4th March 2017 was a big day for Reading University Boat Club.

Preparation had started weeks ago for our annual head of the river race and annual dinner that took place in the evening but as members of RUBC arrived bright and early at our club, based in Caversham, things began to really take shape.

Trailers from all over the country had been arriving the evening before and more started to arrive as the morning pressed on and marshals set up position and laid buoys over the course which stretched over 4.6 kilometres downstream from the Roebuck hotel to just outside RUBC. Due to it’s timing, two weeks prior to eights head in London, our race attracted some of the country’s top crews such as Oxford Brookes and Leander as well as some competitive senior and junior quads such as Headington and Windsor Boy’s school. It was an exciting event to be part of and due to the calibre of those racing and proved a great opportunity for our seniors to prove themselves and our novices to enjoy their first racing experience.

Boating for the first division began at 9am and while most members of RUBC were on registration and setting up refreshments and cake stalls inside, we had seven crews boating for division one at 10.30 AM.  There were four boats entered into the IM24X which was a pretty loaded category. Current RUBC members Ross Jones, Jack Gibson, Chris Dove and Bryn Hassan raced well, coming fourth against some top competition and beating the ‘old boys’ or alumni quad of Vince DeLuca, Corey McDowell, Rob Johnston and James Robinson into 8th position and the 2nd quad of Johannes De Jong, Nikolas Gavrias, Chris O’Bryan and Ollie Irwin into 9th place and our top novice boys quad of Ben Nurse, Angus Abbott, Scott Somerville and Dan Gregory had a great first race with plenty of support from the rest of the club. Also racing in the first division was the IM1 alumni girls quad of Ally Brooks, Jenny Spencer, Rose Wiloughby and Midia Hadjixenofontos who boasted a decent time despite no opposition. It was the first race for our novice girls quad of Alicia Pears, Hettie Horler, Sophie Bullock and Ellen Smith who joined Amber Mayall, Helen Such, Molly Regan and Issy Heighton in a WIM34x event full of competition including a fast Oxford Brookes boat who took the win.

John Kerry and Christiana

John Kerry and Christiana

The first division cheered on by a special guest as we were joined on the river bank by the former US Secretary of State, John Kerry. He seemed impressed by the day and took time out to speak to the students and alumni.

After some good racing in the morning which saw Oxford Brookes take the Elite 8’s win over Leander and Radley College (Now coached by former RUBC athlete and coach Sam Townsend) took the win in the junior eights and Star and Arrow in the Junior quads.

Mad8 2017

The alumni crew “Mad8″ raised over £5,000 for RUBC – AMAZING!!

The afternoon division began boating at 1pm after some members of RUBC served the marshals lunch in the canoe club looking over the river and plenty of tea, coffee and cake was sold in the club house. We had six boats in this division as well as the ‘Mad 8’ a group of 9 ex-university rowers who. After 40 years abstinence from the sport, set up a JustGiving page to raise money for the University boat club and help get them down the course. They raced under Ortner Boat Club and came 2nd in the Masters F category. From the oldest to the very newest, it was the first race for more of our novice girls in the WIM24X category. Claire Hesketh, Katherine MacPherson, Maddie East and Freya Cory raced well against a quick Borlase crew and the senior girls Kit Swales, Beatrice Roe, Victoria Norton and Katy Ratcliffe who took the win in that category. Anna Smart, Amy Fuller, Lou Grove and Lucy Ryan had a really good row in the Elite quads category, holding off Reading Rowing Club’s top women’s quad for most of the course. On the boy’s side, two boats were entered into IM34x. Harvey Jacklin, Sam Palmer, Laurence O’ Connor and Rob Mcpherson took the win by nearly 30 seconds and for the novice boys of Harry Hannam, Daniel Adkin, Vincent Moulton and Liam Bates (also in the same category) it was a decent first race as well. Reading University’s top boys quad won the IM14X category against a strong Reading Rowing Club boat and took home our third win of the day, very well done to them.

As well as our crews that won there was some strong racing across the board from our elite women to our novice scullers who put the disappointment of last weekend’s cancellations behind them and really enjoyed their first racing experience.

All members of RUBC worked well in the lead up to and on the day of the event and it was great to see just how much everyone contributed to such a successful day, from collecting launches from Pangbourne, to baking cakes and handing out medals all before rushing off to quickly change out of our lycra in time for the annual dinner.

The RUBC formal takes place following on from our head race every year. It is held in Park House on the University Campus and this year was exceptionally special due to the numbers of alumni that returned. Social Secretary Anna Smart said ‘Thanks to everyone who came. I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say that it was great to have students and alumni from the past 50 years in one room together.’

As well as reconnecting with our previous captains and members from years back, there were several teary speeches and some awards given out too. Olly Dix, men’s captain, was awarded ‘Man of the year’ and ‘woman of the year’ went to Lucy Ryan. ‘Most improved’ went to Amber Mayall on the girls’ side and Sam Palmer for the boys. Scott Somerville won ‘Novice of the year’ and Bryn Hassan won ‘Most committed.’ ‘Team-mate of the year’ was awarded to Jack Gibson and The ‘Positivity’ award went to Chris O’Bryan with Meg Park winning the ‘Ambassador’ award. It was a very well organised night with special thanks going to Social Sec’s Amber Mayall and Anna Smart, President Simon Williamson and the organisers at the Meadow Suite.

Press – Katy Ratcliffe