Welcome to Spitfire Boat Club… we are a small rowing club of a few dozen members that row, as tenants, from the shared Somerset Maugham boathouse, along the River Stour across the marshes of the Isle of Thanet at Plucks Gutter near Canterbury. We are surrounded by history from Roman and tribal invasions from the continent through to more recent events such as the Battle of Britain taking place overhead and secrecy of D-Day invasion plans. The club formed as alumni of University of Kent and its name comes from the local brew by Shepherd Neame although that comes from the Battle of Britain itself. The club had some initial enthusiasm in the early 2000s, revived and converted to an open club by the efforts of Rory Semple and the late Mike Kennedy over the next decade and then lay near dormant for the last ten years during which the already old and second-hand small fleet deteriorated. We are the only open river rowing club in East Kent and have good relationships with our coastal cousins at Herne Bay and further.
Roll forward to more recent years, current committee put in place some coach training, an opportune influx of a few experienced rowers to the area (also qualified coaches), and several hard weekends of clearing scrub and silt to regain full river access,and we were ready to refurbish some very old boats and look to promoting rowing to the supportive local community and provide some learn to row courses…. Then Covid hit.
That could have been the end of the club but has, in fact, probably been the making of the club. Thankfully most of our rowers had their own, or Covid appropriate access, to C2 indoor rowing machines, combined with the interconnectivity of WhatsApp and Zoom, has led to the club members coming together to compete successfully in a number of virtual indoor rowing events.
With light at the end of the Covid tunnel, we find ourselves well-positioned in terms of clubness, skills and willingness to grow the club as planned before Covid. Next step is to get some financial assistance to help accelerate these delayed plans into reality. We will be fundraising and seeking grants towards refurbishing our existing, rather tired small fleet of boats and towards some new training boats that will double up as recreational rowing boats to explore the Stour and further as our membership hopefully expands.