For over twenty-five years Bob Howard has been a consistent presence at Sudbury Rowing Club. In earlier years he would be in a launch coaching those crews he felt were committed to improving and winning. More recently Bob would be standing at the Regatta finish observing passing boats and offering simple but key coaching tips. Bob would be there as seasons came and went and members progressed from novice through to experienced rowers.
Sadly, after a short illness Bob passed away on 23 July 2020. He will be missed by the generations of rowers who benefitted from his traditional coaching style developed from years of experience as a cox, rower and coach.
Bob followed his father into rowing and as a boy he would follow the Blue Boat down the Cam on his bike and soon started coxing. He first rowed for City of Cambridge and did his first HORR aged 16. He competed in the 50’s and 60’s and rowed at Henley for Star Club in the Thames Cup in 1965 and the Wyfold Cup for City of Cambridge in 1966 forming a bond with his crew mates that lasted a lifetime. His work took him to Norwich where he rowed and coached and then later to live in Hadleigh in Suffolk where he was soon involved at Sudbury R.C. He rowed for Sudbury in the Veterans Head of the River in around 2005 exactly fifty years after his first head race and worked as hard on his fitness for his last race as for his first one.
Bob was always ready to pass on his rowing experience to others and was at his happiest when he could take a crew under his wing and develop them for racing. Bob had one rule. Any crew he coached must be consistent and wanting to develop their rowing. He expected the same commitment that he gave in his rowing days. As he would often say, quoting Steve Fairbairn, ‘Mileage Makes Champions’.
When giving coaching advice Bob would keep it simple and generally calm. He could though be quite direct if he felt that a crew needed a bit of a kick. His focus was on the catch believing in his words that if the ‘beginnings’ were right then the rest of the stroke would follow.
Until recent years Bob would coach whilst driving the launch which, after a series of close calls he managed to sink as a result of a tight turn and a temperamental engine. Purchase of a catamaran launch followed which suited him much better
Apart from his rowing and coaching Bob was a club stalwart taking a lead in extending the boathouse, installing boat racks, painting blades and discussing and feeding his thoughts to committee members and other coaches on club developments and possibilities.
Bob was also appointed as a Trustee of the Club as well as Vice President which reflected the respect that his fellow members had for him.
Over recent days a number of former junior and adult rowers have commented how it was Bob who coached them and inspired their rowing from novices winning their novice pot, the junior crew who were the first to represent Sudbury in the Schools Head and Sudbury crews that raced at Veterans National Championships. Bob was particularly proud when his son Charles was part of the squad that qualified for the Thames Cup at Henley after becoming the third generation Howard to take up the sport.
Bob loved the Sudbury ‘International’ Regatta and for many years assisted in building the temporary landing stages as part of the preparation. On the day he would position himself on the bend so he could see most of the racing with his friends Ray and Colin and take immense pride in our Regatta and that his club could organise such a great event.
Bob was a great friend of Sudbury Rowing Club and he had many great friends at the club who loved him, and we will miss him. Many of us will continue to see him in the corner of our eye as we row past the Regatta finish landing stage where he would stand every Saturday.
Perhaps the older generation of club oarsmen who would turn up in all weathers, not worried about equipment or facilities, has passed, as it has in many sports, but Bob was one of them.
Bob was a talented coach, a skilful and clever oarsman, a solid and true crewmate.