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The Story Behind the Penguin...

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In 2017 the University of Dundee celebrated its 50th anniversary in becoming independent from the University of St. Andrews. To honour this half century celebration, the university began a process of rebranding in order to update its image, which started with the iconic university shield. Since the founding of Dundee University Boat Club in 1991, the university shield has been an integral feature of the club’s logo, with the club blades crossed behind it, as is the standard presentation for British university clubs.

As the club could now no longer use the outdated university shield, the committee jumped into a process of developing a new brand which they had to ensure would become worthy of representing the club for its future years. This refreshing update of the club’s image could not have come at a better time, as having followed an impressive two years of development, both on and off the water in terms of record performance and operational advancement, DUBC can be described to be at the beginning of a new chapter in its progression from a once overlooked university sports club to a now growing underdog in both the University of Dundee Sports Union and Scottish Rowing competitive landscape.


But why a penguin? The affiliation of Dundee and the penguin dates back to the very discovery of the animal by the crew of Captain Robert Falcon Scott aboard the RSS Discovery, at the beginning of the 20th century. Having been constructed and launched in Dundee it represents both the old traditional Britain, in being the last three-masted British ship built, and the new age of British royal research, in being the first in a series of ships used for exploration all around the world. Since 1992 the ship has become a center point of Dundee’s history and culture, when it was opened as part of the Discovery Point visitor attraction. To this day it continues to enrich the city as a recognised exhibit of national significance in its listing as part of the National Historic Fleet.


So, the association of Dundee city and the flightless birds of the Southern Hemisphere is undeniable - but how does the penguin represent a rowing club which finds its home on the banks of the River Tay, over 30,000 miles away from the icy open waters of Antarctica? Well, apart from sharing questionably similar conditions during the Scottish winter months, there is actually a number of attributes that the two share in common...


Just like the penguin, their rowers are not averse to cold waters and overcoming adverse conditions. Part of DUBC’s day to day life involves wading (sometimes waist deep!) into the perilous freezing depths of the Tay river in order to complete a day’s work of training. Since the unforgiving banks that the club is situated on makes the use of a pontoon or boating steps impossible, this necessity to get a little bit wet is a common deal breaker for some members when the days gradually shorten, and the dark early morning training sessions begin to separate the dedicated from those that merely dip their toes in to test the waters.


Just like the penguin, their rowers are not usually thought to be the sportiest breed on first impressions. As a young boat club in comparison to their counterpart clubs across Scotland, DUBC has commonly been required to thrive on novice development, through complete beginners to the sport working tirelessly to finesse their rowing ability and technique, in order to keep up with its fierce competition. Experience is not something that is necessarily in abundance, however what is lacking is more than compensated for by the unfailing commitment of members to both better themselves as athletes and better the club as a whole.


The penguin is not perhaps the conventional mascot of a university sports team, in comparison to the other more ferocious animals of university teams. However, it is the penguin’s same unconventional feature of being a flightless bird that gives it its unexpected speed in the water. Just like the penguin, their rowers can sometimes appear unconventional and more so unassuming to competitors. This special quality means that their rowers are more than often able to exceed the expectations of the more ferocious competition. It is not uncommon for a DUBC rower to be met with a “I didn’t expect that from Dundee…” upon finishing a grueling race. And that in turn, over the recent years, has become their strength - being unpredictable.


Finally, and arguably most importantly for the club, just like the penguin, their rowers are not only highly social (some could even go as far to say colonial too) but completely dependent on one another. In racing up and down the country, the performance of their crews in both head races and regattas is not only reflective of the dedication and hard work of each individual crew member, but of the entire team of captains, coaches and committee behind them who make it possible to train, develop, grow stronger, get faster and participate in said competitions. For the hardened, weather beaten, blistered rowers at DUBC, it is more than just a sport, more than just a club, more than just a race. It is irrevocable belief that in bettering one another and pushing each other as team mates, they are doing it for the club. As many alumni and current members demonstrate, this belief is addictive, consumable and very tangible. All it takes is for someone to pick up a set of blades and believe in the example set by so many.


So why a penguin? For the rowers at Dundee University Boat Club the penguin symbolises so many different things - discovery, adversity, commitment, strength, friendship and hope. These are just some of the special things you’ll find at DUBC. The 2018/2019 committee would like to extend its utter most thanks to every individual who has supported the club thus far and to the efforts of Sean McGinley, Matthew Simpson and Yasmin Jamshidi for creating the club’s new logo.

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