Wolfson College Boat Club, Oxford

Captain’s Reflections: 2007 – 2008

2007-2008 has been another triumphant year for the boat club with our crews setting new records and the club also seeing some significant changes that have laid a foundation for more great years to come. Our year began with the senior rowers scouring the south of England in the hunt for trophies, unfortunately the summer floods restricted the boat club to wins at Reading and Oxford City regattas. Meanwhile our summer recruitment programme was in full swing and combined with the influx of fresh newcomers in Michelmas term, the boat club put together four strong crews for the Christ Church novice regatta. Sadly, the rains returned to cancel racing after just one day, leaving our novices disappointed but even more determined to prove themselves on the river.

Hilary term continued the wet winter trend but the boat club would not let the dreaded red flag ruin our Torpids training and we spent many weekends rowing at Dorney Lake. This specialist rowing lake near Eton is famous for being the future rowing venue for the 2012 Olympic Games but is best known to our members as the coldest, windiest place on Earth. After five months of indoor rowing, travelling to Dorney and checking the weather forecast our weather beaten rowers were relieved when Torpids finally arrived. The men entered two crews and both were tipped to see plenty of action. Men’s 1st boat bumped three times to finish 9th in Division 2 while the 2nd boat also bumped three times but was caught on the last day and moved up one place overall. The women entered one boat featuring just a single experienced rower and although they were bumped each day to finish 11th in Div2, it was valuable experience for a novice crew and cox and they were eager for another shot.

March saw the boat club descend on mass to Henley and London to support Wolfson rowers Katja Bier and Paul Kelly represent Oxford’s reserve crews against Cambridge. Katja stoked the Osiris boat to an emphatic win over Blondie while Paul returned at bow in the Isis boat to defeat Goldie. Meanwhile, Wolfson sent a men’s crew to the Head of the River Race in London and they finished an admirable 275th out of 410 crews. The Easter break also saw the boat club migrate to Henley for our fourth annual training camp. This is the perfect way to start Summer Eights training with its winning combination of camping in freezing conditions, barbecues and rowing on the beautiful Henley stretch of the Thames.

Wolfson crews entered Summer Eights on the back of punishing training regimes devised by our returning university squad rowers, which promised to provide us with the strongest crews Wolfson has seen in many years. Indeed, competition for places was so great that we were able to enter six crews for the first time in ten years and each got their share of bumps. Women’s 3rd boat were over-bumped on day one but bumped back twice to finish down one place. Women’s 2nd, sporting the traditional ribbons and war paint combination, bumped twice and made a brave attempt to jump up into Div3 but were eventually caught on the last day and moved up one place overall. Women’s 1st welcomed back three university squad rowers making it the quickest women’s boat for some years, they bumped three times and rowed-over once to finish 7th in Div2.

1st_VIII_cox_tossMeanwhile the men were unbumpable. Men’s 3rd boat bumped twice to move up two places and scared everyone with their pink Indian outfits. The Men’s 2nd boat bumped three times including an impressive over-bump, moving them up five places and out of the qualifying divisions for the first time in eight years. Men’s 1st crew took to the water in the newest member of our family, Tara. Our first new boat in five years was named by our Senior Member, Prof. Bryan Sykes as part of the new sponsorship deal between the boat club and his company, Oxford Ancestors. Tara certainly made an impression as the Men’s 1st boat bumped each day (Brasenose, St Anne’s, St John’s and Trinity) to win Blades and finished 4th in Div2, which may be the highest ever placing for the Wolfson men (at least since records began in 1980). Moreover, the Men’s 1st boat has now gone three years without being bumped in either Torpids or Eights.

Summer Eights ended with Wolfson College Boat Club ranked 3rd out of all Oxford’s colleges and this is now the third year in a row we have made the top five. Our run of success has been made possible by the continuing support from Wolfson College, which has allowed us to invest in coaching, equipment and to move into our new home in the University College boat house. In addition, we are very grateful to St. Cross College who have increased their support for the boat club and we are now proud to have their colours on the blades of our Men’s 2nd boat. Wolfson crews are already training for the next rowing year and a new boat club committee is in place to help steer them to further success, so watch this space.

Phillip Tait
Captain of Boats 2007-2008