British Rowing made the following announcement on 10 March 2015…
Michael Hill, the missing Latymer Upper School, London and Thames rowing coach, was recovered from the Tideway on Monday and has been formally identified. The 48-year-old coach had been missing since an apparent capsize on the River Thames at Putney on 2 February.
Michael had an enormous impact on crews he coached on the Tideway and friends from Latymer, London and Thames gathered to cherish his memory earlier last month. On 13 February an informal gathering was held at Latymer with many of the school attending including British Rowing Chairman Annamarie Phelps and the RNLI crew who had been involved in the search for Michael.
Two days later more friends and family remembered Michael at the Boustead Cup – the historic annual fixture between eights from Thames and London RC. London RC’s Alan Foster paid tribute to a coach whose zest for life made rowing fun for the many people he came across, saying: “At Latymer a display board was crammed with postcard-sized tributes from his J15 and WJ15 crews. I cannot hope to tell you what was in each one but certain phrases recurred about ‘Hilly’ as he was known, such as: ‘kind’, ‘patient’, ‘true gentleman’, ‘made my rowing fun’ and ‘always up for a laugh’.
A row-over was performed by women’s crews from both clubs as a tribute to Michael, who had been coaching a crew from Thames on the evening of 2nd February.
Then, instead of a minute’s silence, family members requested a minute’s applause. Annamarie Phelps said: “Michael was a hugely popular figure among the rowing community along the Tideway and his enthusiasm for coaching always shone through. On behalf of British Rowing, our condolences are with Michael’s family, the school and clubs at this sad time. He is much missed.”
Amy Fenton writes…
Having initially joined London Rowing Club as a full rowing member in 1990 whilst working as a violin restorer, Michael returned to LRC in 2012 as a member of the coaching team. He had recently started coaching at Latymer Upper School but was also eager to come back to his former club which to him felt “like coming home”.
Following the launch of the Learn to Row programme in the summer of 2012, Michael bravely took on the leadership of the newly formed Development Squad, which he subsequently coached for two years, with gusto. Under his direction, over twenty adult novices were successful in gaining their first points within months of picking up blades. Notable successes were achieved at local regattas on the Tideway, at Marlow Spring Regatta, at the Club’s own Metropolitan Regatta, and the end of season trips to St Neots Regatta, which in 2014 saw LRC crews victorious in seven of their ten finals (see below).
Michael was well known at the Club for his friendly and humorous character. But he will also be particularly remembered for his great empathy and kind nature. He took the time to get to know his squad members as individuals, and to understand the professional and family commitments which competed for their training hours. He strove to develop a flexible yet challenging programme which respected and maximised their limited time. Above all, he delivered this with an infectious enthusiasm for the sport, an incredible patience and an uproarious sense of humour, which incentivised his athletes to go the extra mile whilst enjoying every opportunity to train and race. Perhaps even more notable than the successes achieved by his squad on the water, is the fact he created a tight-knit, unbreakable family of rowers who cherish the time he gave them, the skills he taught them and the very happy memories he leaves them to continue to share with one another.
In addition to the Development Squad, Michael was also the lead coach on several of the Club’s Learn to Row courses, enabling over 50 beginners to experience the joy of taking to the water in the summer months, with many progressing into the Development Squad and some beyond to the Senior Squad and to race at Henley. Memories of Michael from those who knew him for just a short time on these courses make reference to his wonderful sense of humour, his supportive and welcoming personality and his unshakable passion for rowing.
Michael will be dearly missed by those who had the pleasure of training under his direction at London and by his very many friends, pupils and colleagues within the wider club and rowing community.
Our thoughts and deepest sympathies are extended to Michael’s family, in particular his three children; Christian (a talented rower himself), Sam and Emily of whom he was an immensely proud father, to their mother Peridot, and to his partner Sara and her family.