Boston Marathon

15th September 2019

After rowing a marathon on the erg for their EUSA fundraiser, Naomi and Anneloes thought it would be fun to also row one on the water, so they entered the notorious Boston Marathon, a race of 49.2 km from Lincoln to Boston (UK).

Naomi, Mx2x:
It makes for an interesting change of pace to come straight out of a high-intensity training programme preparing to race at EUSA and into a 49.2km race in a mixed double scull with your partner after two training sessions together in an unfamiliar boat. Coach Chris O’ had given some detailed advice on the rigging and gearing of blades for a mixed double in a long distance race; sadly the subtleties were somewhat wasted on us, since one of the gate pins on the boat was bent and due to the weight distribution the boat sat at an alarming angle in the water. Nonetheless we soldiered on, and on two occasions decided to add a cross-training element to the race by climbing out of the boat to go for a short swim and disentangle weeds that had jammed the rudder to one side. Despite these adventures, it was amazing to finish as the 15th fastest boat of the day and to gain a new “most calories burned” and “longest distance” on Polar Flow!

Anneloes, LW1x:
‘You’ve got to row it to know it’, they say… I suppose I can only confirm. The course was long, the weeds prolific, and my hands not prepared, but at least the tailwind into the finish made the final stretch feel breezy. I can’t imagine a better (or more intense) goodbye to the single I have enjoyed so many races with over the past two years! To top it off, I got our club a course record for the women’s lightweight single in a time of 4:26:28, which also made me the fastest female crew of the day. Thanks to Boston Rowing Club for the great organisation and atmosphere, and for creating lightweight categories for this event!

Naomi Boston Marathon

Photo credit: David Dallas
Photo credit: David Dallas


EUSA 2019 – Jönköping

4th – 7th September 2019

This was the last ever race for Oxford University for Chris O’ and the whole quad, so we were all highly motivated to ‘retire’ on a high. In order to fundraise for this race, the quad individually did a sponsored erg marathon and endured some heavy-handed flogging at a Wimbleball training camp, so we were confident that we were mentally resilient and fit for this challenge.

The first day of racing was a race for lanes. Our competitors were two Dutch crews from the University of Utrecht and the University of Amsterdam. Conditions were challenging, with strong winds churning up the lake, and we were thankful to be taking on these sea-like conditions in a larger crew boat. For this first race we had agreed to race to the 1k mark and then settle to rate 32 to practice ‘rowing smart’ in the chop. Despite a strong desire to keep chasing the University of Utrecht, who were ahead at the 1k mark, we stuck to our agreed race plan and focused on trying to row as well as possible and ignore the waves crashing over the sides of the boat. We finished the race in 2nd place and were excited to race the final.

For the final, race conditions were similarly challenging, and led to an unfortunate collision with a bouy as we warmed-up. After mopping up the water the best we could, we paddled up to the start alongside the University of Utrecht. Although they pulled away in the first 1k of the race, we were inching back on them in the 2nd half and wound up at the last 500m eager for blood. However, conditions steadily deteriorated over the course of the race, so we weren’t able to wind as effectively as we would have liked. We finished the race with a silver medal, and were happy in the knowledge that we had thrown everything at it. We celebrated with lördagsgodis.

This race was a fantastic opportunity to compete against some of the best university crews across Europe and a great way to herald our retirements. A massive thank you to everyone who donated to our sponsored marathon as well as Oxford Sports Federation and Jesus College for their generosity, and to James Lee for his role in managing the GB university team. Thanks also to Chris O’ for his coaching and support throughout the season and in the run-up to this race, we are incredibly grateful, and wish the new intake of trialists and the new coach Martin good luck for next season!

Race report by Ellie Watts


Assistant Coach Announcement


It is with great sadness that we announce that OUWLRC Assistant coach Jill Betts has taken the decision not to continue in her post for the upcoming 2019-2020 season.  Jill has been involved with OUWLRC for nine years, with the first two as an athlete, competing in the 2011 and 2012 Lightweight Boat Races in the Blue Boat. After her two seasons as an athlete, she continued to be involved with the club as Assistant Coach as well as a member of the Executive Committee.


