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Oxford City Rowing Club

The City of Oxford Rowing Club is one of Oxford’s largest and most successful rowing clubs with membership open to all. The club is situated on a beautiful stretch of the River Thames known as the Isis, by Donnington Bridge in Oxford. With over 300 members, it has thriving men’s, women’s junior and adaptive squads, from beginners to elite. B4 met with club Chairman, Chris Platt, Men’s Senior Captain, Rupert Pye-Watson and Women’s Senior Captain, Louisa Taylor, ironically on the day of the Boat Race, to find out more about the Club and its plans for the future.

Chris Platt, Chairman “The rowing club was formed in 1968 following an amalgamation of two existing clubs, so it’s our 50th anniversary this year. I have rowed here since I was a kid so I’ve known the club practically all my life. My father, Bill Platt, was a founder member of the club when they amalgamated the two clubs, so I’ve effectively been a member since I was born!

“The club is certainly a safe haven from the hustle and bustle of the daily grind – the rowing club has always been a great escape for people to forget their working lives and compete in a competitive sport which requires commitment and teamwork. You won’t get a better sport for teamwork than rowing – you’re only as strong as the weakest person in the crew.

“We are very fortunate to have support from volunteers who are the lifeblood of the club. Our junior squads are thriving, we have an adaptive squad which I am very proud as not many clubs have managed that. We also have a strong men and women’s squad and also a masters rowing squad for
women and men who might not have the time to compete due to other commitments.

“Looking forward to the next 50 years, we need to invest in the club’s infrastructure and the boathouse building. We have a new bar franchise coming on board, which is exciting, with a lot of fresh ideas. The next phase is increasing our boat storage which is a much bigger project and will require in the region of £250,000 to complete. We will soon be looking for sponsorship and donations from local businesses to help fund this project.

“In terms of sponsors, we are proud to have Freeths Solicitors as our main sponsor who have been superb supporters of the club. We also have the Corporate Eights competition for local businesses to put in a crew and compete, which is hugely popular and vital for the club’s finances. It’s a great team building exercise for the teams that take part and they queue up to get involved.

“We are always looking for new members and we run beginners classes every year for those wanting to find out more – you can see more details on our website.”

Rupert Pye-Watson, Men’s Senior Captain “I started rowing when i was 16, so for about 20 years now. I got to grips with rowing at school and then took a rowing sabbatical for 9 years whilst I was in the army. I’m now a Project Manager working for Nationwide Building Society in Swindon.

“The men’s squad is a really diverse group of guys from 18 year old students all the way through to late 30’s, all working towards the same goal and with the same ambitions.

“The rowing season starts in earnest for senior level rowers around September and runs all the way through to the first week of July, which is Henley Royal Regatta, which is the key focus for our season. There are various events leading up to Henley, including Wallingford Head.

MOST ANNOYING MEMBER OF THE SQUAD?

“I think most people would probably say myself!”

Louisa Taylor, Women’s Senior Captain As for Rupert, we’ve got quite a diverse squad with people from university to people in their 40’s and include post grad scientists, project managers and nutritionists.”

“The women’s season is fairly similar to the men’s. We finish two weeks earlier with the pinnacle of the season at Henley Women’s Regatta.”

WHO IS THE MOST FAMOUS PERSON YOU HAVE EITHER ROWED WITH OR AGAINST?

“Alice Roberts, who rows for the university blue boat today joined us as a junior and represented Oxford last year and is also representing Oxford again today.”

Development of the club is important for you as you both have a responsibility to help develop the club. How do you encourage people to join and what would you say to attract people to the club?

Rupert: “Give it a try. I know more people have tried and stuck with it than have given up. It’s quite addictive. It attracts people from all backgrounds, all types of jobs and all experience levels are always welcome.”

KEY BENEFITS OF ROWING?

Louisa: “It’s great for routine and gives you a good structure to your day. It’s a great incentive to leave work and not sit at your desk or work late at night. It’s fantastic to be a part of a team, a different team to your work team. You learn from each other’s experiences and you all have that common goal to get across the line first.”

Rupert: “Physically, people have a misconception of the sport – 80 to 90% of it is about lower body and back and only a tiny fraction is arms. The Olympians can make it look very easy but I can assure you it’s anything but! Every session is about trying to improve your stroke and it’s that striving to want to be better which is the thing we all have in common and is what drives us to train, train and train again.”

FUNNIEST MOMENT?

“Well it’s always funny when someone falls in! Having to do the walk of shame back up to the club can be very amusing. We’ve had people falling down the bank and slipping all the way down whilst everyone watches from the boat house – and nobody bothers to help! I think we must like seeing each other suffer …. on and off the water!”

www.oxfordrowingclub.org.uk