Several weeks ago, the four Oxford University boat clubs (Oxford University Boat Club, Oxford Women’s University Boat Club, Oxford University Lightweight Boat Club and Oxford University Women’s Lightweights Boat Club) released a statement in support of movements for equality across the world. Rowing is, unfortunately, still a sport inaccessible to many people within the UK. It can be expensive to take part in, geographically limiting and is strongly associated with institutions and events with an elitist reputation, especially at a junior level. Since this statement was published, a concerted effort has been made by the Oxford clubs to materialise this pledge into something more tangible. Given the constraints imposed by COVID-19, it was decided that a virtual fundraiser would be the best way to bring people together and help to improve access to rowing.
The Oxford University Boats Clubs have had strong links with Fulham Reach Boat Club in the past, "Knowing the good work they do, we have chosen to partner with FRBC for this initiative. FRBC operates a youth rowing programme designed to bring rowing to those who would otherwise be unable to participate due to financial or cultural barriers. They focus on both introducing young men and women to the sport, through state-school partnerships in physical education, and the development of committed junior athletes. They’re able to offer these through a mix of government and private support, and volunteer work. Membership for junior rowers at FRBC costs £495/yr. This covers all fees for races, some kit, and a few other things here and there. It is still the case that this cost can be too great for some, and that’s where we’d like to help"
The basis of the Oxford fundraiser is: 8 teams of 8 athletes (and a cox) competing to go as far as possible in 48 hours. Members of the four Oxford University boat clubs have been pooled and divided into teams. Starting at 6pm on Friday 7th August, competitors can run, erg, row and cycle (with appropriate distance conversions) to boost their team's total. Each team will be aiming to cover the 100 miles distance on the Thames between Oxford and Fulham Reach Boat Club as many times as possible. The teams have been announced here.
The goal is to raise £4000 to cover the cost of eight athletes (four men and four women) for the next year. The Oxford Bursary, as it will be called, will be awarded by FRBC and the four clubs. The funds will be awarded on a need-basis to BAME junior athletes with the goal of enabling their continued development. Any extra funds will be rolled over to the next year, as we plan for this to continue on an annual basis: the aim is making the initiative a sustainable programme which can continually improve access to the sport.