Our history

Below is the outlined history of Reading University Boat Club. 

Much of the information on the history of RUBC has been lost, largely due to the fire which destroyed the boathouse. This timeline shows the significant events, but has been pieced together, so if any details have been left out please let us know and we can include them.

 
 

1892 – It all begins

The extension College of Oxford University opened in Reading in 1892, and a boat club was soon up and running. 1n 1895 it was based at the Adams & Gynell's boathouse at the Clappers (the historic foot bridge and weir across the River Thames from Reading to Lower Caversham).


St David's Ladies rowing crew who were narrowly defeated by Wessex in the final of the Challenge Fours in 1924.

St David's Ladies rowing crew who were narrowly defeated by Wessex in the final of the Challenge Fours in 1924.

1904 – Womens Sculling club established


1906 – The extension college became "University College"


1926 – A University

In 1926 the University College, Reading, was still a University Extension College of Oxford University, becoming Reading University when the University received its Royal Charter in 1926, and subsiquently RUBC was developed.


RUBC 1st VIII at Henley preparing to race University of London, 1929.

RUBC 1st VIII at Henley preparing to race University of London, 1929.

RUBC racing London University at Henley in 192.

RUBC racing London University at Henley in 192.

The RUBC VIII 1928-29 at Henley.

The RUBC VIII 1928-29 at Henley.

1929 – Reading University race London University

RUBC first raced London University at Henley in a private fixture in 1926, the year the Reading received it's Royal Charter and became a University. See the report below for the race details.

Below is an article from the Field 'the Country Newspaper', reporting on the race between RUBC and London University.

"There were many enthusiasts on the Henley towing path on Saturday afternoon for the Reading University v. London University race. The event was instituted in 1926, just before Reading attained University status. London University in that year beat University College, Reading, by a length. There was no race in 1927 owing to illness, and last year Reading beat London fairly easily. They repeated the victory on Saturday, although London were much the heavier crew, Reading were better together and were a credit to the coaching of Mr. E. Hall Craggs (Leander Club), who had also designed the new boat they were using. London, a crew of good material, had gained by a weeks work at Henley with Mr. S. J. Selwyn (Third Trinity), but in their tideway training they are badly in need of better and more regular coaching. It would be well if a special effort could be made before next year to give both the London College and the University crews more skilled assistance. The race was rowed in brilliant sunshine under perfect conditions, with little more than a summer stream running, over a course of about two miles, from the upper end of Phyllis Court Wall to a point opposite Greenland's. Mr. W. P. Mellen (O.U.B.C.) umpired and Lord Desborough was on the launch. Reading on the Berks station, started at the slower stroke, 34 to the 36 of London and slipped away quietly and steadily, Reading were in front at the end of a minute, a length ahead by Remenham Club and well clear before Fawley, where the time was 3min. 40sec. At Remenham Farm Reading led by two lengths and by four at the island, which was passed on the Bucks side, while they won by six lengths in 10min. 48sec."


RUBC new boathouse, early 1930's.

RUBC new boathouse, early 1930's.

Early 1930's – RUBC gets a boathouse

In the early 1930's the University built it's boathouse on the edge of the River Thames at Caversham. In the photo, left, a University VIII preparing to race a scratch VIII made up of old RUBC colours students to celebrate.


Reading University Head of the River Race has grown in popularity.

Reading University Head of the River Race has grown in popularity.

1935 – The first Reading University Head of the River

The first race took place in 1935, when the then President and Vice-president of RUBC, F.W.Roe and D.Cambell-Baldwin, decided to start the event to give experience of 'Head' racing before the Putney Head of the River. The first race attracted three entries and was won by Reading Rowing Club. By 1938, entries had risen to 18 crews and they were now racing for the Roe challenge cup.

The number of crews entering before the war was never more than 30, but in 1948, after the setback due to the war and flooding the race was revived with an entry of 28 crews. Flooding again caused the cancellation of the event in 1995 and 2001, but in 2000 there were 127 crews entered composed of 38 universities and colleges, 42 clubs, and 47 schools.


1930's – Coaches

A couple of the RUBC coaches at this time were Dr Logan Dahne, a GP at the Priory Avenue practice for many years, and James Bee, a lecturer at the University.

