This summer, the Boat Club achieved something that a few years ago would have seemed an unattainable goal and in fact only became a real possibility very recently. As the club approached the end of the academic year, members found themselves in the much longed-for position of being able to compete at Henley Women’s Regatta and Henley Royal Regatta, at the middle and end of June respectively.
Being able to send two crews down to their respective Henley Regattas shows just how far the club has come from a few years ago, when perhaps the more serious focus was on socials rather than on the water. This complete overhaul of the club is remarkable, and the speed of success – while no doubt frustrating for the club’s earlier serious members – is even more so. Their recent achievements are made even more poignant when reflecting upon meeting the Boat Club’s founder, John Browne, who spoke about the club’s humble beginnings.
Competing at Henley was the peak of not only the club’s 2015-16 season, but for a few of their athletes, the pinnacle of their time at the University. Henley has been a focus for many years, but only in the past year has the club had the right combination of an intense training programme, crew combinations and enough determination.
In the men’s four-plus crew, pressure began mounting the week before, since despite having a great race at the Metropolitan Regatta earlier in the month and placing third at Marlow Regatta the weekend before, they had failed to pre-qualify for Henley Royal Regatta.
Against the odds, the men’s crew qualified for the race and after a spectacular performance finished the season in the Prince Albert Cup heats at Henley Royal Regatta. The crew took on Yale University in a challenging race that saw team members hold their own, offering up a strong challenge and only letting Yale win by a reasonable one and a half lengths.
The women’s crew, despite a hard year of training, experienced a slight dip in confidence and results in the lead-up to Henley Women’s Regatta. Factoring in the team’s significant defeat against the same crew at the Scottish Championships the week before, their performance in the heats of Henley Women’s was remarkable. The crew managed to hold off its main opponent, the University of Edinburgh, and led throughout the race. Eventually, however, they lost by 1.5 seconds and half a length, which, while a depressingly small margin to lose by, demonstrated they are a formidable team.
The rowers went above and beyond the call of duty to compete at Henley, training long after the semester had finished and their fellow athletes had headed home for a much-needed summer break. These two crews trained for all of June, and their already fierce training programme only increased in intensity. Given that the club has had no real history of significant success, the achievements of the two crews have been truly sensational.
In the space of just a few years, the club has transformed itself into a highly competitive performance sport, and its recent stint at Henley was the highlight of not just the past year, but arguably the history of the club. Being in a position to send a crew from both senior squads to races as prestigious as Henley Women’s Regatta and Henley Royal Regatta was an unexpected success. The club is immensely proud and plans on making itself a contender at both regattas in years to come.