Category: Training Camps

Pre-Season Training Camp: September 2018, Lake Sarnen

For the third year in a row, we returned to Lake Sarnen in Switzerland for a pre-season training camp in early September 2018.

A squad of 14 athletes comprising both returners and new recruits set their alarms for the horribly early time of 0245am to head from Oxford –> Luton –> Zurich –> Sarnen.  Greeted by glorious blue skies, stunning picturesque mountain scenery and a glassy 5km Lake Sarnen, we were all keen to jump straight into training.  We were treated to a week of perfect rowing conditions, ideal for the small boat training we had planned.

As with previous years, this camp predominantly focussed on technique, with long steady state paddles mixed with pure technical sessions in singles, pairs, doubles and a coxless four.  We couldn’t help but take advantage of the spacious lake, regularly rowing eight boats side by side.  The space also allowed Head Coach Chris O’Hara to get creative with his sessions, inventing what he claims to be the first ever omnium-style “elimination race” of blocks of r18 paddling interspersed with 30 second free rate bursts, with the boat in last place being eliminated at the end of each sprint.

As well as Chris and assistant coach Jill Betts, we were joined by our nutritionist Jasmine Campbell and sports psychologist Heather Moon who both give excellent support to aid our recovery between sessions and preparation for the upcoming season.

This training camp, as with previous years, was an incredibly valuable opportunity for our squad to kick off our season in preparation for the 2019 Boat Races.  We cannot thank Chris, Jill, Jasmine and Heather enough for their dedication in organisation, planning and running of the camp, as well as the team at Swiss Rowing for hosting us and allowing our use of their facilities.



Successful pre-season camp

Following the success of the 2016 pre-season training camp, we returned to Lake Sarnen in Switzerland with a mixture of returning athletes and a selection of new recruits from our summer development squad.

Although we were greeted with pouring rain on the first day, which made for the first character-building moment of the season, the sun eventually burnt through and the weather was generally mild with scattered showers, which made for perfect rowing conditions.

The focus of this camp was predominantly working on technique. A number of our development squad athletes had never sculled before, and it was a great opportunity to learn new skills in single and double sculls as well as work in pairs and fours, and great progress was made by the whole squad in just five short days.

We were coached by Chris and assistant coach Jill and also accompanied by former VP Laure Bonfils (our gym bootcamp leader) and our squad nutritionist Jasmine. We had 2-3 outings and/or land training sessions per day, as well as video analysis sessions and talks educating us on the importance of nutrition and recovery, boat maintenance and what to expect during the approaching season. Jasmine also did an amazing job of cooking for the squad and bringing plenty of supplements for us to sample.

This five-day training camp provided a highly valuable, focused environment for the athletes before the season commences with the whole squad. We are hugely grateful for the hard work and commitment of the coaches and Jasmine in organising this camp and helping us gain the most from this trip, ensuring we are in the best possible position for the upcoming Henley Boat Races.

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Pre-Season Training Camp to Lake Sarnen, Switzerland – 2016

by Jade Bogart

The 2016-17 season was off to an exciting start, with a small group of returning and new athletes going to Lake Sarnen in Switzerland for pre-season training camp. The 7.5 km² large lake is roughly 85km south of Zurich, surrounded by gorgeous mountain and forest scenery. It was an incredible location. We stayed for 5 days at the Swiss Rowing Federation’s national rowing centre, which was situated only a minute away from the landing stage.

Lake Sarnen

Lake Sarnen

Despite initial fears of thunderstorms, every day we had warm (sometimes too warm!) sunshine, little wind and flat water. These conditions were perfect for technical training, which was to be the focus of the trip. We went out 2-3 times a day, in a mixture of sculling and sweep boats. For many of the new rowers, this was their first time they had sculled.

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On the coaching team was head coach Chris and assistant coach Jill, who as always were fantastic with helping us make rapid improvements. For the last half of the camp, we were also joined by a past President of the club, Linda Reynard. Not only was her additional help very useful, but it was also interesting to discuss how the club has evolved so much over the years. It made us feel even more privileged to be here!

Aside from making technical progress in our rowing, the squad had an afternoon off to visit the nearby city of Lucerne. We went to the historic centre and climbed the old ramparts in order to have a view of the town. The camp provided a great opportunity for the new squad members to mix with the seniors and to start to build the team ethos that is so important to the club.

This was also the ideal time to get prepared on other aspects of training. The girls received lots of information from our nutritionist Rianne, who accompanied us on the camp. We were introduced to many new products and had all our questions answered. Rianne also did an amazing job of organising the meals in our self-catered accommodation, so was really vital to the running of the camp! We were very grateful for all the advice she gave and look forward to working with her over the year.

The squad is currently back in Wallingford with the rest of the triallists and have begun the training for this year. We would like to say thank you to Chris, Jill, Rianne and to all those who worked to organise the trip behind the scenes. This was really a wonderful way to start the season.

