In certainly one of the most bizarre Trinity terms Oxford has seen, the UK lockdown saw the entire student body make a valiant effort to continue their studies from home. The oddity of zoom tutorials and pre-recorded lectures was one thing, what proved much more difficult was continuing some semblance of a university experience. OUWLRC’s development squad turned out to be a bit of a beacon of hope in such a monotonous and frustrating time. Ploughing ahead despite the opposition we faced in access to equipment, space and communication, they somehow managed to run an extremely comprehensive and fulfilling training programme. Not only were we given amazing advice on how to make the most out of what we had at home to stay active and make progress, but zoom circuits, nutrition, physio and s&c seminars gave us a wealth of information about all aspects of being an athlete. Bi-weekly challenges kept us accountable and competitive and the squad as a whole, girls and staff alike, provided a positive and understanding community to both support and push us over the months. I am extremely thankful for the whole experience and everyone involved. In these confusing times, I think dev squad was more valuable than anyone could have anticipated.
It was safe to say I had not expected my last term of year 13 to consist of online schooling and virtual training, but when this enabled me to join the OUWLRC Dev Squad in March, it was a brilliant opportunity to meet so many other talented female athletes and rowers and to get to know some current Oxford students! It was really inspiring to be able to train with some current OUWLRC Squad members and hear about their experiences rowing at Oxford, as well as be able to participate in proper physio and mobility sessions, S&C training and circuits sessions with the girls over zoom. I’ve loved being a member of the Dev Squad, and it’s made me very excited to finally meet everyone in person at the start of term and get out rowing on the water again!
Going into the weekend, having spent sometime discussing team names and finally settling with #notaboutspeed, we were ready to set off on our challenges! Our aim was to rack up as much mileage as possible in 48 hrs and to fundraise enough money to cover 8 bursaries for junior BAME athletes at Fulham Reach Boat Club.
Our team started strong on the Friday evening with some 40 mile rides, 20 km and 24 km ergs all in the bag before the weekend had even arrived. The cool evening weather though was definitely deceptive for what the rest of the weekend was going to bring, with some 30°C forecasts across the UK! The following morning we all began again (starting early to try beat the heat!); cycling seemed a very popular option on our team with 881 km racked up across the Saturday.
Coming into the last day, we all wanted that final push to keep the metres coming in. The Lake District Hills had been challenging my mileage so far, but I was determined to get a long run in for the team, and completed nearly 3/4s of a marathon on a mad-cap route through farmer’s fields and hills, even wading through a river at one point! With strong efforts all round again on the bikes, and another 60 km by James Forward on the ergo, taking his weekend total to 140 km, all on the erg, we finished at the top of the leaderboard. Super strong biking efforts from Tom Schwantje took his 48 hr total to 206 km and Katie Anderson totalled an impressive 183 km. By the 6pm we had a team total at 1309.0287 km, and 9 very tired (but happy) athletes, all proud of the effort they’d put in to raise money for such a great cause.
48 hours, eight rowers, one cox and as many miles as possible. This was our challenge and the goal was to raise £4000 to fund the bursaries of 4 male and 4 female junior BAME athletes to row with Fulham Reach Boat Club for the year. As soon as teams, with members from all four Oxford boat clubs were assigned, whatsapp groups formed and team name chats started (ours: Fulham to Town) you could feel the buzz of the competition begin, albeit in virtual form. We talked strategy, with mentions of 500 mi cycles, 24 h continuous rows or just adding 30 mins onto normal training. I figured I’m not the strongest, nor the fastest, so I had better keep moving for any hours I wasn’t eating or sleeping!
6pm Friday marked the starting cannon. Today, instead of walking or driving the plan was to run everywhere, even down to the 700 m from home to the gym (to erg for the first time since lockdown)! By 10pm I’d racked up 19.2 km running, a short 7.5k erg, and was considerably more tired than I’d planned to be, but was lying in 3rd which was motivation to keep going!
Saturday was 100 mile day (the distance from Oxford to Fulham) and would be the longest ride I’d ever done (160 km compared to a previous 95 km)!! Things I was successful at: having enough energy bars and dried fruit to fuel an Antarctic expedition; planning a flat route in a notoriously hilly area; my legs not falling off! Things I was less successful at; ignoring Komoots warming of ‘not suitable for cycling’ (several U turns were made); the 30°C heat when stuck in seaside traffic; technology!!!! Phones don’t last 7+ hours of navigating, which meant an unplanned stop off at a Tesco in Burnham on sea, to meet my mum who had brought her phone for me to use, navigated by the traditional route of going in and out of pubs asking for directions!
