British Rowing Honours Club Chairman

Image of Derek Pickersgill with Guin Batten

Chairman and founder member of Isle of Ely Rowing Club, Derek Pickersgill, has been honoured by British Rowing as Volunteer of the Year (Administration) for the Eastern Region.

Derek was nominated by club members Victor Bridges and Catherine Murray and was presented with his award at a special event in the impressive surroundings of The Watermen’s Hall in London.

 Derek founded the Isle of Ely Rowing Club in 2003 just before the event to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Boat Race, which was held in Ely 1944. Since then he has worked tirelessly to build a community club with over a hundred members including a strong junior section. 

As Chairman, Derek has fulfilled many roles in promoting the development of the club. He has forged excellent relations with local organisations including Hydro-International, the Environment Agency, East Cambridgeshire District Council and Ely City Council.  He has developed strong ties with a network of local and national bodes including local schools, the GB Rowing Team Start Programme and a range of funding organisations from which he has sought – and won – grants to provide boats and equipment for the club.

In addition to his work ‘behind the scenes’, Derek generously provides his time supporting junior coaching sessions on the river.  He is often to be seen working at the club improving its facilities and providing safety boat cover for junior outings.  When the club hosts competitive events such as the Eastern Region Small Boats Head and the Great Ouse Marathon, it is Derek who quietly provides encouragement and practical support to the event organisers and ensures everything goes according to plan.

A very much respected presence at the club, Derek is a modest man who is very much appreciated by club members.

Derek received his prestigious British Rowing award from Guin Batten, the quadruple scull Olympic silver medalist from the 2000 Sidney Olympics. Guin congratulated Derek and the other regional award winners and described them as “dream makers,” acknowledging that their efforts behind the scenes turn dreams and aspirations into reality.

Accompanied by his wife, Angela, Derek had a wonderful afternoon at The Watermen’s Hall, which is the home of the ancient guild of Watermen and Lightermen. The guild was established in 1555 to regulate the work of the wherrymen carrying passengers by boat under oars on the River Thames.  It still exists to provide training to the young apprentices who work on the river to this day.  Each year the young Freemen of the Company are eligible to participate in the Doggett’s Coat and Badge Race, which has been held since 1715. The winner of this grueling five mile race from London Bridge to Chelsea wins the honour of wearing the scarlet coat and silver arm badge that hark back to the original costume of the eighteenth century Watermen.  Simon McCarthy, winner of the Doggett’s Coat and Badge in 1984, was present at the dinner to add his congratulations to the award winners.

On receiving his award, Derek commented, “I had no idea that I had been nominated and I’m truly delighted and surprised.  This wonderful setting, with its historic connections, is such a perfect setting and I’m very grateful to you all.”

Another Volunteer of the Year Award received by the Eastern Region was presented to Colin Bullock (East Open).