Technical improvements for May Bumps 2016

Of course, the training doesn’t just start now. The athletes of SCBC have been working since Michaelmas with this goal in mind: success in May Bumps. It’s been a long time coming, with many outings and many, many hours on the ergs logged, and now with only a few months remaining we need to pick up the pace.

But it’s not just about fitness, it’s also about finesse, and some of SCBC’s engineering undergrads have put their heads together to make sure Selwyn’s boats are the best on the water before the rowers even get into them. They’ve spent hours making sure our boats are are streamlined as possible, that they ride high enough but not too high in the water, etc. As an experiment, which we will repeat with Selwyn’s other boats if successful, we have coated John Farr with a hydrophobic chemical which repels water, which should shave valuable seconds off the crew’s time by reducing drag between the boat’s surface and the water, the air layer causing slip through a two-phase flow.


By far the most drastic change, however, has been the decision to remove the cox from our upper boats (something which currently is not a financially viable plan for the whole squad) so as to reduce the weight of the boat. It was, in fact, one of our recent ex-novices who came up with this- at first quite shocking- idea, and they got together with two other engineers and a non-SCBC friend in Computer Science. Together, they have produced an ingenious system whereby the rudder has been connected to a radio-controlled operating frame, using which the cox can steer the boat without even leaving the boathouse. This has actually enabled our coxes to use even greater precision in manoeuvring the boat than before, allowing them to adjust the rudder by fractions of degrees. With one GoPro at the bow and one at the stern, our cox is afforded an excellent view (though with a blind spot behind the boat, to which the only solution so far has been to leave stern pair in charge of spotting possible hazards behind the boat) with the feed from both cameras displayed side by side on their laptop back at the boathouse. Finally, the simplest part of this set-up is a fairly normal radio-link between a headset and the boat’s speaker system, allowing the cox to maintain their important motivational role.

We currently have the two upper boats kitted out in this way, and W1 and M1 will be trialling the system in the first fortnight of term- we have high hopes for success! Of course the significant weight loss from the boat certainly won’t be enough to get us all blades by itself, but together with all our other technical improvements and some intense training and commitment, it might just do the trick…

Happy April Fools

An interview with Charlie Cullen, President Cambridge University Lightweight Boat Club and SCBC



Our very own Charlie Cullen will be leading the Cambridge Lightweights in this Sundays Henley Boatraces.GO CHARLIE!

See our exclusive interview:

SCBC: How did you get into rowing?
Charlie: I started rowing at school in Norwich, when I was about 15 and just did more and more every year.
SCBC:  Do you have any nicknames?
Monty Wetwipe
SCBC: What has been your best moment at SCBC?
Charlie: May Bumps, of course, has to be the highlight of anyone’s rowing year. Staying away from Robinson in my first year with overlap for about a kilometre was a really strong memory.
SCBC: What was the greatest challenge as lightweight president?
Charlie: I think the hardest part of being President has been trying to set an example when you really want to take your foot off the gas. All in all it’s been incredibly rewarding and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
SCBC: What’s been your best moment with the Lightweights?
Charlie: Every year just before the race we row our boat from Ely to Cambridge through the locks. It’s quite an exciting trip and a great tradition – it really brings the season to a fitting end.



Selwyn does the Getting-On Race

SCBC Captain Teresa Baron was on the sidelines all afternoon today to watch Selwyn W2, M2 and M3 row the Lent Bumps Getting-On Race- not, unfortunately, due to her overwhelming commitment to the boat club, but because she was drafted by CUCBC to umpire every division as finish timer. This means, though, that she got to watch each crew row past to marshal and then power up the reach to the finish line. It also meant she could snap a few pictures, between recording race times! Here’s what she thought…

