A STAR-STUDDED fundraiser has pulled in £43,000 towards rebuilding a Marlow landmark from the ashes, with the finishing line now in sight for the famous sporting institution.
Friday’s Presidents Dinner at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Marlow was the centrepiece of Marlow Rowing Club’s Fire Fund Appeal to replace its riverside clubhouse, gutted by fire in 2011.
Legendary Olympic rowing pair Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent were reunited for the glitzy bash, but swapped their Team GB strips for tuxedos as they rubbed shoulders with guests.
They were joined by gold medallists Katherine Grainger, Zac Pucahse, Ed Mckeever and Naomi Riches, as well as Rugby World Cup-winning coach Sir Clive Woodward to help generate cash towards the new £2.5million Watersports Hub.
Over 300 guests enjoyed a three-course dinner followed by a question and answer session from Sir Matthew, Sir Steve and Sir Clive, chaired by award-winning former BBC journalist Liz MacKean.
And a live auction with a host of donated prizes helped the evening along to its £43,000 total, with organisers hopeful the target in the long-running campaign is within their grasp.
John Yeatman, Deputy-Chairman said: "What a fantastic night: So far, on the auctions, raffle, ticket sales, and champagne, we have made a fantastic £30,000, 50 per cent more than we were hoping for.
"Add to that pledges made on the night to our Patron scheme and we get to the amazing grand total of £43,000.
"We’re hoping that further pledges if come in, the final total may reach the £50,000 Sir Matt tweeted about. That will leave us another £40-50,000 to go to reach our target for the campaign."
Top seller at the auction was a photo and Olympic signed and framed shirt from GB’s first ever female Olympic Rowing gold medallists Heather Stanning and Helen Glover which fetched £3700.
A silent auction was conducted alongside the main event, with a one-on-one coaching session from London 2012 kayak champion Ed McKeever snapped up for £1,600.
And four dozen bottles of champagne signed by all the gold-medallists present raised £1,586.
Other prizes included a chance to caddy for Sir Steve at an upcoming golf tournament and a chance to travel with the Olympic legend to watch his appearance on BBC’s Question of Sport.
A second Q&A session featured medal-winning Team GB members Naomi Riches, Ed McKeever, Katherine Grainger and Zac Purchase.
Veteran champion Grainger refused to be drawn on speculation over her future, saying she was firmly undecided on whether to take the plunge and go for gold again at the Rio Olympics in two years’ time.
Club members have rallied since losing the riverside rowing clubhouse to fire in August 2011, holding sponsored walks and cycles, bake sales, BBQs, concerts, quiz nights and hospitality events to raise cash.
Suzanne Brown, Marlow Mayor has also named Marlow Rowing Club as one her nominated charities during her first year in office.
When finished, Marlow Rowing Club’s new home will feature state-of-the-art facilities with the aim of continuing the club’s long history of producing medal winners and world champions.
After securing a £1million grant from Sport England last year, members were left with a shortfall of £400,000 needed to pay for the new centre.
The Watersports Hub is currently under construction and due for completion in September, and will act as a national centre for para-rowing after recently being recognised by British Rowing.
Upcoming events for the Fire Fund Appeal include Marlow Mayor Suzanne Brown’s auction and golf day, a concert and a hospitality day at Henley Royal Regatta.