Top universities for rowing

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The popular view of British university rowing is the light blue boat of Cambridge versus the Oxford’s dark blue battling for victory – and occasionally sinking – on a stretch of the Thames in west London. The truth is the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race is its own beast and its athletes go to those universities specifically to row.

The six clubs below dominate rowing among higher education institutions. Apart from Reading, each one is designated a centre for High Performance Programmes, which means that they are National Lottery funded clubs with a track record of coaching rowers to compete for a place in the GB Rowing Team.

British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) is the governing body for Higher Education (HE) sport in the UK, and organises and presides over numerous events and leagues. The most prestigious BUCS rowing event is the BUCS Regatta, at which the Victor Ludorum trophy (Latin for ‘winner of the games’) is awarded to the team that has accumulated the most points. Other BUCS rowing events include the Indoor Championships, the BUCS Small Boats Head, Fours and Eights Head, and Heads of the River.

University teams also take part in Henley Royal Regatta, the EUSA Championships, the World University Championships and the International Universities Race. There are also many intervarsity races, such as the Boat Race of the North between Newcastle and Durham.

Other universities that take part in and win medals at BUCS rowing events include Manchester, St Marys, Oxford, Loughborough, Surrey, Bangor, Cardiff, Exeter and East London.

University of London

This university’s boat club makes great claims for its performances at national, World Championship and International Universities Race levels, particularly its first eight men’s squad in the Head of the River Race and generally in the Henley Women’s Regatta.

The club is regularly in the top five of the overall Victor Ludorum at the BUCS Regatta, and last took the number one spot in 2014.

2016 results:

  • Position in the overall Victor Ludorum, BUCS Regatta: third
  • Position in the team medals for the Indoor Race Championships: joint fifth (with Bangor University)

High Performance club designated by GB Rowing Team? Yes

Newcastle University

What’s now called Newcastle University Boat Club (NUBC) was founded in 1911 as the Armstrong College Boat Club, initially as a men’s club before adding a women’s team in the 1920s. Each year it holds a competition against Durham University known as Boat Race of the North. In 2016 Newcastle was crowned winner of the event, as it was in 2015.

NUBC has had a good time in recent years. In 2016 it won the overall Victor Ludorum trophy at the BUCS Regatta for the first time, in addition to holding on to the men’s Victor Ludorum.

2016 results:

  • Position in the overall Victor Ludorum, BUCS Regatta: first
  • Position in the team medals for the Indoor Race Championships: first

High Performance club designated by GB Rowing Team? Yes

Oxford Brookes University

Oxford Brookes’ boathouse is on the Thames at Cholsey, upstream of Henley where the famous Henley Regatta takes place but downstream of where the river is briefly called the Isis and the University of Oxford boat club rows.

Oxford Brookes University Boat Club (OBUBC) was founded in 1978 as the Oxford Polytechnic Boat Club (OPBC). Its past members have won silver and gold Olympic medals at Sydney 2000, Athens 2004, Beijing 2008 and London 2012.

2016 results:

  • Position in the overall Victor Ludorum, BUCS Regatta: second
  • Position in the team medals for the Indoor Race Championships: joint first (with University of Edinburgh)

High Performance club designated by GB Rowing Team? Yes

Imperial College London

It was fitting that Imperial College Boat Club (ICBC) won the Prince Albert Challenge Cup in the 2013 Henley Royal Regatta as the prince founded the university back in 1907. Its rowers have worn the GB vest at Olympic, Senior International and Under-23 International levels.

Its Putney-based boathouse is quite the thing, with clubhouse, gym, physiotherapy suit and accommodation for a small number of student rowers.

2016 results:

  • Position in the overall Victor Ludorum, BUCS Regatta: eleventh
  • Position in the team medals for the Indoor Race Championships: seventh

High Performance club designated by GB Rowing Team? Yes

University of Reading

Reading’s rowing programme promises a focus on sculling, boats with state-of-the-art designs, being part of a club that’s produced former Henley, UK and European champions, and a head coach who rowed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. There’s a £5,000 scholarship and the Thames is near the university. The club also runs a training event at the Lake of Banyoles in Spain.

2016 results:

  • Position in the overall Victor Ludorum, BUCS Regatta: fifth
  • Position in the team medals for the Indoor Race Championships: third

High Performance club designated by GB Rowing Team? Not currently

Durham University

Originally formed in 1877, Durham University Boat Club (DUBC) dominated the BUCS Regatta for years, taking the Victor Ludorum from 2004 to 2013, and then again in 2015.

In 1989 the DUBC Freshman Squad was established, and since then it has coached many novice athletes to success. Former Durham squad members include London 2012 Olympic gold medallist Sophie Hosking, Steve Rowbotham, who won a bronze at the Beijing Olympic Games and Emily Taylor, who was a silver medallist in the European Rowing Championships in 2008 among other achievements.

2016 results:

  • Position in the overall Victor Ludorum, BUCS Regatta: seventh
  • Position in the team medals for the Indoor Race Championships: participants in the championships but not within the top 10 in 2016

High Performance club designated by GB Rowing Team? Yes

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