Unfortunately, my recollections of my final year at Oxford are hazy. In any case, final years tend to be pretty full on but reading a science degree (Pure and Applied Biology) meant my academic timetable was packed with lab work, lectures, fieldwork and weekly essays, with faceto-face tutorials taking up most of the week. Pile on the OUWBC training, being President that year, plus touching base with the National Squad program –I had been part of the GB world championship team in the summer of 1985 – and the year went by in a blur.
In 1985/86 OUWBC still had no official base, we were training on the Thames at Port Meadow to the northwest of Oxford and through the generosity of St Edward’s School we were using their boathouse via a long-standing arrangement. This allowed us better quality water time with longer distances and less congestion than would have been possible on the ‘normal’ Thames stretch below Oxford City Centre where all the college boathouses were. The OUWBC squad would cycle up from the City for training – from memory this involved some weekday afternoon sessions, plus weekend sessions. In addition, we had land training venues dotted around the city. At Iffley Road Sports Centre we did ergo tests (not enough machines for ergo sessions as such) and free weights, while circuit training was facilitated by the generosity of various colleges who would allow us to use their college gyms each week. Training was basically accomplished through begging and borrowing facilities from various sympathetic benefactors.
“There was an ongoing frustration that we were not recognised as serious in our rowing endeavours. Any media interest in OUWBC or CUWBC always seemed to involve being dressed up in high heels and evening wear.”
There was an ongoing frustration that we were not recognised as serious in our rowing endeavours. Any media interest in OUWBC or CUWBC always seemed to involve being dressed up in high heels and evening wear. If I remember correctly it was for this reason that on one occasion, we refused a photoshoot. We felt that the sponsored men’s event was always much better covered, and the men were taken seriously as athletes. There was a desire to make the Boat Races more equal, and one way would be to utilise the ‘machine’ that existed to cover the men’s races to raise the profile of the women’s races. It also seemed to be nonsensical to have a race distance more akin to summer racing at the end of March – it didn’t fit in with national squad and GB representation preparation.
Our Boat Race day was obviously hugely important to the crews. The logistics for the races were well organised, but the shoreside stuff was very much an afterthought. For instance, I have no real recollection of being presented the trophy after we won our race, there was no meeting of the opposition post-race. We boated from different places and basically never met.
Our supporters were the stalwart members of family and friends of the various crew members. There were no real crowds and media coverage would generally consist of a two-line result in the national newspapers, usually as an add-on to the results being reported for the men’s Head of the River Race which would happen during the same weekend. To be fair, the rest of the university were also pretty oblivious to the fact that there were boat races for OUWBC and CUWBC, so the rest of the nation can hardly be blamed for being none the wiser.
1986 Won and President
1985 Won Osiris