Racing at BRIC

First race as OUWLRC: alone, in my bedroom, on the erg. Not ideal. On Saturday, I was racing in the LW U23 2000m. After a slightly stressful weigh in, I started warming up. Even though the vibe wasn’t the same as a normal race day as soon as the starting sequence of Attention, Row flashed on the screen it felt like racing again. I had a race plan but did get a bit caught up in the excitement of seeing the distance between me and the other rowers. I settled into a rhythm, rate 34, pretty consistent splits, little bit of drift. 4th place through 500m. 4th place though 1000m. Into the last 500m, I was still in 4th place but only 7m behind 3rd place. It was time for the sprint. Started pushing the splits back down. I could see the distance to third place getting smaller and smaller and in the last 250m I just managed to move into 3rd place. Big wind in the last 250 to hit r45 and finish in 3rd place 0.8s ahead.

Sunday afternoon I was racing in the LW U23 500m. I felt pretty unprepared having done a lot less sprints. Didn’t really have much of a race plan. Just go hard. I went off and found myself in the lead 100m in. Then over the next 400m increased the distance between me and the other rowers to finish first 20m ahead.

Overall, 3rd, 1st and a place at World Rowing Indoor Champs, pretty chuffed.

Hazel Wake

Development Squad 2020

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.

—Gabriella

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!

—Rosie

Oxford to Fulham Fundraiser

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.

—Rosie

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!

—Harriet

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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’.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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 well..no 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

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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

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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

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