Pauline Rayner (1940-2024)

British Rowing is deeply saddened to hear of the death of Pauline Rayner, former GB international and doyenne of Thames RC


Pauline Rayner pictured at Thames RC with special guest HRH Prince Michael of Kent (c) Jo Harris

Pauline made a huge contribution to domestic rowing by driving up standards as a competitor; by welcoming new members to Thames RC; by enabling masters women’s crews to race by generously lending them her own boats; and as a benefactor to Thames RC.

She learned to row at Alpha Women’s ARC as a young teenager, and first raced the Women’ Eights Head in 1954, before being selected to represented Great Britain in the double scull at the 1960 European Women’s Rowing Championships, held at the Welsh Harp Reservoir in Willesden, North London. Fittingly, the Rayner Cup at Henley Women’s Regatta is presented to the winners of the Junior Double Sculls. Another Rayner Cup is the trophy for the winning women’s crew at the annual derby races between London RC and Thames RC, a companion to the Boustead Cup for the men’s competition.

While bringing up her three children, she continued to race in the Women’s Head most years, and once they were older, re-established herself as a formidable opponent. She won silver at the National Championships in a quad in 1983, and in 1988 – at the age of 48 – raced in the final of the Open Single Sculls at the inaugural Henley Women’s Regatta, losing only to a member of the GB women’s squad. Pauline enjoyed an extremely successful masters rowing career, with innumerable wins at domestic events, World Masters, and indoor competitions. She last raced in 2019, though would have competed at the Women’s and Vets Heads in 2020 had both not been cancelled.

After joining Thames RC, following her marriage to London RC cox Maurice Rayner in 1981, it was Pauline who frequently answered the phone at the club when new members rang to enquire about joining. Any number of them remember the warm welcome and encouragement she gave them. She was appointed women’s captain, and then became the club’s first female overall captain for three seasons in 1991-1994. Later she was the club’s first female chair and then president. As a PE teacher, she also developed Putney High School’s rowing at Thames. Thames RC has paid tribute to what she did for the club during more than 40 years as a member.

Pauline was awarded an MBE in 2007 for services to sport. She died just a few days before she would have heard that she was to receive the British Rowing Medal of Honour, its highest accolade and one that was richly deserved.