M2 was the first Selwyn crew racing today, in Div 1 of the GoR. They rowed confidently downstream to the start line under a bright blue sky, taking a practice rolling start halfway up the reach. I watched them disappear round Ditton, and didn’t see them again for nearly an hour as crew after crew rowed down the reach. In the meantime the wind picked up- a strong 25mph headwind. When Selwyn reappeared they were taking this in their stride, maintaining a strong rhythm as they powered up the middle of the river. Spurred on by the sight of the finish line, cox Will McDermott (subbing in for the race) called for extra power on the drive and the crew visibly sped up, emptying the tank for the last 100m. Perhaps a little messy as they came over the line, but a solid performance from M2. IMG_2922IMG_2925W2 were next, and they rowed downstream with clear determination on their faces. Like M2, they vanished behind Ditton and I was left to wait for them to reappear a little later with the rest of the racing crews. When they did appear, they were valiantly battling against the brutal headwind on the reach, and had Tit Hall hot on their tails. They managed to keep their distance all the way up the reach, motivated by fresher Kenneth McHardy in the cox’s seat, who called for a power 10 just in time to widen the gap just as they flew over the finish line. IMG_2927IMG_2929

M3 raced the Getting-On Race for time only, having been unlucky with a combination of yellow flags and injuries which prevented them from having the 12 outings required by CUCBC to be eligible for Bumps. That didn’t stop them putting in everything they had, though! They may not have been technically perfect (they at least managed to stay mostly together, unlike some lower boats from other crews who quite frankly resembled millipedes, with blades doing mexican waves above the water) but they gave a gutsy performance. A gust of wind hit them halfway up the reach, threatening to send them into the bank, but cox-on-loan Aleka Gürel (our W1 cox) expertly steered them out of harms way and across the finish line. IMG_2934IMG_2937

Great performances from the Selwyn Lower Boats today despite unpleasant racing conditions- we’ll keep you posted on the results!

From SCBC to Tromso, Norway

An interview with SCBC alumnus Nick Tyler.


SCBC: You are an SCBC alum. When did you row? What did you win and what is your happiest memory from the boat club?

NT: I went to the fresher’s cocktail party … and never looked back.

SCBC was undermanned.  There were a few star oarsmen – Charlie Laurie rowed for Goldie and Mike Wells was a blue – but talent was a molecular monolayer (a phrase I learned in Part II Biochemistry).  So, I, a complete novice, ended up in the 1st Lent VIII.  Amazingly, I was selected for the 1st May VIII and, no less amazingly, we went up two places (bumped Clare I and Emmanuel I and got within a whisker of Jesus I, too). 

In my second year I was Secretary of SCBC.  Rowed in the 1st VIII in the Lents – grim – and in the 2nd VIII in the Mays – excellent!  We were as fast as the 1st VIII or, if we weren’t, there wasn’t much in it.  They had a wretched time; we went up a division and made five bumps. First oar.  Nice. I was Vice-captain SCBC in my third year.  We were 3rd fastest in the Fairbairns and won our oars in the Lents (bumped Downing I, 1st & 3rd I, Caius I and Clare I).  Second oar.  Nice.  The May VIII was the best I ever rowed in.  We made one bump and ended fifth on the River.  Very nice.

SCBC: Ice rowing is becoming more and more popular (link). Are you an active rower still? How do you stay in shape these days?

NT: I’ve hardly rowed since – though I have sculling boat here in Tromsø where I live – but those days were simply glorious.  Memories and friends for life. 

I stay in shape by drinking gin and tonic: haven’t had a single bout of malaria to date.  (Oh, summer fieldwork in Svalbard helps, too: we do a LOT of walking.)

SCBC: Can you tell us a bit about your work as a reindeer scientist?

NT: In my third year – now in Part II Biochem. – I met Andrew Laurie who was at Selwyn writing up his work on greater one horned rhinoceros in Nepal.  I was captivated.  Mammal ecology for me – and, having no relevant training at all, I was too ignorant to realise what impossible odds I faced in making a career in this field.

Incredibly, I found a project (population ecology of Svalbard reindeer) and money to support both it and me.  Even more luckily, I found a supervisor at Cambridge (Professor Peter Jewell) and so, having graduated in 1977, by 1979 I was back at Selwyn. 