Jill’s continued and unwavering commitment to OUWLRC has always gone far beyond her formal role. With one of her main priorities as a coach being athlete welfare, Jill could always be relied on to provide a friendly face or a word of encouragement. On the water, she is famous for some launch dancing (usually while sporting a particularly cosy wooly hat), questionable drills (that always seem to do the job), and suggesting that it might be time to stop faffing and “proceed”.


She will continue in her position on our Executive Committee, and will revive the post of Senior Welfare Officer, a post close to her heart that she has previously held for several years.


From athletes past and present, and the rest of the Executive Committee, we want to thank Jill for her dedication to the club and wish Jill all the best for her final year of medical school. We look forward to sharing many more years supporting OUWLRC by her side, now from the banks rather than on the river.

The Big Row in China

12th – 19th August 2019

Free trip to China where the only catch is you have to do a bit of rowing? Yes please.

After a week of training and a painfully long flight we arrived in the city of Xi’an, the home of the World Rowing University Regatta and the 3rd Xi’an Kunming Lake International Famous Universities Rowing Regatta (quite the mouthful, I know). Despite being the third such regatta, it was the first one to which women had been invited. Overall there were around 20 men’s teams (including Oxford’s lightweight men) and 10 women’s teams. A number of these teams were from China, but there were also many international teams including boats from Harvard, Yale, Cambridge, Nottingham, Amsterdam, Milan, Frankfurt, Zurich and St Petersburg.


At the airport we were greeted by our Chinese helpers (who were lovely) and many, many cameras (which were much less lovely after an eleven hour flight). The many cameras stuck around all week but I think I eventually learnt to embrace them (ish). We were also greeted by the incredible heat and I think everyone was suddenly a little bit apprehensive about how we were going to race when we couldn’t even walk more than a few metres without sweat dripping down our backs.




Once at the hotel, Fiona and I, who learnt to row together at Corpus four years ago, remarked how incredibly surreal everything was, and how bizarre it was that we had somehow made it from our beginnings at Corpus to, well, this. That mood pretty much summed up the week. The hotel was amazing, especially considering that all 30 teams rowing at the regatta were being put up there by the sponsors. The food was great and I particularly enjoyed the variations on ‘fried item filled with red bean paste’ that were presented for desert. The best thing about the food however was undoubtedly the labelling of dishes, which ranged from inaccurate to downright hilarious. Personal favourites were ‘Shredded cabbage shredded shred’, ‘Auspicious elements’ and (best of all) ‘The cod discharge’.


China_7On the morning of the first day, Leah, Katherine and I went on a visit to a local school. Walking in we were treated to displays of work by the students which showed the students to be incredibly talented. Once in the school hall we listened to a number of speeches, made doubly dull by the fact that they were line by line translated into Chinese/English (depending on the original language). Sir Redgrave (as director of Chinese rowing or something) did also make a speech which was, of course, pretty damn cool – he definitely got the biggest round of applause. We were also treated to performances by students, including some traditional dancing and a Chinese-Western fusion band. After the formalities in the hall we took part in a cultural exchange activity where we painted masks. My skills were sadly lacking so to save you having to see that monstrosity, I have instead included a picture of OUL’s efforts. My favourite part of the morning came as we were leaving the school and a boy came up to me and told me how he really likes the Beatles before serenading me with one of their songs.

In the afternoon we attended a press conference. This was a truly surreal experience as we arrived to a professional set-up including UN-style personal translators. Highlights of this (which were few and far between given we were subjected to basically the same speeches we had heard that morning) included one of the German teams answering a question on how they had prepared for the weather by saying they had erged in a sauna. I believed them. Turns out I should not have believed them.



Between the press conference and the opening party, which was being held that evening, we headed to a local supermarket. This was much more of an adventure than it sounds. Lightweights enjoy a supermarket trip at the best of times but the intrigue of not knowing what anything was really added a new dimension to the fun. Oh, and fun fact, you can buy a ‘live’ tortoise from such a supermarket for only 15.80 Yuan (equivalent of less than £2).

