Pembroke College Boat Club (Oxford)

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For other uses, see Pembroke College Boat Club.
College Boat Clubs of the University of Oxford
Pembroke College Boat Club
Oxford boathouse 2.jpg
Boathouse (left half) and rowing blade
Pembroke College Oxford Boat Club Rowing Blade.svg
Established c. 1842 (1842)
Head of the River – Men 1872, 1995, 2003, 2013
Head of the River – Women 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2012
Location The Isis
Sister college Queens' College, Cambridge
Senior Member Prof. Ben Davis
Men's Captain Chris Liang
Women's Captain Anna Carbery
Captain of Coxes Ben Donaghue

Pembroke College Boat Club (PCBC) is the rowing club for members of Pembroke College, Oxford, one of the college boat clubs in Oxford.


Although the exact date for foundation of PCBC is unclear, the club was competing in Eights and Torpids as early as 1842 and had adopted its modern-day flag with the "Rose Gules" (Red Rose) taken from the Pembroke heraldic shield by 1846.

Amongst the giants in PCBC history, two leading Pembroke oarsmen of the 1870–1873 period were the three times President of the Oxford University Boat Club, Robert Lesley, who came up from Radley College and R S Mitchison, an old Etonian. Rowing historians indicate that sliding seats were first used during the Fours racing at Oxford in 1872 by PCBC and that “the new system of sliding seats was first used in Oxford by Lesley’s crew and also by the College (Pembroke) Eight at Henley “.[1] Pembroke were the first known crew to use seats with wheels.[2] In the club minutes it is recorded that the Pembroke crew were the pioneers of the sliding seat at Oxford, using it in the Fours before they left for Henley, and of the seat with wheels for the first time worldwide.[3]

Dodd[4] states that London Rowing Club and Pembroke were the first to use the sliding seat at Henley. Pembroke’s win of the Visitors’ Cup at Henley has been described as "one of the best races of the whole Regatta".[5] Pembroke won by approximately half a length from University College Dublin, who were using fixed seats. The Dublin crew were regarded as one of the best ever sent to Henley. What is also significant is that Pembroke were using wheels, which were soon discarded by boat builders in favour of greased glass or steel grooves or tubes, but wheels were to return to favour again in 1885. Pembroke then, were not only early adopters of the sliding seat, ahead of others in Oxford, but also pioneers in terms of the materials being used, as they anticipated the later wheeled models of sliding seats which did not become current until 1885 and remain until the modern day.

Modern day[edit]

In 2003, Pembroke achieved a historic victory in the Oxford Summer Eights competition by becoming the first college to win the 'Double Headship', having both men's and women's first boats end the week at the 'Head of the River'. Double Headship has yet to be repeated by any college in the Summer Eights competition, although the competitive years since 2003 has seen both men's and women's boats remain within striking distance of the Head of the River. Consistent ambition to go Head has been the goal: the Men's First Summer Eight (M1) has remained within the top 5 since 1992[6] and within the top 3 during that time in all years except 2008. In 2013, the 1st VIII bumped Oriel to regain the Head of the River whilst the First Torpid also retained the Torpids Headship.

PCBC is supported by the Friends of PCBC who strive to support rowers at all levels, particularly through their scholarship programme.[7] PCBC has also has a strong current record in external regattas: M1 placed 42nd in the HORR in 2012 and competed in the Temple Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta in 2006 and 2012.


Although tension began to ease off as of 2006, Pembroke and Oriel College, historically two of the best performing crews of the past 30 years, have had a strong and at times heated rivalry. In 2009, Pembroke's Eights M1 achieved a particularly emphatic bump on Oriel, further fuelling the rivalry. The rivalry remains fierce, including childish edits of Wikipedia pages.