Our team were in the lead going into Sunday and wanted to keep it that way! The day was filled with more running, more cycling, more melting in the heat, more ice creams and energy bars and a final sprint to the 6pm finish line. All of this was cheered on by fab, distanced team mates (covering some insanely impressive mileage), the fingertip grip on victory and the knowledge that it was all for a fantastic cause.
So the stats at the end of 48 hours? Running: 48 km, Erging: 7.5 km, Cycling: 270 km, Swimming: 2 km. A team second place of 1298 km (just 10 km away from victory) and an individual 5th on a converted 204 km!! Safe to say a very enjoyable weekend and a job well done!
We successfully completed our pre-paddle, a little nervy here and there but that was to be expected. We met our opponents for the first time during the weigh-in, which also went smoothly because Clare, our cox, is an absolute legend. We won the coin toss (tails never fails) and chose the Surrey station – the plan was to hold Cambridge for their Middlesex advantage on the first bend and slowly walk through them in the second half of the race. We were prepared to race bow ball to bow ball for the entire length of the race. We were each willing to give absolutely everything we had for this crew.
The time between weigh-in and boating passed quickly. We went over the race plan again, had some snacks, worried about whether we should eat some more snacks, found our focus, and then it was time to go. Our race started from the land warmup, we went through the motions purposefully, just like any other session.
One final chat with Nic before we boated – we were ready.
Hands on. We put the boat on the water. I flooded my left welly (classic Tideway). Too late to fix that now, it’ll be fine. We went through our race warmup and paddled past the start to wait for Cambridge. All the ergs, all the seat racing, all the sneaky bursts had led up to this moment. Nic had prepared us for this in ways we didn’t even realise.
The lack of stake boats on the Tideway meant it took a bit of stopping and starting to get ourselves aligned on the start line. Clare’s hand was up-
We flew off the start, this was it, this was our Boat Race. We had been through the start sequence so many times that it had become second nature to us. We knew the first half of this race would be really hard – it was their bend and we had to hold them. I regained consciousness about 500m in. We were half a length up.
Head in the boat, listen to Clare, breathe.
20 sharp catches into Fulham. Their bend was running out. We were still walking through them. This was the moment all five of us thought, “we could actually win this.”
Crisp, sharp. Time to pull away from them.
The rest of the race was a blur. I remember glancing up at the Cambridge cox directly behind us, sitting in our puddles. The gap was getting larger and larger and the final sprint was here.
“Time to race with your hearts girls,” we hear through the coxbox as we approach the second lamp post from the left on Hammersmith bridge.
We crossed the finish line 12 seconds ahead of our opponents.
We didn’t hear the finish marshal tell us to stop so we kept racing for another 50 metres or so, by which point we were really hoping Clare would tell us to wind down before our bodies exploded. We finally stopped and all of the emotion could finally escape us.
“We did it guys!”
We made history. We sent it.
Thank you to everyone who fought for this race, and supported Tethys from the start. It always felt like we had an incredible team of people behind us in our coaches, Nic and Martin, the other athletes, and the alumni who took the time to send messages of support. We are also really grateful to Al Craigie and Peter Haining for volunteering to act as impartial umpires for the Reserve Races. Let’s hope we are the first and only reserve crew to ever race this course – onwards and upwards to the full Championship Course next year!
The 37th Women’s Lightweight Boat Race was the first to take place on the Championship Course in London: a wonderful milestone in the history of OUWLRC.
After a long trialling season and selection period, having faced flooding, the usual round of injuries and illness, and disruptions in match racing due to winter storms, nine of us had made it into the Blue Boat. With a lot of hard work from our coaches Martin and Nic, our Exec and student committees, and the whole squad in general, we arrived at race day feeling well prepared to face Cambridge’s challenge.
We travelled up to the Tideway on Friday 13th, giving us time for a practice outing on Friday afternoon and a chance to settle in at our host club, Putney High School. Saturday brought a new dose of adrenaline as we had our official ‘practice starts’ outing, as well as the official challenge with our Cambridge counterparts, the reserves crews and the lightweight men’s crews (and some enthusiastic photographers!). On Saturday afternoon we were delighted to see the Tethys 4+ win the Reserve Boat Race.