 


The women at the University get there own boathouse, 1939.

The women at the University get there own boathouse, 1939.

1939 – Women take to the water

In the late 1930's rowing became more popular with the women at the University and so in 1939 a second boathouse was built next to the men's again on the edge of the River Thames at Caversham.


1948 – RUBC make the semi-finals of the Thames Challenge Cup at Henley

1st round beat Marlow RC by 1 1/4 lengths. 2nd round beat Oriel College Oxford by 1 1/2 lengths. Quarter finals beat Queen's College Cambridge by 1/3 length. Semi finals lost to Royal Air Force by 1/2 length. Crew: P J Jutsum, M A Scutter, E R Moll, E M Godbold, J M James, J D Whitear, J Stockley, K H Caston and P J Williams.

 


RUBC History from Doug Heddle (1945–51)

"Some basic conditions were very different in those days, there was food rationing due to the War, very few fresher's had rowed before (only 2 of my year), and the largest faculty, by far, was Agriculture (big & fit men!).

RUBC had 5 shell eights & 1 clinker eight. No small boats initially, though a coxless four and a Pair were acquired later. The Women’s club had several clinker coxed fours and some singles of various quality.

Training was only on the water: Wednesday & Saturday afternoons, and Sunday morning for the top two crews, all year with extra work in summer - late afternoons most days. There were some weights in the boathouse, but no proper training as to their use. The Autumn term was essentially trial crews, especially sorting out the new men and assessing the senior boats. In the Lent term we had various ‘Private fixtures’ with other clubs. The main one was a 4 boat event with IC alternately at Reading over the Regatta course and on the tideway between Hammersmith & Putney bridges. This gave our coxes a little experience for the London Head. By summer we were usually down to 3 boats and went to (typically) Richmond, Chiswick, Reading, Walton, Marlow and (after Henley) Kingston regattas.

1948 was the best year with 1949 close behind. In both years the first VIII won Seniors at Chiswick and Kingston and the second VIII won Junior-Seniors at the same regattas. In 1948 the first VIII reached the semi-final of the Thames Cup, in 1949 only the quarter final.

In those days the Ladies was restricted to School and College crews - University crews were not allowed so I think that the 1948 crew is probably the best VIII RUBC has ever had!? Seven of them were Agri students! The spirit of the club was very good. The major character of the time was Frank Ortner the coach. Social life was mainly a Party/Dance/Booze-up in & around the boathouse towards the end of each term, the ‘Church Pint’ after the Sunday morning outing and, of course, Ruth Ortner’s hospitality."


RUBC's Thames Cup VIII with coach Frank Ortner, 1950.

RUBC's Thames Cup VIII with coach Frank Ortner, 1950.

1950 – RUBC Thames cup eight

Back row: Frank Ortner, John Williams (3), Maurice Godbold (str.), John Huddy (4). Second row: Peter Beynon (7), John Saint (6), Jim Stockley (5), Doug Heddle (bow), John McLeish (2). Front row: Mike Beynon (cox, and Peters older brother).


Early 1960's – RUBC notes by Ian Wilson (RUBC President from 1963–65)

"I turned up for rowing at the start of my second year and after a couple of goes in the tub was selected for the third VIII. So I had the simple purple ribbon sewn on the arms of the white rowing vest. Incidentally the Boat Club was the only one to have it's own scarf (which most members wore as it was more striking then the Uni. Scarf). Our main races were fixtures with other Universities, away to the University of London seconds, Imperial College and Nottingham. Bristol and Exeter and sundry others came to us as we had better water.

The boathouses were beautiful wooden structures side by side (the men's slightly larger than the women's) in a sylvan park setting downstream of Caversham Bridge. The most dramatic feature at RUBC was 'Happy' Haslam the boatman yes we had a boatman. Happy was a weathered ruddy-faced thickset true son of Berkshire whose hobby was Old-time Dancing and always carried a roll of bank notes in his pocket. A girl friend (Myra perhaps) lost her purse once and Happy whipped out a fiver as a gift, not a loan. His favorite saying, said to the crew as we were boating for a race, 'Get your toes in er garters and your teeth in er tits and go like ell".

