Oxford University Women's Boat Club
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Oxford University Women's Boat Club (OUWBC) is a club for female rowers and coxes of either sex who are students at the University of Oxford. The aim of the club is to field two eights to race against their counterparts from the University of Cambridge at the Henley Boat Races, held in March or April over 2000m on the Henley Reach. The First VIII receive university blues, and are therefore more commonly known as the Blue Boat. The Second VIII receive university colours, and race as Osiris. In external races, all boats are entered as Osiris unless, post-boat race, the whole crew raced as the blue boat that year.
The original challenge between the Oxford and Cambridge University boat clubs was issued in 1829. As a result two men's eights raced on the river at Henley-on-Thames. In 1836 the race was moved to the Tideway in London, and it has remained there ever since. At this time rowing was not seen as an appropriate sport for a lady. However, towards the end of the century attitudes began to change.
The two universities caught onto the trend a few decades later and OUWBC was formed in May 1926. Following on from this the 'Ladies' Boat Race' was founded in 1927. The first races took place on The Isis in Oxford and took the form of a time and style contest, since the Principals of the women's colleges disapproved of racing. The OUWBC was disbanded for financial reasons in 1953 but re-formed in 1964. In 1977 the 'Women's Boat Race' was invited to joint the men's lightweights at Henley and so the 'Henley Boat Races' were established. A reserve race between 'Osiris' (Oxford) and 'Blondie' (Cambridge) was then introduced to parallel the men's reserves 'Isis' and 'Goldie'. Finally, in 1984 a lightweight women's race was inaugurated.
The standard of the race today over the 2km Henley stretch could not be any more different from the races held over 80 years ago. The women's training regime now mirrors that of the heavyweight men, in time, effort, professionalism and coaching. This involves twice-daily sessions, combining water work with land training in the gym and careful performance monitoring. The athletes are expected to train up to a gruelling 30 hours a week on top of hectic academic schedules. However, the concept of it being a grudge match between the two oldest universities in England remains exactly the same, and as ever there is no second place, only first and last.
The Henley Boat Races now attract crowds of up to 10,000 each year and 2008 saw the first televised broadcast of the events. The Cambridge women were dominant during the 1990s, and to date the score is Cambridge 40 Oxford 24, but Oxford have been closing the margin since the new millennium. In 2008 Oxford won all but one of the seven boat races, with Osiris winning the women's reserve race for the 8th year in a row.
In tandem with Cambridge University Women's Boat Club, OUWBC is currently under sponsorship from Newton Investment Management. They provide equal funding to both squads, aiming to further their development and promote women's rowing across the country. Newton is a global investment management company with assets under management of £46bn (as at 31 December 2011). They provide a broad range of award-winning investment services, including multi-asset, real-return and specialist bond and equity strategies, to a wide range of clients, including pension funds, corporations, charities and individuals.
Movement to the Tideway
Following a sponsorship deal with Newton Investment Management, established shortly before the 2011 Women's Boat Race, parent company BNY Mellon announced in February that they will be sponsoring both the men's and women's boat races from 2013. Furthermore, the women's race will move to the same course on the same day as the men as of 2015.
Trialling begins in early September with new athletes joining the squad at the start of term. Training is a mixture of land- and water-based sessions, with 11 sessions in a typical week. Land training takes place at the Iffley Road gym, where athletes are able to use the OUBC tank, ergs and weights facilities. Water sessions are held from the stunning Fleming Boat House at Wallingford, where OUWBC share facilities with OUBC, OULRC, and OULWRC.
The training water at Wallingford, Oxfordshire is superb with a 10km stretch between locks. The river is relatively wide and allows for crews to work side by side; within the stretch, a 3km course is marked out for timed pieces. OUWBC owns three eights, one coxless four/quad, three coxed fours, three pairs/doubles and three club sculls; the fleet is made up of mostly Stampflis and Filippis; the current top race boat is a 2010 Filippi eight. Squad members with their own single sculls are also able to rack these at Wallingford.
Windrush is the OUWBC alumni association. It provides support to the Club and its current members, and helps former OUWBC oarswomen and coxes to keep in touch after leaving Oxford. The annual OUWBC 'Champagne and Strawberries Party' is held on Saturday of Henley Royal Regatta.