‘OARSOME’ rowers at the University of Chester have made history with a string of successes.

Eight female rowers and their cox are celebrating the best performance in the establishment’s recent past, having taken on the cream of the country’s foremost rowing universities.

After winning a clutch of competitions – ranging from the Head of the River races in Warrington and Liverpool, to the Reading Regatta and the Metropolitan Regatta at the Olympic park at Dorney Lake – the women’s VIII were poised for a landmark year.

The crew competed in the British Universities and Colleges Sports (BUCS) Regatta in early May, where they won the D final – placing them in the country’s top 20 women’s VIIIs.

More success at Nottingham City Regatta, Metropolitan Regatta and Reading Regatta gave the students the confidence to attempt to qualify for the coveted Henley Women’s Regatta.

Only the top 16 university women’s VIIIs can qualify for the Regatta and after completing a demanding time trial, they rose to 11th. They were just one second off a top 10 slot.

The crew were delighted to have moved up the ranks nationally to become one of the elite teams in the country. In the first round they lost by a narrow margin of eight seconds to Oxford.

Gordon Reay, the university’s proud director of sport and recreation and coach to the crew, said: “The women’s eight exceeded expectations last year when they qualified for Henley Women’s in 15th place.

“But for a university the size of Chester, this year’s result is the equivalent in the football world of breaking into the Premier League.

“What is particularly remarkable is that the team only learnt to row from scratch three years ago when they came to us as undergraduates, whereas most of the other crews have established rowers, who come to university to row, already having had experience.”

Gordon said his philosophy is simple with a three-year progressive programme. In their first year, the women’s eight’s schedule is ‘learn to row,’
followed by ‘learn to train’ in their second year and finishing with ‘train to win.’

Alongside their studies, they undertook 10 training sessions a week, both on the River Dee and
on rowing machines or lifting weights in the university’s fitness suite.

Earlier in his career, Gordon nurtured rowers who subsequently became medallists at the London and Rio Olympics and he has coached internationally for Ireland and Great Britain.

Although Gordon is retiring from coaching this summer, he is
setting his successor a tough challenge.

He added: “As our best ever team is about to graduate, we are now looking for the next generation of rowers.

“We have the right programme in place, to hold our own with the big universities and succeed.

“Now we are part of an elite group.”