Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Rowing above their weight

Founded in October 1963 along with the University of York itself, UYBC (University of York Boat Club) is arguably one of our most treasured sports clubs. They have been highly popular with the student community for many a year and competed in all manner of events across the UK. But what has set it apart from most other university boat clubs is its remarkable ability to succeed at the highest level against universities which receive vast amounts of cash and support for coaching and equipment.

Over the last two years, York Sport under the presidency of Sam Asfahani have worked extremely hard to address UYBC's greatest challenge since it was created; providing sufficient funding. For example, the squads have benefited from Easter training camps and just last month a received a useful £4,000 grant from the York Annual Fund for a new coxless pairs rowing boat. This comes in addition to roughly £4,000 of funding the club receives every year from YUSU. However, the problem is that this is still a modest amount to cover all of UYBC’s needs; most new boats cost in excess of £20,000, half of the rowing machines lie broken in the boathouse and only one part-time coach is available to train the entire senior squad. At present, the novices have no coach and must rely on the guidance of the seniors. Compare this to Newcastle University and it puts things into perspective. NUBC have at least 50 boats of all types and boast coaches for every squad, men’s and women’s, seniors and novices. They also have access to the the Hudson 8+ boats which are among the best around. But of course they have received huge amounts of funding which a university of York’s size simply cannot afford.
UYBC in action during the White Rose Head in January

UYBC’s recent record shows how much the squads have overachieved given their tight budget, as the club have gone from strength to strength. They started the season well, with both men’s and women’s coxed fours posting fast times in the Annual York Small Boats event. Then the club excelled in the White Rose Head event on the River Ouse against the universities of Leeds, York St John and Sheffield Hallam. And just last Saturday, both the novice and senior 8s reached their respective finals in the Nottingham City Regatta. The novices in particular have impressed hugely over the course of the season and will be ones to watch next year. In addition to Saturday’s performance, the novice 8s reached the semi-finals of the BUCS Regatta in Nottingham and their exceptional performance ranked them inside the top ten university novice crews in the UK.

Meanwhile, the senior squad finished second at the BUCS Head Race in Peterborough back in March, as the coxed 4s claimed their first BUCS medal. Then, in the BUCS race at Nottingham, the crew finished a respectable fifth against strong opposition. The team have also confirmed their status as the fastest crew in Yorkshire, following the Head of the River Race in London over Easter. Finishing 78th against crews from all over the UK, UYBC comfortably beat both York City Rowing Club and Leeds University, and were not too far behind heavyweights Southampton and Bristol. Men’s seniors captain Sam Agass was not lying when he said it was: “The best result the club has had in at least the last 10 years and without doubt the most impressive result from the entire club this season.”

Moving forward, UYBC have two outstanding talents for the future in Tom Eames and Matt Bowman who are enrolled on the University of York’s Sports Scholarship Programme. The pair have already represented Great Britain at junior level and are hoping to do so for the under-23 category. Their experiences this season will undoubtedly stand them in good stead for next year, when an influx of new talent will bolster the ranks once again. The challenge in the meantime is to finish the season strongly and hopefully qualify for the prestigious Henley Royal Regatta at the end of June. UYBC have not made an appearance at the event for seven years but came close last year when they were the fastest non-qualifiers. They produced their strongest performance since 2006 but finished 15th fastest out of the 46 crews pushing for qualification, which was just short of the mark. With this year’s success they will surely go one better and compete in the two student races; the Temple Challenge Cup and the Prince Albert Cup. In short, UYBC are in shipshape condition and there could not be a better time to be involved. I am confident the squad will continue to surprise the top clubs in the country with more sterling performances.

All reports on UYBC's races, and other rowing features, can be found at:

1 comment: