The South-West University Showdown

When the BUCS Head became the latest event on the rowing calendar to suffer the wrath of the awful weather, the higher academic world was left without a chance to flex their muscles against their rivals around the country.

With this in mind, and with access to the Gloucester-Sharpness canal (one of the few local stretches unaffected by flooding), the University of the West of England Boat Club decided to organise a private event to make up for lost racing time. 

Invited to the ‘UWEBC Invitational Head’ were the cross-city rivals University of Bristol, as well as the University of Bath, Cardiff University and Swansea University – all itching to test themselves before the Tideway heads. The light tail-crosswind presented competitors with some choppy areas on the 5km course, just the challenge everyone needed…

Overall, Cardiff were the most successful club of the day, posting the fastest times in three of the six contested events. Their novice men and women won the Beginner 8+ by convincing margins. 

The real talking point of the day, however, was their win amongst tight competition in the Senior Women’s 8+ category – crews from Cardiff, Bristol and UWE all finished within three seconds of each other.

The Senior Mens 8+ also saw a great deal of competitive spirit, with Bristol claiming the title of fastest crew of the day and defeating their UWE rivals by six seconds – revenge for a previous defeat at the University of Bristol Head in December. Bath finished not far behind them.

“Obviously it was a boost to the crew that we were able to beat UWE on their home stretch as they had done to us last year” said Charlie Lewis, five seat of the victorious Bristol Crew. “There was however a lot to improve on and we can’t rest on our laurels after this victory, with HORR and Varsity on the horizon.”

Meanwhile, the UWE Lightweight Eight punched well above their weight. Racing in the openweight category, they came within seconds of Cardiff’s Senior Eight and within a minute of their own Senior boat. 

“It was nice to test our speed against other universities today. Getting so close to Cardiff was definitely a bonus!” said Pete McLarney, UWEBC’s Lightweight Men’s Captain.

The event in the end proved to be a success, with the upset of BUCS being cancelled long gone in the competitors’ minds once they hit race pace.

“Everyone really came together to make the event work. Everyone had a lot of fun and raced well.” said Hannah Eardley, President of UWEBC, “I just want to say thank you to everyone involved for making it such a delight to organise. Hopefully we can organise another soon.”

Aaron Sims