For Dundee University Boat Club, the 2017/2018 season has become one of the club’s greatest years, both on and off the water, and in all aspects of the club. Our tally of wins has been greater than recent years combined, the number of active members keen to push themselves during all training sessions has significantly increased and inadvertently, the club has bonded to become more tight knit than ever. Something that, through the dedication and compassion of all of our hardworking members, has become the defining characteristic of the club. Between gruelling winter training sessions, and cold early morning starts on the water, it’s something that’s very valued in any university sports club – the importance of having people to turn to, for relief when you’re struggling between deadlines, needing a distraction from the pressures of work and study, or just simply having a bad day.
The year started out with a record number of freshers coming to our give-it-a-go taster sessions. Whilst being slightly overwhelming at first, with an incredible 60 students turning up for the first one, this eagerness to learn set the tone for the upcoming year. Whilst the freshers were getting to grips with distinguishing stroke from bow side, the seniors were straight into training; building up the miles and honing their technique for the winter head season. Over the course of our give-it-a-goes we saw over 100 keen students in total, experience what rowing was like in Dundee, from which roughly 40 matriculated. Whilst the freshers were still learning the basics, the first race of the season saw two of our senior members, Steffan Jones and Fraser Jefferies, take to the Clyde in Glasgow for the Clydesdale Scullers Head at the beginning of October; placing 4th and 5th respectively.
Progressing into the latter half of semester 1, the freshers gradually became settled into the day to day life of the club, thanks to our whirlwind of socials and work on the water, it now became time to select crews for our first race with the whole squad! The beginning of November saw the club travel up to Aberdeen for the 4’s & Small Boats Head weekend. For our freshers, it was their first experience of racing, and everything that came along with it, so it was indeed promising to see some respectable results in their categories. Our senior crews all placed well across their respective categories too, demonstrating a stark improvement from previous years, which was a fantastic way to kick off the season!
Following the action-packed weekend, it was straight back into a fortnight of solid training, which saw the team settling into the training plan, with erg times going down and technique on the water improving by the day. The Scottish Rowing Indoor Championships in Glasgow, saw a mixture of freshers and seniors ready to show their prowess on the erg – resulting in some great PBs and placings, most notably for Oliver Bohle, who took first place in the freshers 1K event! The following weekend saw the final race of the semester once again on the Clyde in Glasgow, and with it came the first silverware of the season, for the Women’s Novice 4x+ and Men’s R2 4+ who won their categories, creating the perfect end to an incredible semester of club development.
A tough first semester meant the Christmas break was a welcomed opportunity, to recuperate and enjoy some home comforts, before arriving back in Dundee ready for the first training camp at Inchyra to start off the new year. Four days of freezing January rowing conditions allowed the BUCS crews to get more miles in, through concentrated sessions of higher rated training, to better prepare for the upcoming racing season. The perseverance displayed by each member was a true testament to the club ethos, with the camp proving to be both physically and mentally demanding. The first club ceilidh was a perfect post training camp relief for all, an opportunity to wear something other than the onesie, and hopefully raise desperately needed funds for the club. Thanks to the efforts of our hard-working committee, the night was a huge success in raising over £1500, not including a £150 donation to the Dundee Association of Mental Health, making it one of our most successful fundraising efforts to date.
The following weeks saw many more dark and early cold morning sessions, with crews getting as many sessions in before the two biggest head races of the season; Scottish Student Championship Head (in association with Inverness Head) and BUCS 4’s & 8’s Head, in February. A frosty winter weekend at the Caledonian canal saw plenty of racing and most notably wins for the Intermediate Open 2x, Woman’s Intermediate 8+ and 4+, along with a topping in the R2 4+ category. A few more early starts and chilly rows over the following fortnight, saw our BUCS crews fully prepped for the Tyne and ready to take on some of the best university rowers in Britain. Both days presented tough conditions however every race was approached with a determined and united attitude from all crew members. The highlight of the weekend was the Women’s Beginner 4+ coming a fantastic fifth place and beating some strong English crews in the process, a credit to all their hard work and volume of training they accomplished together.
As the head race season drew to a close, with it came a break as our members turned their efforts towards the end of the academic year, before the regatta season kicked off in April. In this time the university’s annual Blues & Colours awards were held; where a record number of accolades were received by the club. Three members gained a merit, which recognised their individual voluntary efforts in developing the club, and a further three achieved a colour award, recognising their significant sporting achievement over the past year. In addition, our Club Captain Eleanor Brinkhoff was honoured with the Graham Healy Student Coach of the Year trophy, to recognise her dedication in elevating the standard of rowing within the University of Dundee. On top of this fantastic array of accolades, the club was further celebrated the following night at the Blues & Colours Ball, in receiving the prestigious Club of the Year award - the highest form of recognition presented to any sports team by the University of Dundee Sports Union and a true representation of the progress and achievement we have experienced in the past year; from wins to securing more funding, placing us in our strongest position ever.
As we headed towards the end of the academic year, we held our annual 12 hour Ergathon Fundraiser; with a third of all donations going to local charity Cash4Kids. It was a success as ever with the club smashing their target of 550 miles and rowing a combined 650 miles, whilst raising over £1,600 to help with equipment costs! With exam season now looming, training took a slight backseat however the morning miles continued to be clocked in with a renewed focus on small boats.
Strathclyde Park saw the first regatta of the season and with it, over 30 DUBC members taking to the, at times choppy, water. An excellent day of racing with some high placings throughout the squads and wins for the Women’s Beginner 4+ and 2x, along with the Women’s Novice 2x. This set the tone for regatta season with more wins coming at Castle Semple from the Women’s Novice 1x, Women’s R2 4+ and the Mixed 8+. All in all, the sunny day provided for some fantastic racing from all those involved, with a few dodgy tan lines to prove we went! For the majority of the squad this signalled the end of the season and after one final farewell blowout, it was goodbye until September. For one athlete however, their work wasn’t over until the Scottish Championships in June. Taking to the water at Strathclyde Park once again, hot off her win at Castle Semple, Eleanor Brinkhoff’s time trial on the Friday put her into the A/B semi-finals of the Women’s Novice 1x. Following some tough competition on the Sunday, she placed 5th in the B final and 11th overall, a very respectable result for her second competition in the single sculls.
In closing her summary of a year that’s near impossible to summarise, Eleanor thanks the unfailing eagerness of the club’s members and credits the success enjoyed to the perseverance and determination of the 2017/2018 committee.