The party was quite fun, with food and alcohol which, as a large group of rowers, we fairly quickly demolished. When the wine had run dry, we headed back to the hotel, where we asked our helpers where we might go to get a drink. After they suggested Starbucks we realised there had been a slight miscommunication. They seemed shocked that we would want to drink before a big match which really highlighted a cultural difference (or maybe just highlighted that we weren’t very invested in this competition). However, they kindly took us to a supermarket where we picked up rice wine (delicious) and snake skin (apparently not so delicious).

China_14China_13Training began the next day at Kunming Lake. The lake was beautiful, and was certainly not just the hotter version of Dorney Lake I had been expecting. Each team had their own tent equipped with chairs and a table, a water fan, a water dispenser and a cooler. On this first day we managed to spend the entire day at the lake, to spend less than an hour on the water. This meant most of our time was spent trying and failing to keep cool, a task not helped by the fact we were invited to the opening ceremony, an event where we were forced to listen to the same set of speeches for a third time, but this time stood in the blaring sun. We were however introduced to our boat – a heavyweight men’s boat with no wiring – which added a nice extra challenge to the racing.

China_15 China_18 China_17 China_16

I hadn’t been expecting much from our racing, and so was extremely pleasantly surprised when the time trial results came out and we found ourselves in third! With our confidence somewhat bolstered, we went on to win one heat, come second in a second heat and the semi-final, ultimately earning a bronze in the final. After our third place finish we immediately went to the medal ceremony where we had more cameras focussed on us than seemed reasonable. It was very, very surreal (there’s that word again) but at this point, we all agreed the training was well worth it for the incredibly hefty medals and the prize money we walked away with.

China_19 China_21 China_20


Aside from the rowing and publicity events we did have some time for sight-seeing and general fun and relaxation. After the time trials a few of us decided to head down to the hotel pool for a nice gentle swim. However on arrival to the pool we realised we had entered a warzone. With Amsterdam at one end and Milan at the other, projectile floats were being hurtled across the pool with full force. We joined the lightweight men who were pressed against one of the long edges of the pool, out of harm’s way. Eventually the boys gave up their game, leaving us free to finally enjoy the pool.

The afternoon of our heats, we went to see the Terracotta Warriors. For some reason I had been expecting three or four twenty foot high statues. The reality was actually much more impressive and we were lucky enough to have had a tour arranged for us, including a personal guide on hand to answer our questions and supply many interesting facts about the warriors. I can only imagine how eerie the scene would have been without the hundreds and hundreds of people there (apparently this was a quiet day) and how incredible it would have been to discover the first one given the immense detail which gave them a really life-like quality.

China_22 China_24 China_23

On the afternoon following the finals, we finally successfully headed into the old town in the centre of Xi’an. (Our first attempt had led to a 1.5 hour walk in circles before deciding it was late, we were tired and it was probably best to get a taxi home). We walked around the wall surrounding the old city and saw the Bell Tower and Drum Tower. The most interesting part was definitely visiting the markets. This was bustling with life with narrow winding alleys filled with glittering trinkets and wider streets lined with food stalls featuring all sorts of exotic-looking delights.

China_25 China_27 China_26

The final night we celebrated in true rowing style, in a club filled with our competitors. I had a really good time, and particularly enjoyed my time soaring above the crowd on one of the men’s shoulders. It was a great atmosphere to round off the trip.

China_29 China_28


Race report by Katie Hurt

Henley T&V Regatta

Saturday 3rd August 2019

Two athletes headed to Henley T&V to race single sculls.  Laura Boddy had a straight final in the band 4 category, making an impressive sculling debut to win with a verdict of easily.  Fiona Jamieson, racing in band 3, progressed through her heat to secure a place in the final, which she went on to win by 1 3/4 lengths.

Race report by Fiona Jamieson


Molesey Regatta

23rd July 2019

Molesey regatta is one of the final regattas of the summer for many of our athletes and a good chance to get some racing experience in smaller boats. For those who had raced at The Met and HWR, it was also a chance to try out new combinations, or simply a chance to race with less pressure.

The regatta this year threw up some fun conditions, a big tailwind made for some fast times down the course but also meant just getting to the start line could be a bit of a fight into the headwind. Ellie and Caitlin in the 2x took the worst of the weather, racing through a freak downpour in their first race. Barely enough time to dry off they were back out for the final to claim the first win of the day.

