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).
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.
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."
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.
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.
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."
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."
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.
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.
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.
1986 – RUBC win Henley
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.