Population ecology is NOT a topic for a PhD (unless you do invertebrates or small mammals and hardly even then) but no one seemed unduly worried as I kept on shuttling between Cambridge and Svalbard (except my parents, but they said little, bless them).  In 1985 I got a post at the University of Tromsø, wrote the last two chapters of my thesis here … and have been here ever since.  I love my work as I loved SCBC: quite different, both of them, but each is infinitely rewarding.

The 1977 Lent Bumps crew with Nick (went up four places)

SCBC: How do you go from Selwyn to Tromso, Norway?

NT: Bicycle to Drummer St., bus to Heathrow and aeroplane the rest of the way.

SCBC: In your picture you are wearing a “1st May wrap”. What is this and would you like SCBC to reintroduce it?

NT: Wraps are big scarfs made of single-ply wool.  You’ll have seen them around the necks of blues.  Those persons who are awarded SCBC 1st VIII colours are entitled to wear a wrap: maroon for 1st Lent and Old Gold for 1st May colours, respectively.  Mine are treasured possessions.  A chum of mine had his car stolen: he didn’t care a fig for the car but he was bitterly disappointed to lose his wrap.  Some things insurance companies cannot make good.

SCBC: Finally, can you confirm that Rudolph and everyone is well at the Northpole? Are Christmas preparations well on their way?

NT: Well, the population of reindeer I study is now about 70% bigger than it’s average size when I started 37 years ago so, in a sense, they are doing fine.  In fact, that’s quite impressive because so many of the climate change enthusiasts predicted that winter warming would bring reindeer populations to their knees.  Hasn’t happened yet …


SCBC do yoga

New to SCBC this term: Yoga For Rowers!

Timarie Chan has led us in four beginners sessions of yoga focusing on areas most beneficial for rowers, having worked with CUBC in the past and now with us and a couple of other college boat clubs. In the last few weeks, we’ve been working on flexibility in the legs and back and stability in the core, and we’re already starting to see the difference in the boat- a little more flexibility in the rock-over, a little more control around the catch (and while holding your entire body up on your hands isn’t essential for rowing, it’s a great party trick.)

It’s been a great opportunity for our men and women to have time training together, and we’ve also been joined by some non-boaties from around college. After the success of this term, we intend to make yoga a permanent weekly fixture next year.


Selwyn alumni go for a paddle…


As part of the annual Selwyn old boys’ and old girls’ weekend, which also happened to coincide with this year’s Henley Fund meeting, we thought it would be a great idea to organise an SCBC alumni outing. By some stroke (pardon the pun) of luck (or a spectacular feat of organisation by Emily), we ended up with perfect numbers to take out a men’s VIII and a women’s IV, with coxes.

The men, coxed by current Overall Captain, Teresa Baron, pushed off and headed downriver to the lock. Despite never having rowed as a crew together before, they had a great paddle to lock and back up to the P&E, adding in some technical drills here and there, and even doing some piecing when the water was clear of novices.


The women, meanwhile, pushed off the hard and paddled upstream past the boathouses and spun at Jesus Lock. It was only then that we realised we’d placed ourselves right at the centre of novice carnage… However, Emily Hopkinson (SE 2008) coxed us expertly through the meandering novice VIIIs (ignoring the occasional shout of “Selwyn, no!”) and swiftly got us onto the Reach, where we bumped (not literally) into the men and decided to organise a race…

Both crews did a standing start from the spinning zone at the bottom of the Long Reach, the women starting some 100m ahead of the men (just to even the odds…), and set off towards the Railway Bridge, which had been deemed the finish line. About halfway through the race, the men started edging out into the centre of the river for an overtake, but the women held them off all the way to the bridge (which may have been due to an oncoming novice crew forcing the men to wind it down, but essentially the ladies won….actually: Selwyn won!).

All in all, it was a great morning (despite the weather) and although it may have been a painful reminder of what blisters feel like, and how unfit many of us are, everyone had lots of fun and hopefully we can do the same next year!

