The 2015 Varsity boat race was held on the 21st March 2015 at the Bristol Harbourside. The event is a 1,300m backs to the wall sprint starting by the Cottage Inn and finishing outside the Arnolfini. This year’s event saw the race held a full month earlier than previous years in order to coincide with key national races such as Head of the River. This resulted in a logistical nightmare for the race organisers who had to deal with everything from angry harbour side residents to even more angry ferry captains. Despite these setbacks all eight races went to plan apart from the first race of the day which was the Novice men’s 2nd VIII, the Bristol crew decided to get a closer look at one of the barges moored on the quayside. This resulted in a delay of around a minute which sadly cost them the race. Nonetheless this was the first experience of side by side regatta style racing that the novice squads had encountered, so events such as these were to be expected, much to the amusement of the crowd.
The next race in the day’s proceedings was the Novice Men’s 1st VIII who were not only racing for ‘The Eleanor Rose Ellis Cup’ but also for the first of four blade events. The blade events are the races that determine the overall winners of the boat race and are competed for by the Novice Men and Women’s 1st VIII ‘s and the Senior Men and Women’s 1st VIII’s. In the event of a tie, the time differences between crews in the blade races are totalled up and the university with the largest time difference takes the blade home and is showered in eternal glory (well at least until next year’s race). Following some expert steering and power slides from cox Xin-yue ‘Skin the Cat’ Pan, the Bristol novice men took a comfortable victory over the UWE novice’s by the margin of two boat lengths. The crew consisted of Fergus ‘Edward Tapehands’ Taylor, Freddie ‘Quadzilla’ Wright, Jackson ‘Encyclopedic Knowledge’ Goodrum, Fergus ‘It’s only a bit of blood’ Lupton, Prokop ‘Eastern Bloc Strength’ Volf, George ‘Twist and Shout’ Presland, Harry ‘Say hi and you’ll get a laugh out of him’ Stroud and Michael ‘Token Irish’ Fitzpatrick.
The Novice Women’s 1st VIII’s race followed on in much the same fashion with Bristol who were already a length and a half up by the 500m mark, storming to victory by ten boat lengths. “They did so well, I’m so proud of them” was all the ecstatic Novice women’s captain Amelia Butler could say before grinning like a Cheshire cat. With these two victories for Bristol in the first two blade races, UBBC club captain Steph Harris was all but ready to put on her blazer and hit Lounge. Next up was the two alumni races, featuring some of the boat club’s biggest names from the last decade; both the women’s and men’s crews’ decimated their opponents which greatly benefitted the rest of the club later on in the evening mainly at the bar.
The senior men’s 2nd VIII was next to race, coxed by Emily ‘Shut up and drive’ Almond and stroked by the formidable Tom ‘I honestly can’t remember’ Clark, followed by Alex ‘Champagne Northerner’ Heslop, Richard ‘Chiveski’ Meadows, Keir ‘Factor 50+’ Salter, Peter ‘strokes from the 4 seat’ Style, Angus ‘Workhorse’ Bangs, Jonny ‘The Bard’ Gorner and Devon ‘Hey Hun’ Bunyan. Up against a strong UWE crew, the Bristol boat lost by two lengths with Peter Style again stating that “had everyone rowed like him then the race would have been won”. Despite this, the marquee events of the senior squad races and the culmination of the blade races were about to start with the score still standing at 2-0 to Bristol. The senior women raced first and were unlucky to lose against a strong UWE crew despite the bellows of cox Jess ‘Release the Kraken’ Harding. This laid down the gauntlet for the senior men with score now sitting at 2-1, with their brand new Empacher 8+ the 1st VIII took to the water looking to finish off a great days racing with another Bristol win. The crew, stroked by Morgan ‘Fifty shades of’ Gray, followed by Adam ‘Sarah Jessica’ Stapleton, Chris ‘Chewbaccius’ Heywood, Alex ‘Class of 2021’ Steventon, Andrew ‘Stars and Stripes’ Holm, Nick ‘HM06*’ Foster, Gareth ‘Gavin’ Davies and Jack ‘One Man Army’ Squizzoni. All of this was brought together by cox Poppy ‘Selective Understanding’ Mather who was tasked with steering this juggernaut around the narrow race course. Ultimately UWE proved to be just too strong for the Bristol men, winning by just over a length and creating a draw at 2-2 in the blade race events. After some feverish calculations it was determined that based on the time differences between the crews in the blade events, that Bristol had reclaimed the blade for the first time in three years.
It was then time for us to return home, and prepare for the inevitable scandal and debauchery that can only occur at the UBBC Varsity ball. There was an audible sigh of relief from club captain Steph Harris who knew that only Henley domination would be a fitting end to her tenure as club captain. After receiving the blade from vice-chancellor Professor Sir Eric Thomas, the rowers of UBBC departed, ready to dance the night away and get ‘turnt’ as Andrew Holm would say.
*HM06 is the move ‘Rock Smash’ in the third generation of Pokémon games