The sun came out for the afternoon, as did the fleet of single scullers. The second half of the day also featured a special guest appearance from the bow pair turned stern pair of Fiona and Grace who proved that training really is cheating, and that matching kit = free speed, as they came through to win their category despite training!

Caitlin made it to the semi-final but now without the powerhouse Ellie to help her down the course was defeated by the athlete from Surrey who had won HWR a few weeks prior. An all Oxford semi-final between Fiona and Katherine saw Katherine come out on top but unfortunately lose in the final. An incredible effort for her first race in a single scull. Finally, an all Oxford final in the Tier 2 single sculls between Ellie (now without Caitlin to steer her down the course) and Naomi saw Naomi take the 3rd and final win of the day.

Race report by Caitlin O’Brien

Molesey_3 Molesey_2 Molesey

Henley Women’s Regatta

21st – 23rd June 2019

Five of our single scullers took on the beautiful Henley course for Henley Women’s Regatta this year. On Friday morning, they raced the time trial, where Amanda, Caitlin, Ellie and Naomi, entered in ChLwt1x, raced for seeding, and Anneloes, in AspLwt1x, had to come top-50% to progress. Later that afternoon, the heats followed, starting with a dark blue face-off between Amanda and Naomi, who were drawn against each other. Anneloes and Ellie both came out on top of tight races and advanced to the next day. Saturday saw more exciting close racing. The gladiator style one-on-one racing of Henley in the single scull is definitely a mindgame as much as a physical one! Anneloes won her race and progressed to the semi final on the Sunday, where she was ultimately knocked out by a strong Surrey sculler who went on to win the final. She also managed to lose her seat while lifting her boat off the raft, and went fishing for it assisted by Sir Matthew Pinsent, another highlight of our weekend.

Race report by Anneloes Hoff


Reading Town Regatta

Saturday 29th June 2019

Dev Squad gives women from across all colleges the opportunity to train with the OUWLRC team and receive excellent coaching. From technical outings in 8s, to learning how to skull without tasting Thames water, the Dev Squad rowers learned a lot over the course of a month.

After working to put together the best parts of each college’s rowing styles into one coherent race plan, the regatta was the perfect way for the Dev Squad Lightweight Women to demonstrate their training efforts. 19 women from across 12 colleges competed, and while there were not many trophies in hands, there were plenty of smiles on faces.

W8+ (Charlotte Green (c); Alive Evans (s); Stephanie Bruce-Smith; Ros Cooper; Lucie Ayliffe-Daly; Miriam Stricker; Sanne Van Den Berg; Eleanor Thomson, Xueer Zhou)
The W8 boat rowed over in their first heat into to the final. After an impressive effort, the Dev Squad 8 came second to Dublin University Ladies Boat Club.

W4+ (Annie Han (s); Rebecca Brimble; Kwok Cheung; Sasha Webb)
The scratch crew, having rowed together only once before, gave it everything they had in the midday sun, coming second to Bedford Girls School.

W4+ (Stephanie Bruce-Smith (s); Sanne Van Den Berg; Amy Hosking; Collette Lipp)
The Dev Squad four rowed over into the final, and raced against the OUWLRC Seniors and Bedford Girls School. The Seniors took first place, while the Dev Squad boat finished four lengths behind Bedford Girls School.

W2 (Rose Crosby (s); Alice Kerr)
The Dev Squad pair rowed over straight into the final against the OUWLRC Seniors and AB Severn BC. After a strong effort from all, the Senior boat finished first, with the Dev Sqaud boat finishing in second place, ⅔ of a length ahead of AB Severn BC who took 3rd place.

Race report by Becca Brimble


Metropolitan Regatta

Sunday 2nd June 2019, Dorney Lake

Three scullers – Ellie Watts, Anneloes Hoff and Amanda Thomas – entered the Metropolitan Regatta in the WLwt1x category. This could be seen as a brave or a foolhardy decision, as we all came (to a greater or lesser extent) fresh from racing in Summer Eights on the preceding four days, and commiserating or celebrating accordingly on Saturday evening. Ellie’s Wolfson crew in particular had a lot to celebrate, having become Head of the River, a fantastic achievement.