The other permanent personnel at RUBC were our two coaches – Mr. Butters, bursar of St. Patrick's Halt a bachelor with a bushy moustache, a really nice person and one of the old school, who looked after the 2nd VIII, and Frank Ortner who was the 1st VIII coach. Butters also coached the Hall VIII in the autumn term, of which I was a member in my final year. A special steak diet for the crew was arranged and a barrel of best bitter was donated when we trounced the beefy 'Agri 'men (farmers) of Wantage Hall, the traditional winners of the event.

Frank Ortner was also a nice big old sort who saw his glory days with Kingston Rowing Club and won something at Henley Royal Regatta pre war. He always invited the first eight to his home in the summer for strawberries and cream and treated us to lunch at the Little White Hart during Henley week. He was getting on and towards the end of my time at Reading had difficulty in following us on his bike on the towpath so the club had a launch made using an old rowing 'tub' (clinker two man training boat) as a mould. Happy could then drive the launch with Frank splendidly installed in the bows. Reading was, maybe still is, one of the top non-collegiate Universities as far as rowing was concerned so the year after RUBC was the fastest in that category at the Tideway Head of the River race Gust before my time) Frank donated the Ortner trophy for the winners. Subsequent to that Nottingham or Durham always piped us by a few seconds so Reading never won his trophy in my time."


RUBC make the semi finals at Henley, 1970.

RUBC make the semi finals at Henley, 1970.

1970 – RUBC make the semi-finals of the Ladies Plate at Henley

Report from the local newspaper: 

"The Reading University eight that raced at Henley today equaled the Boat Clubs record set by John Whitear’s crew of the 1948-49 period and beats all of the other Reading University Boats since the war said Frank Ortner, elder statesman of the Reading University coaches last night.

RUBC v London Uni Semi finals Ladies Plate 1970.

RUBC v London Uni Semi finals Ladies Plate 1970.

He described this years eight as the University’s best for many years and their achievement in reaching the Ladies’ Plate semi-finals yesterday as an event unparalleled in the past 21 years.
Mr. Ortner recalls his first encounter with Reading University at Henley 50 years ago when the Kingston crew he was rowing in was drawn against the then Reading University College and beat them. Twenty years later he came to Reading and took over the coaching of the University crews until illness earlier this year prevented his attendance at the boathouse.

Mike Walker, who had coached this year’s crew, has “chirruped them along nicely” he said. “There has always been a happy atmosphere amongst his crew and it is significant that they have just elected Peter Hammett, second year math’s student, for a further year as president. A rearrangement to let John Burrell row after he had organised the Reading head has been the only change in this years boat since it was selected on paper nine months ago. They have had a very successful season with a very good place in the Reading Head then three junior-senior victories."


1974 – RUBC make the semi-finals of the Visitors Challenge Cup at Henley

1st round beat Durham University by 1/3 length, quarter finals beat R M C S Shrivenham by 2 3/4 lengths, semi-final lost to Christ Church College Oxford by 3 3/4 lengths. Crew: A M Riddle, D Horler, M Marriott and P Taylor.


RUBC Visitors 4- rowing at Henley, 1977.

RUBC Visitors 4- rowing at Henley, 1977.

1977 – RUBC make the semi-finals of the Visitors Challenge Cup at Henley

1st round beat Tiffin school by 3 lengths, 2nd round beat St Thomas's Hospital easily, Semi-final lost to L M BC Cambridge by 2 1/2 lengths. Crew: J Elwin, I C Cox, A D Collenette and M Trice.


1979 – RUBC make the semi-finals of the Ladies Plate at Henley

1st round beat Shawnigan Lake School Canada easily, 2nd round beat Selwyn College Cambridge by 3 1/4 lengths, Quarter finals beat Newcastle University by 1 length, Semi-final lost to Downing College Cambridge by 1 3/4 lengths. Crew: C J Newton, A R G Troup, D A Brown, C J C Phillips, M P Atkin, R S Lasseter, D J Hinge, J N White and D W S Reid.


