Laura Riggall reports on UCL’s triumph over King’s both on and off the water
March 14th. The sun was shining, but there was a brisk wind in the air, as top athletes from both UCLBC and KCLBC arrived at the Tideway Sculler’s School (home to KCLBC) on the banks of the River Thames, to duel in the third instalment of Varsity. Having only been established in 2016, UCL has secured comfortable victories overall in the previous two events, and were the favourites to secure yet another in this year’s race.
The event, a 1km race starting at the University of London Boathouse (where UCLBC resides) and finishing at the University Post just past Chiswick bridge, is a series of races between the various crews of UCL and King’s. Despite both clubs being only a stone’s throw away from one another, it is the only time of the year when the clubs come together to do battle directly against one another. As each crew line up side-by-side in a Regatta-like fashion, the event promises exciting, high intensity rowing, where one wrong stroke could spell misery.
Beginning with the experienced senior women’s 1st IV+, a view of the race from Chiswick bridge saw the UCLBC women tear down the Tideway, looking strong as they secured an early lead over King’s. Continuously widening the margin on the approach to the finish line, the UCLBC women proved too strong a competition for King’s, as they secured the first win of the day.
The race between the senior men’s 1st IV+ instead saw both teams seemingly on par for the first 500m or so. After a tense few seconds as UCL steered a little too wide on the approach to the bridge, they veered back to the flatter and quicker water in the centre of the river, and rapidly widened the gap between themselves and King’s, culminating in another comfortable win for UCL.
The novice crews, having only started rowing in September, then proceeded to take to the water. As the women’s 1st VIII+ pushed off, the incredibly choppy conditions of the Thames proved difficult to manoeuvre for both crews, although King’s, quicker off the mark, secured an early lead. As Chiswick bridge approached, UCL were able to narrow the gap between the bows of both boats, but the slow start ultimately enabled King’s to take the win.
“Many congratulations to King’s, who gave a great fight. Going into it we knew that we were very evenly matched crews, and that it was going to be a tough race that could have gone either way”, Alexandra Williams, position 5 in the novice women’s crew, stated after the race. “We had a rough start in some truly terrible conditions which set us back, but despite the loss, I know that everyone in the boat gave it their best”.
A similar race prevailed for the novice men’s 1st VIII+, as both crews struggled with the conditions of the river. Yet, despite the incredibly unsettled water, both crews started strong, and UCL were able to hold their own. However, although they remained neck-and-neck even as they passed under the bridge, King’s were able to secure a marginal lead as they approached the University Post to capture their second win of the day.
With the score 2-2, the event was decided upon two days later at King’s Guy’s Campus by a nail-biting 4km erg relay, with a mixed senior team put forward by each university (representing UCL were Ahmad Ali, Rosie Truman, Jake Figi and Rachel Dumbrell). An exhilarating race, UCLBC fought off any competition from King’s, securing the win by a substantial 30 seconds thanks to powerful performances and rapid changeovers every 15 strokes.
In case UCLBC hadn’t already proven themselves, a final (albeit unofficial) duel between the presidents of both clubs settled any disputes, as UCLBC President George Jack not only reigned victorious in a 100m erg race against King’s’ Jasper Couper, but also in the style stakes as he erged in braces.
Overall, despite an early and comfortable lead from UCL, there was to be no complacency, as King’s retaliated with their novice crews. Ultimately, however, UCLBC reigned triumphant, demonstrating prowess both on and off the water.
1st Senior Men 4+: Toby Piggott, Fabian Levfievr, Callum Watling and James Dyson. Cox: Lillian Lie
1st Senior Women 4+: Rachel Dumbrell, Tegan Foister, Natalie Ohene and Rosie Truman. Cox: Lauren Johncock
1st Novice Men 8+: Henry Wigston, Florian Aichinger, Matthias PM, Chris Hewitt, Alex Moja, Zach McKibbin, Kerolous Hanna and Jake Bishop. Cox: Serena Dosanjh
1st Novice Women 8+: Brenna Barrett, Tara Benowitz, Selena Geerts, Alexandra Williams, Laura Riggall, Hanna Böckmann, Natasha Ng, Audrey Siraud. Cox: Davide Locatelli
Image credit: UCLBC