We were each drawn in a separate semi-final, starting racing at the rather civilised time of 1.40pm, with Ellie off first, followed by Anneloes five minutes later, and Amanda five minutes later again. Ellie and Anneloes both stormed to conclusive victories in their heats, sculling neatly and effectively through the usual Dorney ripples to go straight through to the final. Amanda also secured a place in the final with a second-place finish behind Georgie Plunkett of Cantabrigian RC.

We then had a chance to rest and recharge in the shade out of the heat (temperature in the high twenties), glad we had avoided the repechage. The final was one of the last races of the day, at 6.15pm, with the regatta site being packed up around us as we came off the water. The conditions for the final were a little cooler than in the middle of the day, with a refreshing crosswind to challenge our steering.

Ellie, Anneloes and Georgie Plunkett fought it out spectacularly throughout the first half of the race, with Ellie and Georgie going on to an inch-by-inch battle in the last 500. Their photo finish was so close that the reported race times actually gave Ellie’s time as the fastest, but Georgie was deemed the winner on this occasion. Ellie thus took second place with Anneloes following a few seconds behind in third, and Amanda sixth of the seven finalists. For all of us it was a great chance to get more experience of multi-lane racing, and to have another taste of side-by-side sculling. It was another successful day for Oxford, with all three scullers finishing in the top six of sixteen entries.

Race report by Amanda Thomas

Season Update

BUCS Regatta
Nottingham, 4th – 6th May

Joining 2500 students from across the UK, 16 OUWLRC athletes participated in 41 races over three days, producing some fantastic performances.  The first day saw another victory over Cambridge in the women’s championship lightweight eights category, with OUWLRC crossing the line 8 seconds ahead of the light blue boat to win gold.  Stern pair raced again immediately afterwards, coming an impressive third in the B final of the women’s intermediate openweight pairs, less than a second behind Edinburgh.  Two championship lightweight doubles also raced and produced the fastest sprints in the last 500 m of their repechage to secure 3rd and 4th place, just missing out on a place in the final.

Sunday was the day of the singles, with Oxford occupying four of the six lanes in one of the women’s intermediate lightweight AB semi-finals.  Anneloes Hoff won possibly the first lightweight singles medal in the club’s history, finishing a magnificent second.  Naomi Holland, Amanda Thomas and Caitlin O’Brien came 6th, 9th and 12th in a strong field of 41 athletes.  In the intermediate openweight category, Emily Hinson won the E final, while in the championship lightweight category, an impressive performance from Ellie Watts earned her 5th place overall.  OUWLRC also entered 2 lightweight 4- crews on the second day of the regatta, with the A crew finishing third overall, while the B crew narrowly missed a place in the final despite a determined performance in the repechage.

On the final day of racing, two crews entered the women’s championship lightweight pairs category, finishing 4th and 6th.  The B 4- from Sunday built on the previous races to finish second in the C final, having missed the AB semis by 0.3 seconds. The squad’s last race for the weekend was the lightweight quad, which came fourth and qualified for EUSA.

The weekend was hugely enjoyable, and with three boats medalling, another qualifying for EUSA and the rest gaining valuable experience, the squad can be very proud of its achievements.  A special mention should go to Amanda for subbing into the 8+ so brilliantly at the last minute, and to Emily for the enormous amount of work she put into the weekend, not least running the squad Insta story!  We would like to thank Chris and Jill for giving up their time to organise the trip, and for their invaluable support throughout the weekend.

After a rough time trial in choppy conditions, both crews placed for the same repechage round, where only the first 2 crews would go through to the A final. Ellie and Naomi in lane 4 maintained overlap on the Durham crew in the next lane in a tough battle for second place, but Durham managed to put their bow across the line just a second ahead of them. Early on in the race, Anneloes and Amanda, two lanes over in lane 2, overtook the Reading crew that had beaten them in the time trial. With Ellie and Naomi in their peripheral vision, they sprinted for the finish line, coming in fourth.

Backing onto the stake boats next to Cambridge, it felt very much like a re-run of the Boat Race.  That Bristol and Exeter were lining up on the other side of the course barely crossed our minds – for us, there was only one crew to beat.