Pre-Season Sculling Camp, Wallingford – 2016

This year, two pre-season training camps took place:

  • A Pre-Season Training Camp to Lake Sarnen, Switzerland (see next post): with a small group of athletes – a mix of returning rowers and a select few of this summer’s development squad. Coaches: Chris and Jill.
  • A Pre-Season Sculling Camp, in Wallingford. Coach: Andrew.

Julia was one of the lucky rowers to experience the pre-season sculling camp:

“I was a novice last year and only ever did sweep rowing, so the sculling camp was an amazing opportunity for me to learn to scull. The coaching was fantastic with so much attention and time spent on both each individuals techniques and working together as a crew when in doubles/quads.”

We would like to say thank you to Andrew for his amazing coaching.


Cross-Training at Blehnheim Palace – 6th October 2013

The Run…

Instead of heading to Wallingford on Sunday 6th October, the OUWLRC minibus arrived at Blenheim Palace with the squad ready to cover some miles.  However, on this beautiful Sunday morning, the river was switched for the beautiful Palace grounds; boats were swapped for trainers; and lycra replaced with running kit.

Ready for some cross-training, the OUWLRC girls joined thousands of other people running the British Heart Foundation 10km race, and regardless of the fact that some girls may have felt out of their comfort zone when not sat in a boat, the group clocked an impressive 130km.

Crossing the finish line, we were greeted by a keen group of supporters, including cycling members of the squad and enjoyed a delicious –and well earned – picnic in the grounds of Blenheim Palace in the Sunday afternoon sunshine.

Alex Holden, Pembroke College on the BHF Blenheim 10km.


The Ride…

The day started off perfectly – a nice lie-in, sunshine and a slight breeze. Despite varying levels of fitness, experience and bike types, the group stayed together well and kept a good pace over the whole ride. With the whole route about 20 miles it was brilliant to see some of the countryside around the city as we wiggled from Eynsham to Long Hamborough, descending to Combe and then on to the final destination of Blenheim, and a really nice chance to get out of the Oxford bubble! Both Combe and Stonesfield were gorgeous, especially in the morning sun, even if they did contain some less gorgeous hills to climb…

Once we got to Blenheim, we chose to bike around the periphery and see if we could spot any of the squad members during the run – we didn’t manage to see them, but I’m sure all the other runners enjoyed the awkward stares they got from us as we tried! Once we arrived, legs (and various other places for those of us without cycling shorts) aching, we were greeted with a picnic in the grounds of the palace, which was a nice rest before the journey back home again. It was good opportunity for some of the triallists to meet Pollyanna, and do something that doesn’t involve a 6am start on the river!

Gemma White, Pembroke College on the Cycle from Oxford to Blenheim.

Clean Sweep for Oxford Crews at Henley Boat Races 2013!

Congratulations to all the Oxford crews who raced at the Henley Dorney Boat Races on Sunday, including the OUWLRC Blue Boat. Many thanks to all our supporters!

OUWLRC Blue Boat 2013

Cox: Aislinn Brown (Magdelan)

Stroke: Jessica Hudson (Linacre)

7-seat: Katherine Rollins (Trinity)

6-seat: Suzanne Cole (St Edmund Hall)

5-seat: Zoe Cooper- Sutton (Christ Church)

4-seat: Susana Hancock (Kellogg)

3-seat: Sophie Philbrick (Somerville)

2-seat: Cynthia Eccles (Wolfson)

Bow: Rebecca Lane (Jesus)

Reserve: Theresa Wildegger (St John’s)

 Full race report available at



Tethys to Race at WEHORR

On Saturday March 9th, our Tethys 8+ will compete at the Women’s Head of the River Race on the Tideway. They will going off in 60th position in the IM1 Division.

 Tethys Crew:
Cox: Leanne Carrott (Wolfson)
Stroke: Leanora Volpe (Lincoln)
7: Rachel Cary (Hertford)
6: Laura Hawkins (Wolfson)
5: Theresa Wildegger (St John’s)
4: Aurelie Cuenod (Wolfson)
3: Friederike Winter (Balliol)
2: Amanda Thomas (Merton)
Bow: Lauriane Angue (Lincoln)

Winter Training Camp – Part One

There’s been no shortage of water in the river over the last couple of weeks, and unfortunately with the extensive flooding (the boatshed had at least 2 feet of water in it and the river got to about 200m wide) we’ve been unable to have as much time on the water as we might have planned. So training camp marked the first time back on the water in a while and we went about the outings that took place over the four days with great gusto, determination and of course weather and Christmas induced bad kit combinations.

We headed to Eton Dorney for the first two days, driving across once our legs had recovered from a start-of-camp 2km test – Awesome effort by all and many new PBs set! At Dorney all signs of this summer’s Olympics are gone, a lot of turned over ground and some wonderful memories mark what was an awesome summer for British rowing and especially for women’s rowing. For many it was a first trip to Dorney and it was a perfect first day; ripples casting off the side of the boat as we set down for the first outing of the mini-camp, warm December sun and a flat, calm lake. We took out two coxed fours and made the most of the great conditions to do lots of static technical drills, after some work both boats were running very nicely. Day two and the conditions couldn’t have been much different! In the first technical outing we battled foot high-white horse tipped waves but managed to get both fours running well again. After a full kit change and a bit of thawing out some good seat racing took place in the second outing –helped along by some rather inventive kit wearing to try and keep warm and dry…is it ever acceptable to roll a uni up over a splashtop?!

