The Gryphon meets UOLBC

Image Credit: UOLBC

Ahead of the upcoming season, Sports Editor Cian Fox sat down with the University of Leeds Boat Club Captain Lydia Evans and Secretary Alife Milnes Dobbs, to discuss all things rowing.

The University of Leeds Boat Club is the largest mixed gender sports society on campus, with a combined total of over 200 members. Despite all the early starts, cold mornings and gym sessions, the club remains one of the largest and most successful at the university, with UOLBC competing in a variety of BUCS and British Rowing affiliated competitions throughout the year, ranging from Head of River races in Durham and York to the pinnacle of the rowing season, Henley.

One of the biggest aims for the club in 2018/19 is to qualify for Henley Royal, the most prestigious event in Regatta season and the highlight of Rowing’s summer calendar, held annually on the River Thames.

The rowing calendar is broken down into the winter and summer seasons, with the Head of River season during the winter months until Regatta season gets underway come summer. The club’s preparations for Head of River season have begun, with the men’s and women’s performance squads training approximately “five times a week on the water” and “on average, 12 sessions a week, with land training”, according to Club Secretary Alfie Milnes Dobbs.

Of course, the club also participated in Varsity, with the indoor rowing events ending in an overall draw overall with Leeds Beckett. However, races on the water are where the club’s goals are focused, with Head of River season starting in late November at Wallingford.

Image Credit: [UOLBC]
One of the biggest aims for the club in 2018/19 is to qualify for Henley Royal, the most prestigious event in Regatta season and the highlight of Rowing’s summer calendar, held annually on the River Thames. Naturally, it is very competitive, with the race attracting the best crews around the country, but Leeds are aiming to get two boats from the men’s and women’s senior squads into the race, who are hoping to build on last year’s season, which was their most successful in 25 years.

While the club is clearly committed to achieving strong results for the performance squads, Club Captain Lydia Evans presents the club’s vision as “aiming to cover all bases participation wise, from novices to performance squads. We run the club with an ethos of rowing for all, allowing anyone who wants to row, the ability to”.

This inclusive approach is not a typical one for university boat clubs, where performance often trumps participation, contributing to the view of rowing as an elite and inaccessible sport. For Leeds, however, the long-term goals are ambitiously inclusive; starting this season, they are aiming to “build simultaneous participation and performance streams”, to make those gruelling early starts worthwhile for all members, from novices to elite rowers.

In terms of participation, the club already takes in one of the largest cohorts of freshers for sports teams on campus, with around “100-150 people taught to row each year, with many starting from scratch in September and racing for the university by December”.

University of Leeds Boat Club 2018/19

As part of our new social media campaign, we'll be keeping you all updated on what we're doing this academic year through the themes of:-Rowing for the Body-Rowing for the Mind-Rowing for the MemoriesWe'll be filling you in with some parts of rowing you might not consider like meal plans, body transformations, exercise ideas, benefits of sport for mental wellbeing, mindfulness, balancing sport with pressures of study and of course the "best bits" of our year. We might even throw in a competition here and there!So whether you're a rower at UOLBC, a family/friend, alumni, student, athlete, or simply just curious, give our page a like to see what we're up to and follow us on Instagram @UniofLeedsBC , on twitter @UniofLeedsBC and LinkedIn

Posted by University of Leeds Boat Club on Monday, September 24, 2018

The committee have also placed mental health at the forefront of this year’s agenda. They have partnered with the mental health charity, Leeds Mind, organising events to promote mental health awareness at the club and the university in general. One such event was at the beginning of October, where a number of rowers participated in a 12 hour marathon ergathon, from 8am to 8pm, on campus.

This year promises to be an exciting and historic one for the club, who will be celebrating their 100 year anniversary in 2019. They are always open to new recruits, no matter the experience level or ability. If you would like to learn more about the club and potentially get involved, you can find them on Facebook at and their website:

Cian Fox