RIO
Coaches

Rio Salado Rowing Club employs a full-time professional coach who leads a team of permanent and visiting USRowing-certified coaches. Highly qualified, safety-conscious rowing education by coaches who are experienced, inclusive and keenly competitive is a hallmark of Rio rowing.

  • Peter Figgins

    Head Coach
    Peter was introduced to rowing by his father, a former collegiate oarsman for Queens University in Belfast, Ireland, and a founder of the Three Rivers Rowing Association in Pittsburgh. Rowing is a life passion for Peter and his profession for many years. He has served in volunteer and professional roles as TRAA masters race coordinator, coach of his children’s high school rowing program, head coach of the men’s crew at the University of Vermont and a coach at Craftsbury Sculling Center. He and his crews have plenty of hardware on their trophy shelves, including multiple podiums at the Canadian and U.S. Masters Nationals, Midwest Scholastic Championships, CSSRA Championships, and championships at the New England Fours Regatta and the Mens’ Varsity 4+. Peter has served as head coach for Rio since 2015.
  • Lesleh Wright

    This year marks 50 years that Lesleh has been involved in rowing, including 40 years of coaching. She grew up in a rowing family in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, home of the Canadian Henley Regatta and site of the 2024 World Rowing Championships. She first tried rowing at age 11 and rowed in bow seat for her high school program. Coaches persuaded her to try the coxswain’s seat to leverage her diminutive size and strong personality. In 1977 at age 16, Lesleh was named coxswain on the Canadian National Team, on which she participated for many years. She steered the Canadian Women’s 8 as coxswain in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Her coaching roles have included the Oxford University Women’s Team, Ridley College Women, Masters Coaching, the Occoquan International Men’s Team, Olympic Development Camp Summer 2021 and ZLAC in San Diego, the oldest women’s rowing club in North America, where she was head coach. Lesleh founded and currently leads the SteeringUWright coaching organization. Recently she established Endeavor Racing Alliance, a team of accomplished athletes that will row together at venues around the world. Of coaching for Rio, Lesleh says, “Tempe, Arizona, is absolutely a hidden gem, with almost-always perfect conditions that I secretly want to keep on the down low.”
  • Michelle Wilkie

    From the moment she took her first rowing class with Rio on Tempe Town Lake in 2000 until she received USRowing Coaching Level 1 certification in 2021, Michelle has been an avid participant in and advocate for the sport. In addition to being actively involved with our club, Michelle has participated in Masters Coaching and Chinook Performance Racing. With them she has competed nationally and internationally — at numerous Masters Nationals, Head of the Charles and World Masters in Italy and New Zealand. For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, Michelle competed and won gold at the Masters Henley in England. Wherever she may row, she considers Rio Salado Rowing Club her home and the team she most loves to row with. Introducing people to rowing is Michelle’s passion. She loves that rowing is a sport you can pursue for a lifetime, and that it uniquely combines the joy of being outdoors on the water, working in teams, and all-body, non-impact, disciplined exercise. The people she’s met through rowing — teammates, coaches, competitors and students — have been among the most important relationships of her life.
  • Raye Thomas

    Raye was drawn to Tempe Town Lake through the "Words Over Water" project that can be seen on the granite tiles on the wall surrounding the lake. It was the language and sound of rowing that immediately fascinated her. Shortly after Raye began rowing in 2005, her creativity and competitive spirit embraced the sport of rowing. She went to as many rowing clinics as possible to further her development and technique. Over the years, Raye has rowed and raced in both sweep and sculling events with Rio, Masters Coaching and Chinook and has tales and medals from local races, Regionals, Nationals, World Masters Games, Henley Masters, Head of the Charles and FISA World Masters. After receiving her USRowing coaching certification in 2020, she coached new rowers required to row singles only. Raye enjoys teaching novice rowers the basic mechanics of rowing and introducing drills to make a boat move efficiently. She is thrilled to see rowers progress and excited to witness both their individual growth and their respect for teamwork.