Crews: Emily Hopkinson (SE 2008), Penelope Jarrett (SE1980), Moira Kelly (SE2008), Lizzie Robinson (current), Clare Happenstall (SE 1984), Teresa Baron (current), Robin Hellen (SE2003), Huw Champion (SE1966), Alexander Goold (SE1989), Christian Vaquero  (SE2009), Dave Barton (SE 2009), James Robinson (SE2008), Matthias Beestermoeller (SE2008),


Selwyn Alumni – Boston Marathon 2015


Following last week’s email – I’m delighted to report that the Boston Rowing Marathon 2015 was successfully completed with a gutsy and determined performance by a very impressive Selwyn crew.  To read more about just how they did – and to show your respect and appreciation for their efforts on behalf of the new Selwyn Boathouse – visit

And to inspire your generous sponsorship – former rower and alum John Farr (SE 1951) has kindly offered to match pound for pound every donation that is made  up to a total of £15,000!  Thank you John. Gift Aid is collected directly by Just Giving – so a £20 donation becomes £25.00 and is then matched £ for £ to become £50.00!  Not a bad return!

So please – help us to raise at least £30,000 in aid of the new Boat House and the provision of better facilities for the next generation of Selwyn rowers.

(NB The Just Giving page has been set up by my colleague Andrew Flather – Development Officer – so don’t be put off if you see his name.  But all those who support – and please give your names – will be recorded in the next issue of the Selwyn Annual Report).

Just to remind you – the aching backs and blistered hands belong to:

The Crew

Huw Champion (SE 1966)

Robin Hellen (SE 2003)

Hugh Wood (SE 1988)

Matt Sloan (SE 1988)

Penelope Jarrett (SE 1980)

Peter Jones (SE 2004)

Clare Heppenstall (SE 1984)

Alexander Goold (SE 1989)


Lizzy Johnstone (SE)

Logistical and Moral Support

Robin Heppenstall (SE 1956)

All the best

Mike Nicholson – Development Director

Goodbye Garage – a look at Selwyn’s new gym

Anyone who rowed at Selwyn any time up to the year before last will remember the joy of erg sessions in the old gym. I wasn’t sentimental enough about it to take pictures then, so you’ll have to take my word for it when I describe it: a converted garage (converted in the sense that there were no cars in it any more- not much was changed apart from that) equipped with three ergs and a few weights. The air conditioning was easy to operate: in winter, when the mirrors started to steam up, you opened the door. In summer, the garage doors could be pushed up and the ergs dragged out towards the pavement for a little more in the way of air circulation. The audio system consisted of the slightly-broken speakers someone, at some point, had left behind, which worked if you plugged the audio jack into your phone/ipod/whatever and then used the weights to hold the cable in place at exactly the right angle.

Lo and behold, though, after many months of Cripps Court inhabitants being woken up at by drills and hammering, we had a new gym, which we’ve now enjoyed for a full year. Sure, there are a few downsides- the low ceiling means that if you’re over 6ft, you should steer clear of the cross-trainer- but all in all it’s been a massive improvement. For one thing, erging is no longer the only fitness option for Selwynites, as we now have a treadmill, cross-trainer and stationary bikes, and the range of weight-training equipment has been expanded in a big way. IMG_2421

It’s a far cry from the sometimes claustrophobic, cave-like confines of the old gym, and it’s size and range of equipment means that more than two people can actually train at once. The internet TV and speakers also mean that, despite the sign on the door prohibiting amplified music- apologies to any Selwyn porters reading this- we can blast the music we need to get us through yet another 6k erg. Or, if you’re me, you can move an erg into the middle of the room and watch Death in Paradise.

IMG_2422In my opinion, all it needs now is a webcam- something to reduce the number of times I head over there to erg, only to find that the whole of M1 has taken over the gym….

Levelling the Boathouse

After the date for work to begin on the boathouse was pushed back yet again this Easter term just gone, we were starting to wonder if it would ever start at all- if it had all been an elaborate ruse to distract us, or something. We had moved our boats to racks on the grass outside at the very beginning of the term, expecting bulldozers and cranes to move in the next week, but six weeks passed without event. Then came Bumps Week. Some boat clubs might have struggled in response to having their electricity suddenly turned off in the middle of Bumps, but not SCBC- we powered through, and sure enough work on the boathouse had begun.