1984 – RUBC make the finals of the Visitors Challenge Cup at Henley

1st round beat University College Dublin by 2 lengths, 2nd round beat Goldie BC by 1 2/3 lengths, Semi-final beat Yale and Rutgers University USA by 2 lengths, final lost to Shiplake College and Borlase's School by 3 1/3 lengths. Crew: H A J Maltby, T D Parr, A D P Barlow and J Lalonde.


RUBC winning at Henley, 1986.

RUBC winning at Henley, 1986.

1986 – RUBC win Henley

Visitors final 1986, RUBC beating UL.

Visitors final 1986, RUBC beating UL.

In July 1986 the RUBC coxless four of Nick Strange (bow), James Blunt (2), Hugh Maltby (3) and Lance Robinson (stroke), coached by David Lister, won the Visitors Challenge Cup at Henley Royal Regatta. The RUBC crew beat Durham University by 2 and 3/4 lengths, Chester by 2 lengths and Imperial College "B" by more than 4 lengths. In the final their opponents University of London (who had beaten IC "A") made a record breaking start. At the the Barrier they were 1 second inside the record and by half way they were 2 seconds faster then the record. But Reading purple and white colours drew level at Remenham and made a strong recovery, finally winning by 2 and 1/3 lengths. Reading's time of 7minutes and 7 seconds was only 3 seconds outside the record that was set in 1976.


1987 – RUBC make the semi-finals of the Wyfolds Challenge Cup at Henley

1st round beat L M BC Cambridge by 2 1/2 lengths, 2nd round beat Cambridge University Lightweight RC by 2 1/3 lengths, Semi-final lost to University of London "A" by 2 3/4 lengths. Crew: R J Haley, C Cotzias, S Brew and A Beard.


RUBC men's boathouse destroyed by fire in 1989.

RUBC men's boathouse destroyed by fire in 1989.

1989 – RUBC boathouse destroyed by fire

The old RUBC clubhouse built in the early 1930's was destroyed by fire in 1989 that was thought to have been started by kids smoking under the building. 
The fire destroyed 5 eights (2 were empachers) 5 fours, 4 pairs, 3 clinker eights and 2 launches. total value estimated at £150,000. At the time the University had the boat stock insured for the value of £8,000!!!! 

RUBC members moved in with Reading Town boat club and hired boats off them for the first six months, and then leased space for the 3 boats (Janousek 8, coxed 4 and a pair) that the club could afford.


The new boathouse built in 1992.

The new boathouse built in 1992.

1992 – RUBC get new boathouse

Money for the new boathouse came form the University. The current boathouse starting being built 2 years after the original burnt down and was opened in 1992. As well as having two large boat bays there are facilities for changing, training and relaxing.

In 2006 the University upgraded the facilities, improving the fitness and strength training areas and the developing the women's changing room.


1994 – RUBC make the semi-finals of the Visitors Challenge Cup at Henley

1st round beat Exeter University by 4 lengths, 2nd round beat Shiplake College by 2 lengths, Semi-finals lost to University of London by 3 lengths. Crew: J A S Greenland, A J Feltham-White, J S R Mumford and J E M Wright.


The Visitors 4- racing at Henley Royal Regatta 1996 .

The Visitors 4- racing at Henley Royal Regatta 1996.

1996 – RUBC make the semi-finals of the Visitors Challenge Cup at Henley

1st round beat Massachusetts Institute of Technology USA by 2 lengths, Semi-finals lost to WSR Argo Holland by 4 1/4 lengths. Crew: J W Curren, N J Bell, S A Lowe and J Pickard.


Ortner members enjoying the annual BBQ.

Ortner members enjoying the annual BBQ.

1997 – Ortner BC founded

Ortner Boat Club was founded by a group of recent graduates who wanted to keep on rowing and allow others to support RUBC. The club is open to all and proved a great success. The highlight of the year is the Ortner BBQ at Henley in July. It gives all the member a chance to meet up and relive former glories!


RUBC come second at the BUSA regatta, May 2005.

RUBC come second at the BUSA regatta, May 2005.

2005 – RUBC finish second at BUSA

RUBC finished second overall in the British Universities Sports Association (BUSA) Rowing Championships, which were held in Nottingham. Reading won a total of 12 medals: 7 gold, 4 silver and 1 bronze. 

