The End and the Beginning | LCCBC President April Bowman Says Goodbye

by Tim Arnold on 5 June 2019

Blood, sweat, tears: Cambridge club rowing summed up in three words

From the physical pain of pushing one’s body too far – hands covered in calluses, muscles screaming – to the joy of winning or, finally, to the sadness of it all coming to an end after years of hard work, blood, sweat and tears sums up my life as a Cambridge rower. As I prepare to hand over the Presidency to a new set of enthusiastic Lucy rowers, allow me to reflect on this amazing journey.

The highs and lows of this incredible sport were unknown to me just five short years ago when I first sat in Lady Charlotte, the first boat Lucy Cavendish ever owned. She was slow, leaky and nearing retirement by that point; but to me, she was beautiful. As my rowing improved, so did the boats. My first time in Speedwell, purchased 10 years ago this year, was as substitute for a poorly teammate during a race. Speedwell is fast and light – rowing in her was truly joyful, so much so that I yelled out during the race because I had simply never felt something move so smoothly through the water. The next boat in Lucy’s lineage is Lucky Lucy, purchased in 2015. This time I felt pride. This shell was the physical embodiment the College's and Boat Club's vision to grow the club and purchase equipment which matched the sort of team we wanted to be: a winning team. But last month, I found myself tearing up next to a boat: a boat which hadn’t even been used yet. 

So why was I crying?

I was standing next to our fleet’s newest edition, Lucky Lyda.  

Lucky Lyda boat shell

I was touched at how the College community has rallied in our hour of need (by ‘our’ I mean the Lucy Cavendish College Boat Club (LCCBC), and by ‘hour’ I mean the 18-month fundraising appeal we’ve been running) to deliver us a much-needed new boat, shoes, and cox box – not to mention the refurbished College gym.

Peggy Allison Lucky Lyda LCCBCI was honoured by the words of alumna Peggy Allison, Lucy’s first residential student in 1966, who had flown over from Texas, USA, to name the boat on behalf of the anonymous donor whose gift enabled much of this. Peggy spoke eloquently about designing Lucy’s scarf during her time at College. This scarf inspired nine women 12 years later when they were painting the first set of blades (oars) used by the College. One of those women, Sue Brindley – the visionary who first brought rowing to Lucy Cavendish College in 1979 – was also in the crowd.

I was privileged because I was about to sit in a class-leading racing boat worth £30,000 which I estimate will give LCCBC ten more years of club rowing. It made me remember all the incredible people I’ve been lucky enough to row with and my own lifelong friendships which have resulted.

I think you get it: I was pretty happy.

There are very few words to describe the feeling of receiving a new boat during a rowing club Presidency, marking the start of a new era of independence after a 16-year-long partnership with Hughes Hall. Her naming day, steeped in college history, was also filled with hope for the years of Lucy rowing and rowers to come. LCCBC is at the very heart of Lucy Cavendish College: more than 12% of the College’s student population is affiliated with it in some way. We welcome rowers of all ages and abilities (the vast majority have never set foot in a racing boat when they join the Club) into a supportive, encouraging – and yes, competitive – family; it’s quite simply the best feeling of camaraderie you can imagine.

In the past five years alone, the Club has won five sets of University Blades at the Cambridge University Bumps Races and has been in the top 100 crews in the Women's Head of the River Race in London, the largest sporting event for women in the world.

My swansong as LCCBC President

It’s only through the generosity and hard work of those who love the College and the Boat Club that we are able to keep going. This year marks the 40th anniversary of our club and we are still short of our fundraising target of £40,000. These funds help us continue to care for and rack the fleet. Racking (storage) is over £5,000 per year. Furthermore, we would like to better support our rowers with small bursaries to offset some of the costs they incur, and provide British Rowing training for our coaches. As a final request as LCCBC President, if you can, please help us to achieve our goal of bringing this wonderful sport to the next generation of Lucy Cavendish students:

I will miss this team and the College she belongs to, but I am confident that the coaches, staff, current members and alumnae will continue to keep the spirit and success of LCCBC alive!

April Bowman LCCBC President 2019 - April Bowman, June 2019

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