James started rowing at school at the age of 13 and although initially there was little evidence of much pace, there was no shortage of enthusiasm. Year on year training volumes increased from 3 sessions per week to 12 sessions per week and he rapidly became intrigued with Hans Selye's General Adaptation Syndrome.
"Although I was undeniably slow when I started, I seemed to get faster from training. Whereas this is a somewhat obvious proposition to most people, I became fascinated as to exactly why this was happening. It was a short step from watching the training work, to asking why the training worked, and therefore why that particular training session had been chosen."
Although it took some 3 years before James won a race, the improvements continued to come and he rowed in the Princess Elizabeth at Henley in 1992 in a crew that got Winchester College out of the first round of the event for the first time in 25 years.