Reading came away with rare double by winning both men’s and women’s single sculls title. The junior crews couldn’t quite match this winning gold in the women’s and silver in the men’s.

Reading’s Director of Rowing, Will Rand said “It was a great overall team performance, as all of the crews that made the final scored points for the overall championships.”

A number of Reading’s rowers are part of the Great Britain squads and Debbie Flood, who won a silver medal at the Athens Olympics, was delighted to take part and row for Reading: “It was fantastic to be able to support my University at the BUSA Championships. There’s a great team spirit at the boat club and I’m sure we’ll go from strength to strength."


2006 – RUBC enjoys a great Four Head

RUBC had on of it's best performances at a Tideway head with the top men's crew finishing an impressive 4th overall, and the top women's quad winning the S2 pennant.

RUBC's men's quad finish 4th at the 4's Head, London, November 2006.

RUBC's men's quad finish 4th at the 4's Head, London, November 2006.

The RUBC Womens Senior 2 4x racing at the 4's Head 2006.

The RUBC Womens Senior 2 4x racing at the 4's Head 2006.


2008 - RUBC finish 2nd at the 4’s Head of the River

The RUBC quad of Sam Townsend, Charles Cousins, Bill Lucas and Alex Gregory came so close to winning the 4’s head of the River in 2008. They finished second to the Tideway Scullers by just 9 seconds. The RUBC crew would all go on to represent GB at future Olympics.

2008 4s head RUBC 4x

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2010 - The Snowdon rowing challenge

Lord Snowdon was married to Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth II, from 1960 to 1978. He was also a world-renowned photographer and documentarian. An rowing machine relay race was set up in celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of Lord Snowdon coxing Cambridge to victory in the 1950 Boat Race. The top six university boat clubs (Reading, Cambridge, Oxford, London, Oxford Brookes and Imperial College) are each providing a team of eight oarsmen. The race lasts for 20 minutes 15 seconds, which was Cambridge’s winning time in the 1950 race. RUBC’s team stormed to victory!


2011 - Reading University winners of the Academic 8’s at Henley Women’s Regatta

2011 - Reading University winners of the Academic 8’s at Henley Women’s Regatta

2011 - A great year for women on the water

RUBC women’s crews had a really excellent 2010-11 season, producing wins at every event they entered. They managed to win 3 of the events at our own head of the River. At the Women’s 8’s head of the River in London RUBC crews finished 3rd, 24th and 68th overall from 300 crews, with the top crew winning their category.

They continued this great form through into the summer and following on from several major regatta wins, the squad was rewarded at Henley Women’s Regatta with a win in the academic 8’s event, beating Newcastle in the final by an impressive 4 lengths. There were also wins for RUBC members in composite crews at HWR including Lottie Burgess in the Elite lightweight quad.


2011 - Medals in Moscow

In 2011 Reading University sent 17 students to Moscow for the 7th European University Sports Association Rowing Championships, and all RUBC competitors returned with a medal, including a gold in the lightweight women’s quad, a Silver in the women’s 8, and a bronze in the men’s quad. The event had almost 400 competitors from 14 countries and over 50 different universities.  

The rowing lake in Moscow

The rowing lake in Moscow

Women’s quad - Gold

Women’s quad - Gold

Women’s 8 - Silver

Women’s 8 - Silver

Men’s quad - Bronze

Men’s quad - Bronze


2012 - Distinguished Fellows

The University honoured all of Reading's Olympians, making them Distinguished Fellows of the University of Reading in recognition of their extraordinary contributions to a wonderful sporting summer. The following were made Distinguished Fellows of the University:

  • David Watkins, designer of the London 2012 Olympic medals (BA in Fine Art in 1963)

  • Anna Watkins - rower and Gold medallist (current Mathematics PhD student)

  • Bill Lucas - rower (BA Politics and International Relations 2009)

  • Charles Cousins - rower (BSc Psychology 2010)

  • Natasha Townsend - rower (BA Art 2007)

  • Ric Egington - rower and Bronze medallist (BSc Zoology 2001)

  • Sam Townsend - rower (BSc Rural Environmental Sciences 2010)

  • Debbie Flood - rower (BSc Physiology and Biochemistry 2005)

  • Alex Gregory - rower and Gold medallist (BSc Geography 2001)

  • Alex Partridge - rower and Bronze medallist (Henley Business School MBA student 2013)

  • Adam Freeman-Pask - rower ( PhD in Biological Sciences 2013)

  • Jonty Clarke - hockey player (BA Economics 2002)

Fellowship graduation Dec 2012.jpg

Collecting the RUBC award from John Madejski (centre) - Will Rand, Sam Townsend, Pip Johnson, Christiana Amacker & Sean Casey.

