University boat race season gets underway

The University Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge may take centre stage on the Tideway but there are plenty of other student boat races to enjoy. Toby Bryant checks out six of the best


Bristol University students celebrate (c) FineTime Photography

1 – University College London vs King’s College London – Wednesday, 14 March

“Atmosphere on race day is pretty tense. UCL come down to our boathouse so we have purple and red in the same changing room. Altogether, there are around 200 people involved throughout the day. The winner receives the varsity oar, which is half painted in KCL colours and half in UCL colours.”
Jasper Couper – Club Captain, King’s College London BC

“All the London Varsity Series events are held in the same week so there is a real sporting focus and affinity to the students’ colleges which is intensified. However, the competition is always in good spirits and with even racing year in, year out.”
George Jack – President, University College London BC

The winner receives the varsity oar, half painted in KCL colours and half in UCL colours

2 – The Boat Race of the North – Saturday, 17 March
Durham University vs Newcastle University

“The race takes place in central Quayside which means you are surrounded by lots of fascinated members of the public who would not normally be exposed to rowing, as well as a large number of Newcastle students.”
Alex Turner – President, Newcastle University BC

“There is a sense of grandeur to the course, which passes through several high bridges in quick succession, all the while surrounded by high buildings and the bustle of central Newcastle.”
Joseph Johansen – Durham University BC

3 – Two Cities Boat Race – Saturday, 21 April
Manchester University vs Salford University

“The race is held on the Irwell at Salford Quays which is the river that historically marks the separation of Salford and Manchester. There is an extra feel of competitiveness at Two Cities with each university wanting to be crowned champion over their rivals.”
Felicity Carroll – President, Salford University BC

“During the week between BUCS Regatta and the Two Cities race, we practise much shorter sprints to prepare for the shorter course against Salford. Last year MUBC hosted a barbecue for the day, which proved to be very popular as well as a race against Nemesis, MUBC’s alumni club.”
Emily Harding – President, Manchester University BC

4 – Varsity Boat Race Sprint Regatta – Saturday, 28 April
Bristol University vs University of the West of England

“The usual 1300m course through the floating harbour is set for a shake-up, and instead we are introducing the Varsity Boat Race Sprint Regatta, a succession of short-distance sprint races between UBBC and UWEBC, starting at Brunel’s Lock and winding to the finish just shy of the SS Great Britain. Racing over a shorter distance course means that margins will become tighter, and will no doubt culminate in an intense, exhilarating wind to the finish.”
Caroline Welsh – Captain, Bristol University BC

“Varsity happens towards the back-end of the head season meaning a switch in training from endurance to sprint style racing. I focus on closing my eyes and ‘pull like a dog’, as the Irish lightweight double O’Donovan brothers said.”
Will Lord – University of the West of England BC

5 – The Scottish Boat Race – May
Edinburgh University vs Glasgow University

“The size of the event has grown and grown. A combination of big screens, thrilling commentary and a general buzz of activity means it’s hard not to get drawn in.”
Emma McDonald – former women’s captain, Glasgow University BC

“The Scottish Boat Race takes place in the run-up to the main regatta season so we don’t taper training volume; the emphasis is on technical rather that physical preparation. The race draws the largest crowds of any Scottish rowing event, helped by the Scottish Street Food Festival.”
James Temple – President, Edinburgh University BC

A combination of big screens, thrilling commentary and a general buzz means it’s hard not to get drawn in

6 – Nottingham University vs Nottingham Trent University – May 

“The race occurs shortly after BUCS Regatta, so neither club has much specific training in the eights before race day which makes for a lighter atmosphere. We are seen as the underdogs because we don’t own much in terms of boats and equipment. However, we use these disadvantages to our advantage.”
Ed Stracey – President, Nottingham Trent University BC

“For the last two years, fantastic conditions have seen some large turnouts from both clubs. The layout of the clubs on Trentside sees a pocket of Nottingham Trent supporters early on in the race and the University of Nottingham crowd raising the noise further down the course.”
Peter Boyes – President, Nottingham University BC