Then race day was here. We remembered being told in January that it would come around quickly – and here we were, getting ready for our pre-paddle, then weighing in, then lining up on the start.
We all knew that racing on the Championship Course could be decided either by the first few minutes or the last few. We were expecting a tough and close race. Charlotte encouraged us to take a breath, and prepare for what we were about to do.
Cambridge are notorious for their starts so we were mentally prepared to be slightly down initially and then use our rhythm and front end to accelerate the boat past them. To our surprise, we remained level – bow ball to bow ball by the Black Buoy. We found our race rhythm and got into the grind, with Charlotte squeezing every ounce of commitment and energy out of the rowers. Martin’s race plan, for us to go as hard as possible every stroke, seemed to be working, as we gradually inched out ahead of our opponents, enjoying it as Charlotte called the number of every seat she was level with.
Approaching Hammersmith Bridge, we were determined to capitalise on our advantage, especially given that we were just over ⅔ lengths up. Both crews were using the neutral water, looking for the famous second lamp post of Hammersmith Bridge. Cambridge was warned for steering and Charlotte saw stroke Clare’s face turn steely as she saw Cambridge approaching us. Cambridge dropped back after an eventful blade clash, but not before they had knocked Clare’s speedcoach out of its holder.
We entered Hammersmith Bridge, cheered on by the Lightweight Men’s Blue Boat on their warm up paddle, and shot through, meeting a wall of sound of people cheering us on from the bridge.
Here we found some rougher water, but we had trained in this water throughout the season, helped by the flooding at Wallingford and Martin’s command for Charlotte to never seek shelter whilst we trained on the Tideway. We wanted this water and we wanted to use our rough-water technique to gain valuable inches.
We began to tire but for a brief beautiful moment, we had a few inches of clear water. Cambridge overall recovered better than us after the blade clash, despite initially falling behind, and started to make up the distance between the two crews. We don’t remember these moments clearly – now, they are not important. What matters is that Cambridge at this moment, had the fitness and moved off together in an admirable push around the outside of Hammersmith Bend, to eventually overtake us. We were drained by the last kilometer, but proud of each other and the race we had.
We were helped in to land by our squad – their support and presence making it the best way to lose: with people you love. We regrouped together, overwhelmed by the physical and mental effort we had put in, and the emotional rollercoaster of the race.
With so many changes this season, from our coaching team to the race course and more, we are grateful that the love and support we received remained the same. We are proud to have raced for Oxford and joined the long line of women, each who have sat in our seat, and won or lost together. We remain relentless and are comforted that next year, next time, Oxford will go again!
We’d like to thank everyone who helped us get to race day: Head Coach Martin Cambareri and Assistant Coach Nic Thomas, our support team of nutritionist Beth Cragg, physio Will Bourne-Taylor, massage therapists Tamsin, Lynne, and Holly, the ever-willing-to-help Chris O’Hara, our hosts in London, Mortlake Anglian and Alpha Rowing Club and Putney High School, the OUWLRC Executive Committee, and everyone else who has supported the club this season and in the past.
We are excited to announce our crews for the 2020 Lightweight Boat Races, where we will race Cambridge on the Championship Course for the first time.
2020 Blue Boat:
Cambridge (6 lengths)
Leah Mitchell (President)
2020 Reserve Boat:
We look forward to seeing Oxford supporters in London in just under three weeks!
A word from the Chair of our Executive Committee, Zoe De Toledo, ahead of the Lightweight Boat Races next weekend…
When I took up the role of Chair for the OUWLRC Executive Committee in 2019, I wasn’t quite prepared for the huge period of change that we have seen over the last year. The 2020 Women’s Lightweight Boat Race will be contested on a new race course, with a new coaching team at the helm, and will be the first race for OUWLRC as a full blue sport. This is all on the background of one of the worst winters for rowing weather in recent memory.
I want to take this opportunity to say thank you to the athletes of OUWLRC, who have managed all this change with the grace, determination, and passion that I have come to expect as standard from these incredible women. I have been so impressed with your hard work, both on and off the water, to drive the club forward. I’m so proud to be a part of this small but mighty club!
