On this most historic of sporting occasions, it is always worth noting the finer details. As the respective University Women’s squads take to the Championship Course for the first time tomorrow afternoon, they will do so in finely crafted vessels, shells that are paramount to all they hope to achieve. Each club has very deliberately named their boat with an idea or theme in mind so as to reflect what has helped to bring them to this position but also to give a vision of the future.
For Cambridge, their boat is called ‘Project Ely’. In their own words, ‘the name Project Ely sums up what the historic 2015 Women’s Blue Boat is about and the wider Cambridge University Women’s Rowing Club’. Training for the Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club takes place on the Great River Ouse at Ely, and the name is a personal reflection of the crews ability to ‘remain relentless in their pursuit of best performances throughout the year’.
However, ‘Project Ely’ also heralds the start of something new for the boat club. Through donations from alumni and CUBC supporters, the Cambridge Men’s and Women’s squads intend to raise £4.2 million to build a new state of the art boathouse; the overall aim, according to alumni Cath Bishop, is ‘to bring the facilities of Cambridge University in line with other elite world leading academic institutions’.
The women’s squads have experienced a substantial increase in funding over the past few years, largely through the support of BNY Mellon and Newton Investment Management. However, the boathouse project, after which their flagship boat is named, needs donations and continued support to bring it to fruition. According to CUWBC, ‘the 2015 Squad have created a culture of continuous improvement that has never been satisfied with the status quo, and a culture of collaborative teamwork that recognises that we are stronger together’ and it is this attitude which drives the squad forward.
Oxford University Women’s Boat Club have named their boat Catalyst. President Anastasia Chitty believes that the Women’s Race, which is scheduled to set off from Putney Bridge at 4:50pm on Saturday afternoon, will be a catalyst for change for women in sport. ‘We recognise that as nine women studying and rowing at Oxford, we are a small part of this desperately needed process but we are humbled by the massive opportunity this Race has to encourage change in the perception of women’s sport’ commented Chitty.
The name is certainly appropriate to what the women in this year’s Race are trying to achieve; the word ‘catalyst’ has connotations with speed, dynamism and science, all of which are hugely meaningful to any racing crew. A number of female figures have been hugely influential in driving this project forward, including Helena Morrissey, current CEO of Newton Investment Management. The groundwork for this project began several years ago and, after the success of the Great Britain women’s rowing squad at the London 2012 Olympics, the dynamic of women’s sport is rapidly changing.
A catalyst is commonly defined as a person or thing that precipitates an event. Try eighteen women, racing along the world famous Thames Course in the hope that they can truly open the floodgates to gender equality within sport. That’s a vision that everyone involved with The BNY Mellon Boat Races can work towards.