The University of Cambridge's new boathouse

The new Cambridge University Boathouse was officially opened this weekend - giving the three University boat clubs a new home, the first time that the clubs have all been under the same roof.

This new training facility has some very real and measurable performance benefits, and will serve as a home on the River Great Ouse for Cambridge University rowing for many years to come.

Lance Tredell, Cambridge University Boat Club President

The boathouse, on the River Great Ouse in Ely, was opened by Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz, and represents the culmination of close to a decade’s work by volunteers, rowers and alumni. Plans for a new boathouse were started in 2008, with the construction itself taking two and a half years.

The three Cambridge rowing clubs - the Cambridge University Boat Club (CUBC), Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club (CUWBC) and Cambridge University Lightweight Rowing Club (CULRC) - will now all train under the same roof for the first time.

Cambridge rowers have trained at Ely for the annual Boat Races against Oxford for generations, due to the narrowness and busyness of the River Cam in Cambridge, but until now they have had to make do with inadequate facilities - in the case of one of the clubs, their Ely base was essentially a shed.

“The previous facilities were not of the standard you’d expect given the calibre of athletes we’ve got,” said Ashton Brown (Fitzwilliam College), a PhD student in the Faculty of Education and President of the Women’s Boat Club. “This is a real step up in terms of quality - there’s a real sense of positive forward momentum now.”

The new building was designed by architect Jerry Bailey, and was financed with the assistance of more than 450 alumni and friends of the three clubs.

“It’s so fantastic to be here - it’s really amazing to see it come to fruition after so long,” said Ely Project Manager Ewan Pearson. “It has been a thrill to lead the project team and I want to thank them all for their contribution. I am certain that success will follow, both against Oxford, and at an international level.”

George Nash, Cambridge graduate and gold medal winner at the Rio Olympics, said that the new boathouse “gives a renewed sense of purpose for rowing at Cambridge - I look back with a great sense of gratitude at what Cambridge rowing gave me, and I’m excited to see how rowing at Cambridge will develop.

“Preparing for the Boat Race was incredibly intense, and balancing that with the very demanding academic workload at Cambridge meant that it was a really high pressure environment. But in terms of preparing me for life as an Olympic rower, it really was the best type of training you could ask for.”

The new boathouse will make the three clubs more efficient, by allowing them to collaborate and learn from each other in their training. According to the rowers, the additional dock space will allow them to get the most out of every session, and get back to Cambridge for lectures more easily.

“I’m hugely grateful for the hard work and generosity that has made this project possible, and I look forward to working with CUBC and CUWBC more closely,” said Jamie Brown, a second-year undergraduate at King’s College and President of CULRC.

Rob Baker, Chief Coach of the CUWBC, said that while the new boathouse is a huge step forward, it’s not a magic bullet. “We’re not going to get faster just by walking out of the shed - we can use the new boathouse to help us make the boats go faster, but it’s not going to happen overnight.”

“This new training facility has some very real and measurable performance benefits, and will serve as a home on the River Great Ouse for Cambridge University rowing for many years to come,” said Lance Tredell (Hughes Hall), CUBC President. “It’s a fantastic facility - better than I could have ever imagined.”


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