If the Athletic Union is putting serious effort into developing and improving the Sports Centre, then their example is certainly being followed by what is fast-becoming a hugely impressive, serious and competitive Boat Club. What has in the past been dubbed as both “A drinking club with a rowing problem” and “a rowing club with a drinking problem” is now reaping the rewards of a “change in mindset” as it is now established, both officially and unofficially, as “a rowing club”.
After speaking to the Men’s and Women’s team captains Isaac Amick and Laura Conboy, it soon became clear how the club has managed to transform itself. The benefits of having a full-time coach, Ian Rice from Glasgow, are “invaluable”. As well as overseeing a majority of the Club’s rigorous training sessions, which amounts to almost 20 hours a week, Mr. Rice is “quite involved with the development of the Club” and “been invaluable in the relations with the AU”. Acting as both a liaison between the club and the AU and as a representative, Mr. Rice provides a legitimacy that is helping the club get everything it needs to compete seriously. This has been vital during the attempts to secure the Club’s own boat house.
In Laura’s first year (she is now a fourth year), the club was told that a boat house would be in place within the year. however, “owing to endless problems” with Perth Sailing Club who “haven’t been very accommodating” the club is still waiting for a place to store boats. Although it doesn’t seem overly significant, the lack of a boat house can negatively influence results. The Club ends up leaving their boats outside on tyres which means they cannot pay for new, quicker ones as their longevity does not suffice. Therefore, a vicious circle is created where the club does not do as well as it could in races, and therefore AU funding isn’t quite as high as is possible. This renders the level of the clubs’ rowing fairly static.
That said, the Club still manage to put in a good showing when they compete in BUCS or against their Scottish rivals such as, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Herriot Watt, Strathclyde and Aberdeen. The Club also competes in the “biggest head race in the UK” and this year took an unprecedented three boats down to Tideway. The one senior and two novice boats were “more than we (the Club) have ever had” and it was the first time since 2006 that the women’s team also raced. In spite of the difficulties a 144th and 177th (out of over 350) place finish for the top women’s and men’s teams respectively certainly constitute a solid showing.
The performance of the women was especially pleasing for the club as it is indicative of the change in mindset in their half of the club. Over the past four years much has been done “to build the women’s team” and make it just as serious as the men’s team. This change in mindset is representative of the whole club’s mentality as they have worked to turn into a more competitive club.
Despite the 20 hours and six days of training a week, the Club still manages to be maintain a social aspect to its being. With weekly socials and over 40 social members, the Club certainly doesn’t lack for members wanting to have a good time and with events such as House Golf and House Circuits proving to be the pinnacle of the social calendar.
Currently, the teams are also working on their alumni relations but this progress is slow as it will take a few years for there to be sufficient numbers of alumni who will buy into the mind-set. Additionally, this year, the annual Ergathon in Freshers’ Week raised over £1,000 for Maggies Cancer Trust and the same 24 hour ‘erg’ is planned for next year. Having been described as “the best fundraiser of any sports club in the AU” it is something the Club wants to keep up, and indeed strengthen, for the next few years.
Despite the time commitment required, Laura, Isaac and the rest of the team maintain that they are “continuing to build the performance mind-set” that the Club is looking to instil. The group realizes that it needs to do more to emphasise to first years what constitutes a committed club member as the drop-out rate is fairly high. However, the Club is happy with its numbers and the future looks to be in safe hands.