We heard the roll-call and the umpire’s “attention”, but the beep to signal the start of the race was lost in the noise of the four eights powering away, urged on by their coxes.  Coming out of our start sequence, Charlotte called the first split and we knew then that this was our race.  The rough conditions in the time trial had seen our splits saw, but now they were back to normal.  We could do this.  We could beat Cambridge for the second time this season.

We flew down the course in the familiar sequence of pushes and tech. calls, Charlotte’s updates on our position telling us that we were leaving Cambridge behind.  At 600 m to go, she called the wind in early.  Did that mean Cambridge were sprinting already?  Were they going to walk through us in the last 500 m?  No.  This was ours.  3 for 3.  We had won at Brit Champs at the start of the season, we had won the Boat Race, and now we would win this.  3 for 3.  Let’s go.

BUCS_2The rate came up and we threw everything we had into the last 500 m, crossing the line with clear water on Cambridge.  The breathless shrieks of delight showed just how much this race had meant to us. Oxford had won the women’s lightweight 8+ for the third year in a row, and we had beaten Cambridge into the bargain.  The weekend was off to a good start.

WInt 2-
We were thrilled to have come 8th in the time trial, putting us in the AB semi, despite the windy conditions and quick turnaround from the 8s race just to make it to the start line. We took on some intimidatingly tall pairs in both the semi and the final and were really pleased to come away with 3rd in the B final, just beating Newcastle to the line.


BUCS_3On Sunday morning, 4 scullers nervously huddled in the OUWLRC gazebo, awaiting the results of our 8 am time trial. The outcome was exciting as much as it was brutal: all 4 of us had come top-12 in this category with 32 entries, qualifying for the AB semis, but we had all been placed in the same semi-final and would have to compete with each other for a place in the A final. The roll call of that semi-final should make any OUWLRC supporter feel smug: Oxford, Oxford, Oxford, Oxford … Amanda and Caitlin continued to the B-final, where they finished third and sixth. Anneloes and Naomi went through to the A-final, where Anneloes’ incredible performance was rewarded with a silver medal.

WCLwt4- (A)
Ahead of our races on the last day, the two pairs combined to race a coxless 4 in the championship lightweight category. We had a strong time trial and qualified straight into the A final, where we won bronze with an exhilarating sprint to the finish.

WCLwt4- (B)
For us, this was a day of firsts.  Most of the crew had never raced at a multi-lane regatta, and none of us had raced in a coxless boat before.  Learning circulation patterns, coxing calls and how to manage steering while rowing added to the nerves about race day.  Our time trial went surprisingly smoothly, giving us a chance to get used to the new experiences, and we made it into the repechage.  Unfortunately, our second race did not go to plan, and despite fighting determinedly to stay with the rest of the field, we didn’t qualify for the final.  However, this left us free to cheer on the A crew as they won their bronze medal and we were able to learn a lot from our own races, ready for the WInt4+ event the following day.


With Charlotte taking care of the steering and the coxing calls, we were a lot more relaxed about this race than we had been about racing in the coxless 4.  The grins when we finished the time trial showed that we had made the improvements we had identified the day before and that the boat felt a lot better for it.  Frustratingly, it wasn’t enough to get us into the top 12 crews that would go through to the AB semis, as we came 13th by 0.3 seconds.  However, this gave us the best lane in the C final along with a very good chance of winning.  Our start was shaky, resulting in a crab that left us several lengths down on the rest of the field.  It would have been easy to give up, but instead we committed to minimising the gap, and then Charlotte told us that we were moving through the crew in front.  The excitement in her voice told us that we could do this, and we pushed harder to hear her call “bowball” on the next boat.  At 800 m to go, she called for a wind.  This seemed impossibly early, but then came the magic words – “trust me”.  We did trust her, and, trusting the girl in front to do the same, sprinted for the line.  Spurred on by calls from the bank, we fought our way into second place, finishing 7 seconds ahead of the chasing Newcastle crew.  While it wasn’t the race we were expecting, it was the most exciting race we had, leaving us with the knowledge that we had shown just what ‘mighty lighties’ can do!

