Several weeks ago, the current members of all four blues rowing clubs released a joint statement in support of movements for equality across the world. We agreed that this would not be a performative act, pledging to accompany it with something tangible. We do this to better our community and ourselves, and in the hope that our actions contribute to the future of our sport. We decided to partner with an organisation which we know and trust, Fulham Reach Boat Club. All four clubs have had strong links with FRBC in the past, an organisation which is based on the championship course where the Boat Race takes place each year. FRBC operates a youth rowing programme designed to bring rowing to those who would otherwise be unable to participate due to financial or cultural barriers. They focus on both introducing young men and women to the sport, through state-school partnerships in physical education, and the development of committed junior athletes. They’re able to offer these through a mix of government and private support, and volunteer work. Using our existing relations with Fulham Reach Boat Club, we created the Oxford to Fulham Fundraiser.
On August 7-9th, athletes from the four Oxford University boat clubs took part in the fundraiser to raise money for Fulham Reach Boat Club and support access to rowing. The aim was to raise £4000, which would allow the clubs to found the Oxford Bursary, offered to eight junior BAME rowers (4 girls, 4 boys) and covering fully their annual membership at Fulham Reach BC. Membership for junior rowers at FRBC costs £495/yr. This covers all fees for races, some kit, and a few other things here and there. It is still the case that this cost can be too great for some, and that’s where we wanted to help.
Participants from OUWBC, OUWLRC, OUBC and OULRC were pooled into seven teams, with the eighth comprised of coaches who work at Fulham Reach. Each athlete tried to maximise their team's mileage over the 48h, with distances measured with reference to the 100 miles on the water between Oxford and Fulham. Because of varying access to equipment, everyone involved could erg, cycle, run or swim – with conversions introduced so everything was equivalent to being on the rowing machine. After 48 hours (and thankfully no cases of heatstroke), some huge distances were covered.
Olly Featherstone (OULRC) topped the individual leaderboard, spending a whopping 23 hours on the bike to cover 773km (317km converted to the erg). Each of the four Oxford clubs had representatives in the top 10, with Tom Schwantje, Katie Anderson and Andrew McMahon also being part of the winning team #notaboutspeed, which covered the distance from Oxford to Fulham over 8 times. It was an extremely tight finish, with the top 3 places switching in the final three hours.
The total raised by the end of the event was over £5000 (including gift aid), allowing the clubs to roll over a significant amount for the initiative next year. We would like to give a huge thanks to everyone who so generously donated, as well as all the athletes who took part and challenged themselves over the weekend. It was great to see the four clubs come together to benefit the future of rowing.