British Rowing Awards: University Crew of the Year shortlist

We share the citations of the regional winners for the University Crew of the Year Award, with national winners to be announced in a live webcast on 20 January

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After receiving a huge number of nominations for British Rowing Awards from clubs up and down the country, it’s been a tough job for our judging panels to narrow them all down to this year’s shortlist. Thank you to everyone who made a nomination and congratulations to the volunteers, coaches, clubs, crews and other rowers who have been selected.

Four university crews have won regional awards and are now shortlisted for national awards. They are:

  • Cambridge University BC Men’s Blue Boat Crew
  • Newcastle University Women’s Eight
  • Oxford Brookes University Women’s Eight
  • Surrey University Beginners Men

Eastern Region – CUBC Men’s Blue Boat Crew

The 2021 Cambridge Blue Boat won the 166th Men’s Boat Race after a very unique season. Training through lockdown presented different challenges for all rowers across the world – something we can all relate to. The increased pressure of earning a seat in the Blue Boat for Oxford and Cambridge presented an additional challenge on top of this.

Many members of each squad had returned from the cancelled 2020 Boat Race, robbed of a race, and determined to make their mark in the history books. The Cambridge team remained very tight-knit throughout the pandemic, even through the challenge of the squad being separated into two, as a result of the government guidelines only allowing 12 oarsmen and two coxes to return to training, leading into the Boat Race.

Cambridge hit the ground running and came together as an effective unit very quickly, something they had also managed in the two week run-up to trial eights. By race week, Cambridge were hitting some of the fastest speeds in training pieces recorded in Ely despite such little time together.

When the crews were announced, Oxford emerged as favourites, having many more established names in the sport on board. Despite this, Cambridge came together like no other crew and had the ultimate confidence in the each other. On the day, the Cambridge men had the perfect start, and went on to produce an outstanding technical performance for having just four weeks on the water together. They dealt with numerous sustained pushes from Oxford on the more sheltered station, fighting seat for seat over the straight 5km course. The Cambridge crew stuck together in perfect harmony, all nine members of the crew, to hold Oxford off and eventually moved away in the final minute to just under a length victory. All in all, a perfect example of a team being so much more than the sum of its parts.

Northern Region – Newcastle University Women’s Eight

This was Kat Bulmer’s last year at Newcastle University BC and BUCS Regatta and she’s been such a stalwart at the club during her time at university. She rowed in the women’s championship eights that won a bronze medal – but it wasn’t about the winning/not winning, but about the inclusion and the leadership role that Kat has played in her crew and club. It was so lovely to see the togetherness of the Blue Star women’s eight, the club spirit and the large number of supporters at the pontoon for the medal ceremony.

Wessex & SE Coast – Oxford Brookes University Women’s Eight

The Oxford Brookes women’s eight and coach Richard Chambers had an incredible season, winning gold at BUCS Regatta plus wins at Henley Women’s Regatta and the inaugural Island Challenge Cup at Henley Royal.

At BUCS Regatta, Oxford Brookes won women’s championship eights for the first time since 2016 in a dominant display ahead of the crew from UL. This performance contributed to Oxford Brookes collecting the Overall Victor Ludorum.

At Henley Women’s Regatta, the highlight of the weekend was claiming a win in the Academic Eights, for the first time in the club’s history. The event saw two Brookes eights in the semi-finals. In the final, Brookes got off to a fantastic start against Newcastle University, carving a 1.5 length win by the finish.

There was another first where the crew also went on to win the Island Challenge Cup, beating UL, who led them until around halfway. A huge push gave the Brookes crew success as they crossed the line a length ahead.

Thames Region – the Surrey University Beginners Men

The Surrey University Beginners Men squad, together with coaches Sam Tuck and Eleanor Stevens, have shown terrific dedication over the last season.

Competing at BUCS Regatta for the first time, the squad won gold in the coxed fours and quad, silver in the eight and silver in the single sculls – all very impressive for a small club and an amazing achievement during a pandemic year.

Despite all the uncertainty of the past two years, the athletes have carried on training and pushed their own standards forward to achieve great results in their first year of the sport.

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