WCLwt2- (Grace and Fiona)
By Monday we were feeling the effects of the first 2 days of racing so were happy to have placed 5th in the time trial and 2nd in an Oxford-dominated repechage. As our 10th race of the weekend it was a battle to make it to the finish line of the final where we came 6th, but it was great to have a second day in the boat we’ve been looking forward to racing in all year.

WCLwt2- (Leah and Katie)
Our first time racing a pair was a unique challenge, and it paid off! We were 4th in the time trial, won our repechage and ended up placing 4th overall in our final.

The two doubles joined forces on Monday in the lightweight quad. Amanda’s excellent steering skills kept us out of the buoys despite strong gusts, and gave us a place in the A final, where a EUSA qualification was at stake. With Newcastle and Durham in the adjacent lanes having produced similar time trial results, all three crews knew that anything could happen in that final. Behind off the start, we pushed to gain back our position, making an early move on Newcastle, to which the blue stars instantly responded, keeping the crews level. 750 m into the race, Anneloes called for a push on Durham. With each stroke, we moved up on our purple competition. Keeping our strokes long and powerful, we pushed off the Durham crew, trying to stay level with Newcastle. At 500 to go, Newcastle was two seats up, and we knew it was now or never. Ellie took up the rate and we sprinted with every last bit of power we had left after three intense days of racing. *beep*-*beep*, two finish beeps immediately after each other, but which beep was for which crew? With the enraging difference of 0.22 seconds, Newcastle took home the bronze, but with the amazing consolation that with our fourth place, we had secured a place for OUWLRC at the European University Rowing Championship in Jönköping, Sweden.



Henley Boat Races
Henley, 30th March 2019

Blue Boat Race Report

7 months of training and we have 7 minutes to justify it.  7 minutes to justify the countless early mornings on the water, the seemingly endless steady-state ergs, the agonising 2k tests, and not just the work of the 9 people in the boat, but of the squad that has pushed them there, the coaching staff who have encouraged and corrected, and the support team who have worked tirelessly in the background to keep the squad running.  No wonder Race Day feels huge.

The pre-race paddle helps to calm nerves and is a chance to get rid of jittery mistakes before the race – the wobbly dress rehearsal before the spectacular performance.  We hope.  We go through the familiar sequence of warm-up, bursts and starts, finishing with a race rehearsal over the full course.  As we paddle back, it is strange to think that the next time we pass the island, we will be finishing the Boat Race.

Waiting around is often the hardest part of racing, but thankfully the few hours left before the race pass quickly and we are soon back at the boathouse for the final preparations: our last land warm-up; our last set of squat jumps; the last time we “get hands on” the boat, but more importantly, a last reminder to trust each other and do what we have been training to do.

We get the boat on the water and push off to the cheers of the growing crowd of supporters, but after that it is “heads in the boat”.  No distractions, dark or light blue; just a focus on the job at hand.  The warm-up passes in a bit of a blur and then we are backing down onto the stake boats, just like we’ve done so many times in race visualisations at the Henley House.  The mental rehearsals have really paid off, making it all feel reassuringly familiar.  As Steph Cullen said when she gave us our kit earlier this week, this race is ours to take, and as Jolet will later call to us in the race, we will “show them what dark blue can do”.











“Cambridge…Oxford…attention…GO!”  16 blades drive through the water to drag the eights up to racing speed.  Cambridge take 2 seats off the start, much as we expected, but Jolet calls for us to sharpen up and we begin to move back, drawing level as we start our first push just before Upper Thames.  It feels like we have hit a wall of sound, the energy from the cheers at Upper Thames coinciding with the call that Jolet is on the 2-seat of the Cambridge boat, that “this is our race”.  It is all we need.  We are up and will continue to walk.  Distance is deceptive in a boat, and it is hard to believe her when Jolet calls that she has their bowball, but that is all the more reason to push harder.  Our second push comes just after the slight bend, stopping Cambridge taking their advantage.  Then it is 700 m to the island, one final straight.  Our race plan becomes personal, Jolet asking each pair to do their bit.  We have 500 m to overturn the result from last year, to add to the tally of dark blue victories.  At 300 m, we are supposed to take up the rate and wind to the finish.  Turns out we don’t have much of a wind left in us, but whatever there is is channelled into that sprint for the line.  200 m – sharpen up, keep pressing, this is it.  100 m – keep it long, give it everything.  Last 5 strokes for Chris.