The best of luck to all the CUWBC lightweight athletes in their final preparations to race. You are the only other people who can truly appreciate what it means to get yourselves to the start line of these races, and I hope our clubs can continue their strong relationship, and, dare I say it, further build our friendship, long into the future.
I’m sure all the alumni, friends, and family of OUWLRC will join me to wish our crews the best of luck for racing next weekend, on Saturday 14th(reserves) and Sunday 15th(Blue Boat) March. Please continue to follow our social media channels for more information on watching the races, or email . Thank you all for your support and generosity so far, and we hope to see as many of you as possible on the riverbank next weekend.
The Women’s Lightweight Boat Race has taken place on the Henley Reach since its inauguration in 1984, however in 2020, for the first year, the race will take place on the Championship Course on the Tideway. This historic move will see all four Oxford-Cambridge Boat Races, and their reserve crews, racing on the same course.
The Lightweight Boat Races are excited to announce a Race Day sponsor of Interactive Investor. The Race date will take place on Sunday 15th March 2020. Keep an eye on your inboxes for announcements of supporter events on the day.
“This is wonderful news. We are hugely grateful to ii for their interest and involvement in supporting the Lightweight Boat Races. I am personally very excited to see OUWLRC race on the Tideway and am looking forward to supporting all the Oxford crews in March.”
Professor Alison Salvesen, Senior Member for OUWLRC
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Joint statement from the Lightweight Boat Races and Interactive Investor:
The organising committee of the Lightweight Boat Races is pleased to announce that the 2020 races will be sponsored by interactive investor. This sponsorship agreement ensures the event can continue to go from strength to strength and also supports the move of the Lightweight Women’s race to the Tideway for the first time. The CULRC vs OULRC and CUWBC Lightweights vs OUWLRC races will take place on Sunday 15 March 2020.
interactive investor (ii) is a fast-growing and multi-award winning UK investment platform, providing investment tools and insight to investors who take direct control of their financial future. With over 300,000 customers with £30 billion of assets invested, all for a simple monthly fee, ii is the UK investment platform of choice for the engaged investor (www.ii.co.uk/sponsorship).
“We are delighted to partner with ii. Their support allows us to continue to build the profile of the Lightweight Boat Races, and lightweight rowing generally, in this special year where we will have both the men’s and the women’s races on the Tideway for the first time.”
Ben Crystal, Chairman of the organising committee of the LBR
“We are thrilled to be supporting The Lightweight Boat Races. It is a fantastic event where the clubs and athletes involved work tremendously hard all year to perform their best on race day. We wish them the best of luck.”
Richard Wilson, Chief Executive, interactive investor
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ii Disclaimer: The information contained in this press release does not constitute investment advice or personal recommendation. Past performance is no guide to the future and the value of investments can go down as well as up and you may not get back the full amount invested.
On Friday, two OUWLRC matched eights headed to the Tideway for this year’s Trial Eights race, the first ever to take place on the Championship Course from Putney to Mortlake. The crews were named “Puppets” (racing in white tops) and “Parrots” (racing in dark tops).
Puppets won the toss and chose to race on the Surrey station, giving Parrots the Middlesex station. Both crews got strong starts and stayed level for the first part of the course, with some exciting side by side racing. Coming under Hammersmith Bridge, the headwind against stream made for some challenging conditions and Puppets pulled ahead to open up clear water before Chiswick Eyot.
The race was not over yet, however. Parrots fought back over the straight between Chiswick Pier and Barnes Bridge to reduce Puppets’ lead. After a last push from both crews to the finish, the final verdict saw Puppets win by 2 ½ lengths.
OUWLRC are delighted to welcome Nic Thomas as our new assistant coach. Nic comes to us after coaching at a number of local schools and Magdalen College. She was also involved in the King’s Cup UK Armed Forces squad. We are excited to have Nic joining us and look forward to working with her over the coming season.
OUWLRC are looking to recruit a part-time assistant coach for the 2019/2020 season and beyond.
This would entail around 2-3 weekday sessions and 3-4 weekend sessions, both on and off the water, attendance at races and training camps throughout the season, and a small amount of administrative work to support the Head Coach.
Mini-bus driving and trailer towing (or the wish to learn these skills) are desirable, but not mandatory.
If you would like more information please contact Martin Cambareri (Head Coach) at