St Edmund Hall Boat Club, whose boat house is adjacent to that of Pembroke, are also rivals, particularly on the women's side. The traditional Pembroke rivalry with Christ Church permeates to rowing as well. Recent strong performances at the Fairbairn's Cup in Cambridge and the Oxford vs Cambridge College race at Henley Boat Races has led to new rivalries with some Cambridge colleges such as First and Third Trinity Boat Club and Caius Boat Club. Pembroke became the first male Oxford college crew to win the Fairbairn Cup in 2014, an achievement they repeated in 2015.



The club has a reputation for good equipment and coaching. The men's side of the club has three Empacher VIIIs (2008, 2003, 1994), two Janouseks (2000, 1990) and a Sims. The top women had a Stampfli VIII (2005) which was written off at the Women's Eights Head of the River Race 2007 after being crashed into Putney Bridge. This has now been replaced and was used by the Women's 1st VIII to gain blades from the bottom of Division I in Torpids 2008. They also have an Eton Phoenix (1996), a Janousek and an Aylings. In small boats the club maintains a fleet of one Empacher coxless four (2008), three Janousek coxed-fours, a Janousek coxless-pair and a single scull. In addition there are two Eton coaching launches for the men's and women's 1st VIIIs. In general the top boats are replaced every four years, with purchases alternating between men and women every two years.

Pembroke has a gymnasium at the boat house and is one of a very limited number of clubs to possess a fleet of 10 Concept D ergos (2008) which are situated adjacent to the weights gymnasium.


Recent coaches have included Ben Lewis, current Thames Rowing Club coach; GB coach Rob Dauncey and GB lightweights Chris Bartley[8] and Simon Jones, and John Gearing (former-South African international and Master in Charge of Rowing at Radley College).

The college has also recently created one of the only permanent college coaching staff positions in Oxford to further increase the quality of its training system. The first coach to take this position on was Barrie-Jon Mulder, from 2011–2014. He was succeeded by Rory Copus for the 2014/2015 season, whilst the current coach is Justin Sutherland, shared with Upper Thames Rowing Club.

Training locations[edit]

Novice and development crews train on the local Isis river by the boathouse but senior crews train further afield. In recent years both the men and women's senior squads have trained at Radley College's boat house. In the past, senior crews have trained at St Edward's boathouse, Abingdon School's boat house and Wallingford.


Pembroke College Boat House on the Isis during VIIIs Week 2007.

In 2013, for the first time since 1903, the M1 Torpid maintained its Headship with female double Olympic gold medallist Caryn Davies at stroke. The Women's First Eight was the first to gain Headship from a mixed college in 2000 and held that position for four straight years;[9] they are Head of the River again in 2012. In 2015 the Women's 1st VIII bumped up from 4th to 2nd on the river and was clearly the fastest boat on the river, closing down on Wadham on the Friday and Saturday to gain the Headship, but eventually missed out by less than half of a length.

Lower down in the club, Pembroke's development program is one of the most successful in Oxford College Rowing, and has produced more Blues in the last 10 years than any other college. This is indicated by the high placing of all PCBC crews; M2 in Division 1 is the only 2nd boat crew placed in the first 2 divisions in Torpids, as 11th crew on the river. Pembroke's 2nd Men's Summer VIII is also the highest ranked 2nd VIII in VIIIs Week.



  • Men: 1872, 1995, 2003, 2013
  • Women: 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2012


  • Men: 1858, 1877, 1878, 1879, 1999, 2012, 2013, 2014 (No racing), 2015, 2016, 2017

See also[edit]


  1. ^ W E Sherwood, p.
  2. ^ Burnell, Swing Together, Thoughts on Rowing, OUP, Oxford, 1952
  3. ^ It would seem that the Pembroke College Boat Club Minutes provide reliable original source evidence of the truth of the statement
  4. ^ Henley Royal Regatta, 1981
  5. ^ Jackson’s Oxford Journal, 1872
  6. ^
  7. ^ "PCBC". Retrieved 16 March 2013. 
  8. ^ "GB Rowing: Chris Bartley". Retrieved 16 March 2013. 
  9. ^

External links[edit]