Glasgow University Boat Club captain Stuart Mitchell has revealed all – in more ways than one – about one of the University’s longest-standing clubs.
The Boat Club, or Rowing Club, has enjoyed great success this term and will soon publish a naked calendar to raise funds for charity & their club.
“Every year we try to raise money for the club and do something to help charity”, said Mitchell, a fourth year chemistry student. “Unfortunately it is an expensive sport and we are all still students so we have to find a way to pay for it. The University is great in supporting us but we also do a lot ourselves to try to match their efforts.
“Last year, we raised just over £5,000 to buy some new oars for the boats. We did a charity event and an ergo-challenge (an ergometer is an indoor rowing machine), where we rowed 625,000 metres. We had ergs set-up all across campus for the event.
“This year we’re doing something a bit different – a naked calendar. We’ve got all the photos taken and they are almost ready to be released. They will be available to buy all across campus from November to January.”
He continued: “It wasn’t actually my idea; I’ll give someone else the credit for that! We are doing it in partnership with the Beatson Institute – helping to raise some money for them – and are sponsored by Athlete Focused, who are the providers of our high-performance weights programme. We are trying to raise some funds for equipment as well so, if anyone is interested in seeing us lot naked, you can buy the calendar.”
This year, the club has 189 members which is an increase of 40 on the year previous. Mitchell feels that the club’s training participation sets them apart. He said: “It is a reasonably big club but the main difference between us and other clubs is how active the membership is, in that the majority of the members train 10-12 times a week.
“We have six different squads at the moment. Performance and development seniors and two novice squads: the novice girls and the novice guys. We have a coach who runs their programme and they have just come through a learn-to-row block, which is for people who have come to university and haven’t tried rowing and have had no experience before.”
The club’s rapid growth is showing no signs of slowing up any time soon. Mitchell said: “Last year and this year have been the only two years where we have had a paid member of staff for the novice programmes. Previously, I came and had no experience; I joined the novice programme and here I am, four years later. Matt Mole, the member of staff who comes in to coach, has made a massive difference so the programme is getting bigger and stronger.”
“Our club sports room is Studio One, where we do the majority of the land training like weights and ergo training,” said Mitchell, explaining the day-to-day activities of the members. “Then we have a boathouse on Glasgow Green where we train on the weekends. We have two different parts to the season. The first part of the season is called the head season so that is a time-trial fashion: one boat races then the next boat and the next and the next. It can be anything from eight people and a cox to just a single person. The summer racing season is side-by-side racing, which is what you see in the Olympics.”
For many people, the thought of the intensive training and rowing on a freezing-cold Clyde would not immediately appeal. Why are people drawn to the club? Mitchell explained: “I was attracted by the work ethic of the people who were doing it. I actually joined quite late, in November of my first year when the other people had already been training for six-to-eight weeks. I saw the amount of commitment that they were putting in to the training and it looked like something I wanted to be involved in.
“Then there is obviously the social side to it. I think I actually went to a social before I went to training. When you have 180 members training hard all week and they get their night out on a Thursday, it is always good fun. I was taken by it straightaway, we had a great year. There is something about eight people and a cox committing entirely to each other in the boat – whilst learning from scratch – that is really exciting.”
As well as those learning the basics, the club has members who compete within the upper echelons of rowing. Mitchell said: “At the top performance level – that is people who are shooting for Scotland team or GB selection or even other seniors looking to do well at BUCS or national level – they’ll train 10-12 times a week. That training is a complete mix. They would do cross training, weights, mobility, yoga, and a lot of water training. It is quite a diverse programme.
“In terms of Scotland representation we had three people in 2012-13, three in 2013-14 and two in 2014-15. Then, this year, we had 15 people across coxes and athletes, winning three gold medals between them. They were people who had performed really well at Scottish championships and were given the opportunity by Scottish Rowing to try out for the team and made it; that was a massive achievement for the club. We also had someone this year, Emma McDonald, who represented at GB universities which is when all of the universities in Europe come together for a competition called EUSA. She competed in the lightweight single scull and she has a strong pedigree of competing internationally; she has been selected by GB for the under-23 team- before and at Commonwealth level.”
In October, the Boat Club competed in the Scottish Indoor Championships and secured a clean sweep of medals as they picked up the Victor Ludorum trophy for the best team. Mitchell reflected: “The Indoor Championships is 2000 metres indoors on a rowing machine. They set up maybe 32 ergs, as we call them, and have a big screen in the background and it simulates the race. We trained hard for that and managed to get a clean sweep. We won gold, silver and bronze in Men’s Heavyweights, Women’s heavyweight and lightweight and then gold in Men’s Lightweights. We got some really good results in the novices’ races too, winning gold in the novice women’s 1k and silver in the guys’ race.”
Such success is reflective of the ethos that drives the club along. Balancing their studies with an intensive training regime, the rowers push each other on to reach their potential. Mitchell gave an example: “This morning the guys were in doing weights at 7am and the girls were on the rowing machines, up early training hard for the sixth day in a row. There is definitely a real club atmosphere and everyone pushes each other on.”