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Smash and Dominate: The Women’s Boat Club Challenge

Teamwork & talent have been propelling us to victories, but our boats are holding us back!

  • £8,300

    pledged of £7,500

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This project received pledges on Fri 13 Mar 2015

Who we are

Founded in 1921 (when it was ascertained that rowing did not damage women’s reproductive systems), Somerville College Boat Club contributed a Blues rower to the first Women’s Boat Race against Cambridge in 1927, and has turned out dozens of highly skilled rowers for the University since.  But it was only in 1976 that women’s teams were allowed to compete in Summer Eights. Armed with a new boat, the women won blades in 1979, and the entire competition the following year as Head of the River (top of the first division), just four years after races had been opened up to women at all.

Somerville has held the title of Head of the River an impressive eight times, but not in the past 20 or so years.  Now, with our eye on that title, we are again steadily ascending the ranks.  In 2014, W1 (women’s first squad) rowed for three days straight to successfully bump their way into Division One, out of a total six divisions (whilst also successfully competing in consecutive races  to maintain the top spot in Division Two). In the same year, W2 successfully bumped on the first three days of racing, and came within a foot of achieving blades. Both squads have been training doggedly in all weather this year; training is held twice a day, six times a week. With a pair of boats whose quality matches that of their crews, SCWBC will be unstoppable in 2015.

Why it's important

Somerville men row on a new boat that was very kindly and generously donated to the College.  In contrast, the success of the women’s club has been achieved in spite of the state of our equipment, which is rather poor.  Half of the shoes in the W1 boat and all of the shoes in the W2 boat are designed for men and are mostly too large, making it difficult to row at our full length and strength.  The W2 boat is in particularly poor condition, with several bent riggers and numerous scratches and tears to the shell.  Also, our smaller training boats (a four and a double) that are meant to hone technical skill have been stripped for parts over the years, rendering them unusable at the moment. 

Breaking into Division One was a momentous achievement, and it is critical that we maintain our rank in the top division.  We are inspired to ‘smash and dominate’ this year, and continue our advancement towards the Head of the River. 

It is also a very exciting year for women rowers at Oxbridge: for the first time, the Women’s Boat Race will be moved to the same stretch of water as the Men’s and will be televised! Last year, Somerville contributed a Blue and a half-Blue to the race, and both the women’s boat and the women’s lightweight boat beat Cambridge.  This year, Megan Wallace (2012, Biological Sciences) is in the race for selection to cox.  Having more than doubled our membership, Somerville continues to turn out excellent novice and experienced rowers, and we want to reward their dedication and encourage their hard work and drive.

we need your help!

Although many of the top women’s squads have brand new boats, purchasing one for W1 would cost north of £20,000.  So our plan is to source a used, good-quality boat (for half of that cost) for the W1 to use, and to refurbish the current W1 for the W2 to use.  As a club, we have been saving funds for this project over recent years, but we are looking to close the gap.  We have a wonderful and generous donor who has agreed to contribute £3,000 (including gift aid) as a matched gift, so all donations up to £3,000 will be matched pound for pound!  With your help, we can bring our equipment up to scruff, and get out on the river to smash and dominate our competition this year.

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thank you so much for your help!