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.



Start of the 2018-2019 season

As the new academic year draws closer, we are pleased to announce the start of our 2018-2019 Lightweight Boat Race Campaign.  All rowers and coxes interested in trialling with OUWLRC are invited to an introductory meeting and training session on Wednesday 19th September, at 5pm in the Rowing Gym at Iffley Sports Centre.

We understand that some people might not be back in Oxford yet or are otherwise presently committed.  If you plan to trial for a place in our team this year, but you can’t attend on Wednesday, please drop an email to Head Coach Chris O’Hara () to let us know your circumstances and the date you will be joining us.



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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2016 Trial VIIIs

Video of the race: Many thanks to!


On Sunday 11th December, OUWLRC had their Trial Eights race at Henley. This race was the final event of what had been a packed and productive winter season. The athletes have competed in a variety of regattas in the last few months. OUWLRC had two crews racing at Fours Head, which was for many their first head race or a longer course. The squad also went to Brit Champs and Wallingford Head. With each race, massive technical progress was made as well as giving athletes and coxes more racing experience, to be able to overcome whatever challenges the elements or other crews may pose.

The season’s final race came round all too quickly. The squad were really put through their paces in the training leading up to Trial Eights, arriving at the start line that Sunday afternoon after a week of erg tests, triple outings and seat racing. But as we sat there at front stops, we knew we could put our trust in all the training we had done. It had been a season of massive technical and physical gains – the cox had only to put their hand down and we were ready to make this our best race.

The crews off the start were pretty much level, the two French strokes equally keen for a good beginning to their race. The river conditions were good and so both boats benefitted from clean water to maximise their progress. Liberté however soon pulled away from Egalité. Egalité remained strong, not letting Liberté become too comfortable with their lead. Gradually throughout the race however, Liberté increased their lead and passed the finishing line roughly 13/4 lengths ahead. As both crews arrived back at the boat house however, a sense of success was shared by the entire squad. Every athlete had worked super hard over this season and the results were self-evident: we had rowed better and we had done it together.


It has been an absolutely fantastic first part of season. As always there are improvements to be made, whether that’s in technique or erg scores, but I think this is more cause for excitement than anything else. With training camp ahead of us and then only a couple of weeks until The Boat Race, we go into the New Year with a sense of anticipation for all the further gains it should bring. Thank you to Chris, Clive, Jill and Andrew for your coaching and advice. Thank you also to committee members working behind the scenes to make the team run smoothly, to our President Alba Pellaroque for creating such a good squad atmosphere and holding us all together, and to each member for their enthusiasm and commitment to making OUWLRC such a fun and successful club.

By Jade Bogart

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.


EUSA 2016

After a fighting performance and bronze medal this May at BUCS, the club qualified a lw4x for the European University Sports Association Rowing Championships this summer. The club are pleased to announce that the four athletes racing in this event will be Dani Edmunds, Laure Bonfils, Jowita Mieskowska and Anna Robotham. The girls, along with head coach Chris, will be flying out to Zagreb, Croatia on the 10th of July, and will be competing from the 12th-14th. We wish them all the best in the championships.

Sunny training at DOrney Lake
Sunny training at Dorney Lake

Training Camp 2016

By Anna Corderoy

On January 3rd 2016, OUWLRC flew out to Ourense, Spain for a 10-day training camp on the River Miño. We stayed in the Laias Caldaria Hotel Balneario, part of the Cerla training centre which is tailored specifically for athletes and has attracted a number of national squads over the past year, such as Australia, Belarus and the French national squad who shared the facility with us. Fully catered, equipped with a gym and spa, it had everything that we could possibly need!

Laias Caldaria Hotel Balneario

We were incredibly lucky to be able to use such a fantastic and professional facility; hopefully it marks the beginning of a long partnership between OUWLRC and the centre.

160111 Ourense newspaper front page photo
Ourense newspaper front page photo

Despite the scenic backdrop, however, once on the river we faced some incredibly challenging conditions which posed a real mental and physical challenge for all of the athletes. With heavy rain, rough water and (at one point) 90mph gusts, the squad had to pull together to become “hard as nails” and make every water session worthwhile. We managed to put in the mileage and make some significant technical changes, as well as learning a great deal about determination and mindset.

Being in Spain was also a good opportunity for seat racing; the reservoir featured a 2k 6-lane buoyed course which was ideal, and we were able to run a number of sessions throughout the camp. The sun also emerged for our final day and the pairs time trial. All of the girls put in a fantastic effort and we saw some very encouraging times; special mention to the winners, Jowita Mieszkowska and Genevieve Laurier, followed by Kirstin Bilham and Laure Bonfils. The camp also marked the debut of our new Sykes bowloader, “Nanda Pirie”, which was an exciting opportunity for both the rowers and coxes.

Alex and Fred warming up for the pairs time trial

Off the water, a number of us enjoyed a day trip to Santiago de Compostela, where the hotel arranged for us to be given a guided tour of the historic city centre, including the famous cathedral and a nearby museum of pilgrimage. It was a nice (albeit wet) opportunity to have a break and see a bit more of Galicia. We also took part in a series of Spanish lessons (hola), also organised by the hotel, and of course the infamous camp quiz written by the coaches.

Afternoon off in Santiago

I think I speak for all the girls when I say that we are incredibly thankful to all those who made this trip possible. It was great to have our massage therapists on camp with us, David, Briony and Gemma, as well as our physiotherapist, Andrea; thank you to all of you for coming and supporting us. Thanks to Sarah Graham for briefing us on nutrition and ensuring that we had all the supplements that we needed to keep us going throughout the camp. Thanks also to Nanda and Diana for all of their hard work behind the scenes, and also for joining us whilst we were there.

As always, camp wouldn’t be camp without our head coach ChrisO and his fantastic team, Jill and Andrew as well as Fred Winter (coaches’ assistant). We are all incredibly grateful for the time, energy and hard work that all of you have invested in us – not just over the last 10 days, but over the over the course of the entire season.

The camp has provided us with a great foundation to continue training for an Oxford victory in the 2016 Boat Race!

Pontoon ideally located a few meters from the hotel

The Fishlock Boat Shed

The Blue Shed is no more – now replaced on the same site by a new beautiful purpose-built boathouse. The “Fishlock Boatshed” was inaugurated with a celebration on Saturday 24 October, including a barbecue and obligatory cake. OUWLRC members past and present are profoundly grateful for the efforts made by Richard Fishlock to secure the facility for both lightweight squads, and we sincerely thank all those who made donations. The ‘shed’ also features storage space on the mezzanine, and will accommodate our present boat fleet comfortably.





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.