Joanne Harris |

Great Coaching: Thames’ Smulders is hungry for more success

In recent years Thames RC has become a fixture on finals day at Henley Royal Regatta after decades in the wilderness. Joanne Harris talks to head coach Sander Smulders about the club’s coaching philosophy, which has helped it to the top of club rowing

In 2003, Thames won their first Henley Royal Regatta trophy in almost half a century, taking the Wyfold Challenge Cup. The victory was the start of a renaissance for the Putney club, culminating in 2022 with wins in the Wargrave, Wyfold and Britannia Challenge Cups and the Copas Cup for intermediate club eights at Henley Women’s Regatta.

That summer’s success was masterminded by current head coach Alexander (Sander) Smulders. He joined Thames in autumn 2016 as an assistant coach to Ben Lewis, and stepped up to the top job at the start of 2019/20 when Lewis left.

Dutchman Smulders took to coaching while still a teenager, just because he liked teaching people to row, but first realised he could be good at it when coaching his younger sister Marlies. She went on to win silver with the Dutch women’s eight at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.


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