Photograph: Werner Schmidt

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Secret Supporters of the Boat Race

Hannah Gates's book The Secret Supporters of the Boat Race.

A new book has just been published about the Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race. HTBS’s Hélène Rémond took a closer look at the book and asked the author, Hannah Gates, a couple of questions. Hélène writes:

Who are the secret supporters of the Boat Race?

You will get the answer if you read the first children’s book about the Boat Race, The Secret Supporters of the Boat Race, which is written, illustrated and produced by Hannah Gates, who graduated from London College of Fashion in 2008 with a degree in Fashion Photography.

Set during the 2003 Boat Race, which the Dark Blues won by a foot, the book captures the passion of the Oxford University BC, while providing a thrilling education for kids about the wildlife by the Thames.

‘Who knows, maybe it will inspire a few future rowing champions’, says Hannah. The book, aimed at 4- to 6-year-olds, tells the story of how the animals on the banks of the River Thames learn about the upcoming Boat Race, how they follow it and then celebrate the race.

‘How did you get the idea for the book?’

‘What spurred me on specifically was my partner, Robin Bourne-Taylor. He rowed for Oxford four times in some incredible races, as well as arguably one of the best ever crews when he was President in 2005’, says Hannah. ‘He was in the GB squad for many years and competed in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics as well as in various world championships. With some of his friends still rowing, and all of them still loyal in particular to the institution that is the University Boat Race, it inspired me to create this book. Moreover, a lot of them are having babies’, explains Hannah.

Hannah Gates grew up in Cambridge, spending a lot of time in the Zoological Department at the University and walking along the River Cam. She now lives in Ghana with Robin. Hannah is working as an equine and child photographer, as well as in branding and advertising. She has been a teaching assistant and private tutor.

‘You have produced the book yourself?’

‘Publishers were very keen on the illustrations, but didn’t want to risk investing in such a niche topic,’ Hannah says. ‘Obviously, I was not going to change the plot, but as a result I needed to fund the project myself. Therefore, I have promoted it as much as I can with the help of rowers, and I am inviting people to order copies by emailing a special account’.

You can order a copy of The Secret Supporters of the Boat Race by sending an e-mail to (10 pounds excluding postage). Hannah is planning to produce more copies of her book, and many orders are likely to come in this Boat Race week. Book orders made now will be delivered in May.

Follow Hannah on Twitter @RowingBook and get more information on her website:

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