For the last two days of mini-camp we very happily returned to Wallingford and our now no longer under water boathouse. We had a fantastic weekend of outings, really building on changes made at Dorney and getting in some solid time on the water.

‘Skipping out’, to do their own mini-camp, were Jessica Hudson and Cynthia Eccles who decided to test out the tideway with a few ‘tourist’ outings from UL to LRC and back, followed by the Vesta Scullers Head.

It has been a fantastic end to our pre-Christmas training season, this term the squad has moved from strength to strength and though we break up now for Christmas, we part keener than ever for training camp in Portugal on the 29th. Bring it on!

Report by Sophie Philbrick (Somerville College).

Wimbleball training camp

After a productive five days at Marlow and a well earned Christmas break, the beginning of January saw the OUWLRC squad commence the New Year’s training at Lake Wimbleball in Somerset.

Having heard members of the 2010 squad reminiscing about the freezing temperatures, snow and ice experienced on last year’s camp and following the snow at Marlow,  the news on the morning we left for camp that temperatures of a balmy 3 – 5°C were predicted for the week came as a welcome relief. However as we sat in Bristol services drinking coffee and watching the snow fall outside it looked like we might be spending another week wearing all the kit we owned and unable to feel our fingers or toes. Thankfully on arrival at the Lake, although the showers and water were out of action due to freezing pipes there was only a sprinkling of snow on the ground. After the time off over Christmas we spent the Monday afternoon getting used being back in the boat before heading over to the hostel at Dulverton.

Training started in earnest the next morning and we soon settled into a routine of three outings a day followed by dinner in the evening, taking it in turns to cook for the squad. This year dinner time took on a multinational theme and we enjoyed among others, Greek night, bangers and mash and Tex-Mex. Whilst the food was great, mass catering proved a challenge for some and a slight overestimation of the amount of rice pudding we could eat (yes, 4kg of rice was maybe a bit too much…) led to most of the squad breakfasting on the leftovers for several days.

On the water we focused in the first few days on the front end of the stroke, something we haven’t yet spent much time on. Conditions were variable but even though we sometimes had to battle through the waves in the middle of the lake we always managed to find some sheltered water to work on the technical drills.

The high winds predicted for the weekend led to us moving our planned seat racing forward to make the most of the calmer conditions. After some practise on the course on Wednesday (including some much needed steering practices for the coxes, faced for the first time with a wide expanse of water where steering  a straight course is surprisingly difficult), the Thursday saw the first of the real racing. For the uninitiated, seat racing involves racing two crews side by side on the same course multiple times, in different crew combinations to gain an indication of who is really moving the boat. Rowers are switched between boats after each race, in our case involving rafting up and some acrobatic manoeuvring between the two boats. No motivation or technical input is allowed from the coxes during seat racing which can be frustrating for all involved. The pouring rain didn’t improve the experience but the squad really pulled together and we had two days of incredibly tight racing.

We celebrated on Friday night with a quiz set by Chris and Rachel, allowing the squad to display an embarrassingly good knowledge of this year’s reality TV stars and thankfully a solid grasp of the names of parts of a boat, GB’s recent New Zealand performances and the history of the Oxford-Cambridge boat races.

The predicted 40mph gusts for Saturday morning meant we started the weekend with a much deserved lie in (or for those unfortunate enough to be preparing for exams an extra two hours of revision time…) The rest of the weekend was spent consolidating our training so far. The highlight of Sunday was the pairs race. During the week we had spent time working in three pairs, technically challenging but very rewarding boats, letting the rowers feel how their technical adjustments affect the boat balance and speed. Although slightly nerve-wracking prospect at the start of the week, especially after Chris’ talk on hypothermia on the first evening, we all grew in confidence and on Sunday afternoon raced in a time trial with Amy and Simone emerging victorious.

All in all Wimbleball was a great success. Building on the successes of Marlow there was a unanimous feeling by the end of the week that our rowing had improved massively. The camp was really enjoyable and a great way to start the New Year. We are ready now for the challenges of the coming months and will continue to raise our expectations of ourselves and standards as we have done so much over our two camps.

Finally a few thank yous are in order for the people who made our camps possible. Thank you to Chris and Rachel for their all their coaching and hard work. Thanks to Lottie for subbing in at the last minute (sorry about the rain and the 1k pieces!), to Linda for also agreeing to jump into the boat at short notice and for sitting on the lake edge all day timing seat racing and to Nanda for helping out with coxing and her excellent cooking on Sunday evening.

Aislinn Brown reports from Wimbleball Lake, Somerset (January 2011)