Bristol University hosts record-breaking Head

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The University of Bristol Boat Club welcomed the rowing world to its new boathouse on Saturday for the annual UBBC Head Race. The £1.2 million facility, which is shared with Avon County and Monkton Coombe School, hosted more than 700 rowers for the club’s biggest-ever event.

For many of the competitors the event was their first taste of racing, with 18 men’s eights and 15 women’s eights taking to the water for the Beginner division over 1.3km.

The morning division over the 3.2km course offered racing for Championship and Intermediate categories in all boat types. Reading University proved their dominance in the sculling categories, winning both the men’s and women’s quads and also the men’s single sculls. “We’re really pleased with the way that our focus on sculling is being successful,” said Reading’s Director of Rowing Will Rand. “It’s still early days, but we’re very excited about the potential. It’s great to see other universities like Birmingham and UWE also making big efforts to develop a sculling pathway for students.”

The women’s championship single scull was won by Jess Belcher from Bournemouth University, who also went on to win the same category over the shorter course in the afternoon.

The host club fielded a formidable array of crews, and picked up wins including their men’s first eight winning the Championship eights with the fastest time of the division. Crew member and Men’s Captain Nick Foster said: “It was a fantastic win for us, the culmination of a lot of hard training. We’re hoping to keep this strong momentum going forwards to BUCS Head and HORR next term.” Bristol also boated one women’s and three men’s alumni eights, racing as “Nonesuch”. The top alumni eight beat a strong alumni eight from Bath, featuring London 2012 Olympic rower Marcus Bateman, by 30 seconds.

Southampton University took the Women’s Championship eights title, finishing five seconds ahead of Bristol. Cox of the crew, Oliver Davis, said: “the race went like a dream. It was the culmination of everything the squad has been striving for since September.” Davis also coached the Southampton women’s beginner eight which won their category in the afternoon division. Crew member Amelia Hartley said: “the whole event was exhilarating, with a really great atmosphere of competition. I’ve never pushed that hard in my life and having people cheering and supporting us was amazing. Everyone was encouraging and there was such a sense of teamwork that we had so much fun racing. All the early morning training was worth it and I can’t wait to race again!”

The men’s beginner eight was won by the University of Birmingham, who posted an impressive time in a category of 18 crews. In the beginner fours, Swansea took the honours in the men’s category and Southampton Solent the women’s.

“We really enjoyed the day and hope everyone else did too,” said Event Organiser Tom Clark. “It was great to see all of our members working together to put on the largest UBBC Head we’ve had so far, and we hope to see everyone back next year.”

Full results from the event are now available at: http://uobboatclub.org/head-race/results.

By James Lee

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