs from March to October. We both joined in May, and thanks to its organiser and to the many people in the club that offer their time generously, had all the opportunities to progress quickly. We were surprised and pleased we came together so fast: crews have only just been formed and we had few outings to synchronize as a crew, but there is obviously good will, commitment and some good power. Let’s see where we can take it!
– Francesco Fermani Oct 2016.
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Successes for Champs RC Sculling + Sweep Rowing crews in the Rob Roy Small Boats Head, 01/10/16.

Champs had their biggest ever entry into this event on our home water with 15 sculling crews (many in their first race) + 1 sweep oar crew. The conditions were good and much drier than forecast despite the downpour during Division 3.

There was a fantastic win for our new recruits to sweep oar rowing,  A Men IM3 4+ crew, who were the fastest Champs Crew and 15th overall fastest.

The scullers also had a good day with wins for Trish Reed+Steve Millar (Mx.MasCDE.2x), Phil Jones (MasEF.1x), Louise Affleck+Carole Mills (W.MasCDF.2x), Louise Affleck (WMasC 1x) and Carole Mills (WMasDE 1x).


Louise Affleck

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Henley Masters Regatta 2016

Success at Henley Masters Regatta, Friday 08th + Saturday 09th July 2016

Carole Mills battled on the Thames through the tough, gusty headwind and strong stream to win the WMasD 1x event by 1.3 lengths against a Twickenham RC sculler who had beaten her by a split second recently at the National Masters Championships.



Louise Affleck + Cynthia Jones lost in the Quarter Finals of the WMasD 2x event to a Tideway Scullers crew more accustomed and accomplished at dealing with the Thames. However, it was an invaluable learning experience for this crew to race at international level.

Thanks to Brian Ellis for his expertise, time and patience coaching us.

Louise Affleck

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