Easy there.

We had done it.  We had won the Boat Race.

The Blue Boat crew would like to thank everyone that made this race possible.  Thank you to those who organised the event itself, and to those who have supported the squad throughout the season.  The nutrition advice (Jasmine), physiotherapy (Caitlin), massages (Briony, Tom and Simon), sports psychology support (Heather), physiology testing (Filipe) and spin classes (Goose) were invaluable.  Thank you also to the squad as a whole – the standard of the racing crew would not have been nearly so high without your hard work throughout the season.  This really is a shared victory.  Finally, thank you to Chris and Jill for everything that you give to this squad, and particularly to Chris for coaching the Blue Boat through the last few weeks of training.  We hope we made it worthwhile.


Crew: Jolet Mimpen (cox), Fiona Jamieson (stroke), Grace Hanna, Ellie Watts, Naomi Holland (president), Grace Joel, Katie Hurt, Leah Mitchell, Katherine Ferris (bow)

Coach: Chris O’Hara


Women’s Lightweight Boat Race 2019 – Oxford, 2 ½ lengths, 6:28


Heineken Roeivierkamp
Amsterdam, 9th – 10th March 2019

 On the blustery morning of 9th March, 18 athletes flew to Amsterdam to take part in the Heineken Roeivierkamp.  Unfortunately, strong winds meant that most of that day’s racing was cancelled, including our events, but this at least gave the team the chance to rig the boats then dry out at the hotel – the afternoon was wet as well as windy!

The following day, conditions were far from perfect, but they were now rowable and we were very excited to get our boats on the water.  It was great to see a new stretch of river, especially the corner we had been warned would require a special rudder or, since we didn’t have one of those, the rowing equivalent of a handbrake turn!  Thankfully it was only included in the 5000 m race, which had been cancelled, so we didn’t have to attempt it at race pace!

After our warm-up, we joined the mass of boats marshalling up to the start line, enjoying the challenge of identifying club colours from various countries.  Despite the vast number of boats somewhat chaotically distributed down the river, it wasn’t long before we reached the start line and could wind up the rate.  Our first eight was between crews from Galway and Zürich, while our second eight was chasing Tideway Scullers, quickly pulling away when their pursuers had to drop out a few metres from the start line.  The boat they were now chasing had started too far ahead to provide much competition, but our crew was able to focus on their own boat and rowed a fantastic race in spite of this, finishing the 2500 m course in 8:50.7.  The first eight had a more exciting time, having to stop mid-race to avoid crashing into the Galway crew in front when they blocked the racing line through one of the bridges.  Although at the time this was stressful and frustrating, it was good practice for a potential Boat Race scenario.  The crew responded well to Jolet’s calls, executing an impressive mid-race start sequence to make up for lost time, still finishing first of the British crews in our category in a time of 8:23.7.

On winding down from the 2500 m race, we began marshalling for the 250 m sprint.  This seem much less efficient than the steady parade to the start line for the longer distance, and the light but relentless rain, coupled with the wind, made it a very cold experience.  Fortunately, there was little time in the sprint for more than a start then a wind to the finish, and after that we could warm up on the paddle back to Poseiden, who were hosting us, and change into some very welcome dry clothes!

While the weekend may not have gone entirely to plan, it was a good opportunity to come together as a team and it provided some invaluable racing experience ahead of the Boat Race at the end of the month.  A huge thank you goes to Jolet for organising the trip, and to Chris and Jill for their time and effort in preparing the two crews.



Crew 1: Jolet Mimpen (cox), Fiona Jamieson (stroke), Grace Hanna, Ellie Watts, Naomi Holland (president), Grace Joel, Katie Hurt, Leah Mitchell, Katherine Ferris (bow)

Coach: Chris O’Hara

Crew 2: Charlotte Lee (cox), Emily Hinson (stroke, vice president), Jane Ellis, Amanda Thomas, Tuuli-Anna Huikuri, Laura Boddy, Caitlin O’Brien, Anneloes Hoff, Jessica Wang (bow)

Coach: Jill Betts