Meet the Kevin Bacon of Rowing
Anne Buckingham is what you could call one of the super volunteers of rowing.
She’s currently involved with Henley Women’s Regatta, Henley Masters Regatta, the Head of the Charles and the Leander Club, as well as occasionally doing commentary at other regattas. For her day job, she’s an in-house lawyer for a security printing company.
And fortunately for the Organizing Committee of the 2018 World Rowing Coastal Championships, she’s going to drop by Victoria on her way to Boston.
She got her start in volunteering at the Head of the Charles in 1997, and has been there every year since except one, when she gave birth two weeks before the regatta.
“I was initially signed up to hold boats as they launched and landed,” recalled Buckingham of her first stint as a volunteer.
“Then the person in charge of the launching and landing area heard I was six foot five and decided to put me in charge of a dock as I would look authoritative.”
She admits she wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
“I’d been rowing for five months and had never experienced a regatta before, much less one the size of Head of the Charles. It went well I guess, because they asked me to keep doing it.”
Three years later, she awarded the first ever penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct on the dock at that regatta. The next year, was signed up for the umpire corps automatically as her name had been on the penalty report. She took the hint and is now working towards becoming a USRA Referee.
For the Henley Women’s Regatta in England, she’s the “Crew Liaison”, which she started doing in 2013. The largest portion of her time is spent helping non-UK crews set up and then get maximum enjoyment from their trip to Henley Women’s Regatta.
“This can involve everything from finding housing, often with very specific crew requirements, to advice on where a team of 40 can carbo-load the night before the race,” Buckingham said.
“In any given year I’m regularly asked to recommend anything from who is the best blazer manufacturer, to where the best place is for the full Downton Abbey style afternoon tea.”
It’s a volunteer assignment that gives her great pleasure.
“The best part is about two hours after someone’s last race is over, when you hear about all the different things that they’ve loved about the regatta,” Buckingham said.
“It is often something you might not have appreciated, but it made an impact.”
She leaves the regatta exhausted but also fulfilled, and that she says, is what brings back athletes and volunteers again and again.
“To me, it is the most varied, most challenging, and consequently absolutely the best role in the Regatta,” Buckingham said.
“Some of the coaches and rowers have become really good friends along the way.”
She is looking forward to helping to make the World Coastals a fabulous event as well.
“Through my other volunteering, I’ve become friends with Marla, Julien Bahain and Guin Batten and they know I can’t sit still long enough to watch, so I have to get my hands dirty,” Buckingham said.
“The velvet thumbscrews were well and truly applied, and I was offered a role that would play to my strengths and experience.”
Being part of the first world coastal championship in Canada was also appealing.
“Who in their right mind turns down an excuse to visit British Columbia in the autumn?” Buckingham joked.
“It’ll be an incredible, world class event in a beautiful part of the world at the best time of the year.”
Buckingham is also excited about what it will mean for coastal rowing, having the Worlds in North America for the first time.
“I think it increases visibility for the sport profoundly, and that increased visibility translates into increased participation,” Buckingham said.
“Watching a group of athletes so diverse in age, size, nationality and experience take on the World Championship in a sport can only inspire people to think, hey, I could do that!”
Coastal rowing, she says, is a perfect fit.
“There is far more coastline in North America than there are FISA standard rowing lakes, and this course demonstrates how fun, accessible and great to watch this sport is,” Buckingham said.
“There’s something there for everyone, and I think you’re about to watch coastal rowing increase North American participation substantially.”
“Even more so if someone from North America medals and gets the press coverage they deserve,” she added.
As for her nickname as the “Kevin Bacon” of rowing?
“I started volunteering in rowing because I was, and am, incredibly shy,” Buckingham said.
“It turned out to be a great strategy, as you learn new skills, and it is much easier to talk to people if you have an actual reason for the conversation.”
And that’s what keeps her coming back, much to the delight of regatta organizers on two continents.