New racking arrangements


“Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”

The site was levelled at the beginning of the summer, and construction fencing built around the place where the Combined Boathouses once stood. Work has been gradual but constant- the old building torn down and the rubble removed, the site flattened, plumbing plumbed (yes, my technical knowledge of construction has no bounds). A couple of weeks ago I was greeted at the boathouse by a cheerful Roland- ‘We have water now!’


The remains of the boathouse


A week later, the rubble has been cleared

If everything goes to plan, we’ll have a new, shiny boathouse ready for use by the end of next Easter, complete with a shared erg room, college May Rooms, showers and changing rooms and a kitchenette for making that essential hot cuppa post-February-outing. Our last Mays campaign was rowed from racks on the grass and oars stacked in a metal storage container without much grief, but winter will be a very different situation; one of our main challenges will be to keep everyone (in particular, novices) motivated after outings in cold and rain when we can’t retreat to a warm May Room afterwards. That said, the difficulties we might have in rowing without a boathouse for one year are made worth it by the prospect of a fantastic new boathouse that Selwynites will be able to enjoy in years to come.


The 2015 Newton Women’s Boat Race: SCBC’s Hannah Evans reports about her experience

In April this year the Newton Women’s Boat race was held on the Tideway for the first time, and I was privileged to be part of it. However the road to racing on the Thames did not start this year, the move to the Tideway has been known since 2012 and since then Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club has been preparing for the race.


I came to Cambridge in September 2013 before my course here started to being training with CUWBC, it already was clear that the club was making preparations for racing on the Tideway despite the races being held in Henley that year. Throughout the 2013/14 season we went to London to race and train on the Tideway. At first, I found it very intimidating as the river there is very different compared to anywhere I had trained. However, the more we trained on the Tideway the more comfortable I became. At the end of the season, I competed in the Blondie-Osiris Boat Race losing by half a length. Despite this disappointment, I knew that I wanted to be in another boat race because overall the year had been a lot of fun. Last September with a brand new squad, we saw a various changes to prepare us for racing on the Tideway; 5km weekend pieces at Ely became the norm, there were a greater number of visits to the Tideway to train and multiple sessions watching past Boat Race videos. We also saw the change in our land training sessions, 5km erg tests rather than 2km, and I can promise you a 5km is defiantly worse! Not only had the training changed this year so had the interest from the media and the sponsors to make raise awareness of the race, it made the process more exciting but throughout it all the focus was on the training rather than the excitement of the first women’s race on the Tideway. For me it was a very challenging year, more so than my first year trialing, however when the crews were finalised I had made the Blue Boat.

The most concentrated media attention we had before race day was at the weigh-in which was held just over a month before the race. This marked the official announcement of the Boat Race crews. The event was held in the Royal Academy in London and was probably one on the most bizarre days my year. Standing on a set of scales in a uni-suit in front of many members of the press, whilst Claire Balding read your name and weight was a very surreal experience.

When the race came, although it was the first on the Tideway, it did not feel like we were doing something new or different. It was the course we had trained for all year and the race we were ready for.

We moved to London a week and a half before the race to begin final preparations. The time we spent as a crew in London was some of the most enjoyable of the whole year, being able to really focus on rowing close to the race and come together even more as a crew.

I do not remember much of the race itself, and it was over surprisingly quickly. Before the race I had expected to be aware of the flotilla following us and thought the noise of the crowds would be very distracting, however I noticed neither during the race. Despite losing I know we did our best that day, I can look back on the race and the year proud to have been part of that crew and the squad.

Throughout the year we were often asked ‘What does the boat race mean to you? What does it mean that the women will be on the Tideway too?’ I think the answers I gave were probably always a bit disappointing, I had not really thought that much about the impact the race could have on women’s sport but now feel we are yet to see the full effect it could have. I feel very privileged to have been part of the first race on the Tideway and I look forward to seeing many more Cambridge crews race down that course.

Throughout the process the college has been very supportive, particularly the Master Roger Mosey. Research for my degree has taken me away from Cambridge this term so I cannot race in Mays, which I shall be sad to miss. I had a lot of fun racing with the college last year and I wish them every success this year.