Collecting the RUBC award from John Madejski (centre) - Will Rand, Sam Townsend, Pip Johnson, Christiana Amacker & Sean Casey.

2013 - Reading Sports Award

RUBC winners of "Club of the Year" and Sam Townsend winning "Male Sports Personality of the Year" at the Reading Sports Awards Dinner. Presented by Sir John Madejski (the then Vice-Chancellor of the University).


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2013 - Reading Amateur Regatta most successful club

RUBC won the VL at the 2013 with wins in the IM1 8, W IM28, W IM3 8, IM3 4+ and IM1 1x, great work RUBC!


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2015 - Sculling success

In 2015 RUBC decided to fully focus on sculling, and the benefits of this specialisation were really seen at the BUCS head of the River in Newcastle, where 9 crews came home with medals, five golds and four silvers! That's a medal in every sculling category we entered from novice, intermediate and champ! A very very successful weekend for all involved and a very well done! 


2017 - RUBC women make the Semi-final at HRR

2017 - RUBC women make the Semi-final at HRR

2017 - Henley Semi-final

The RUBC women’s quad had a fantastic result in the Princess Grace Challenge cup for Elite women’s quads. They came through the qualifying races to make it to the final 8 crews. They raced Calgary Rowing Club, Canada, in the quarter finals and beat them by over 4 lengths. In the semi final, on Henley Saturday in front of thousands of people cheering them on, they raced the GB under 23 quad and sadly lost. The event was won by the Dutch national team, giving you an idea of what an amazing result it was to get to the semi-finals.


2018 - Sports Hall of Fame unveiled at the University

The achievements of some of the University of Reading’s most successful sports men and women were celebrated at the opening of its Sports Hall of Fame in 2018. This included 11 rowers who all graduated from the University.

The Sports Hall of Fame celebrate those graduates of the University who have achieved great success in their sport, with many of them representing their country at the Olympic Games and at world championship level.

The University of Reading Vice-Chancellor, Sir David Bell, and Sports and Recreation Director, Iain Akhurst, officially opened the Sports Hall of Fame, with Debbie Flood (three-time Olympic rower, pictured) giving the after dinner keynote speech.

Find out more about the Sports Hall of Fame at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/about/sports-hall-of-fame.aspx

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DebbieFlood
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2018 - Four RUBC crews qualify for the Prince of Wales Challenge Cup at Henley

At Henley Royal Regatta in 2018 we had four boats racing for the Prince of Wales Challenge Cup after pre-qualifying one boat and the other three through the qualification races, a result unmatched by any other club. Our four quads made up a quarter of the draw out of a total of sixteen boats. This is a record result for RUBC and showed the great strength and depth of our men's squad. 


RUBC in Portugal for the 2019 EUSA regatta

RUBC in Portugal for the 2019 EUSA regatta

2018 - RUBC top the medals table at the EUSA in Portugal.


The European Universities Games is a biannual multi-sport event organised by the European University Sports Association (EUSA) 2018 was held in Coimbra, Portugal. RUBC had twelve athletes racing in six boats to the regatta . This was our most successful EUSA to date with every crew winning a medal (2 gold, 3 silver and a bronze) and topped both the GB Universities and European Universities medal tables! A fantastic result and the culmination of one of our most successful years ever.


2018 - Fabulous fours head

RUBC had yet another great set of results at 2018 Fours Head. We entered six boats in total. The day ended in success with both our top women’s and men’s quads coming a fantastic 1st in Academic Champ. The men’s quad came a well-earned 4th fastest overall putting them in a strong position for the rest of the season. Moreover, we showed a brilliant level of depth in both women’s and men’s squads with a 4th and 10th in women’s and 3rd and 5th in men’s quads too.

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