13 October 2020
By Tim Koch
In May, William O’Chee noted on HTBS that:
There is a certain irony that the three representative rowing clubs at Cambridge University – Cambridge University Boat Club, Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club and Cambridge University Lightweight Rowing Club – should choose to amalgamate in the midst of Britain’s COVID-19 social isolation.
Historically, C.U.B.C. was Cambridge University’s sole representative club from 1829 until C.U.W.B.C. was established in 1941 to prepare a crew for the Women’s Boat Race… The first Men’s Lightweight Boat Race then spawned C.U.L.R.C. in 1977.
Forty years of division have been ended with the amalgamation of all three clubs into a revamped C.U.B.C.
To mark the amalgamation, on 6 October Cambridge University posted a nicely made (if a little hyperbolic) YouTube video containing some splendid (if frustratingly brief) archive footage. The excited introductory text called it ‘A new era for high performance rowing, for efficiency, for shared resources, and for supporting the University’s elite athletes.’
Although organised rowing at Oxford predates that at Cambridge, the original CUBC first met on 9 December 1828, ten years before OUBC was formed. It was only in 1839 that the aquatic Oxonians organised themselves, worried that, while they had won the first Boat Race in 1829, they had lost the second in 1836 and the third three years later. At the present time, fairness and finance seems to make it inevitable that Oxford will once again follow Cambridge’s lead. ‘Fairness’ means that ‘separate but equal’ is, famously, not acceptable – and ‘separate but unequal’ even more so. ‘Finance’ may be an even stronger (if related) driving factor. Sponsorship of the Boat Race had been a problem for several years, even before the pandemic, and Covid-19 has further reduced the chances of finding new finance. Having to make cost savings and share out inevitably reduced staff and resources surely means amalgamation on the Isis under a smaller, unified coaching team must be the next logical move – even if it means rowing in Cambridge’s wake.