After a well deserved summer break, a successful pre-season and a solid first block of training in the bag, on 5th November 2022 USBC’s athletes were ready and raring to kick off the 22/23 season. Whilst the majority of the club attended BUCS indoors at Surrey Sport Park, four members of the high performance squad traveled 150 miles north to Boston, Lincolnshire to take part in the first assessment for GB U23 and Senior trials.

For the athletes up in Boston, this weekend consisted of a 2km ergo (rowing machine) test on the Saturday and, assuming athletes meet the required standard on the ergo, a 5k time trial on the water on Sunday. Every athlete that wants to compete for GB this season needs to attend this event and the standard is as high as it gets. Some outstanding results were achieved this weekend, one being club president Tom Fortnums 5th place in the u23 Lightweight Man category. Tom is now the first man to learn to row at Surrey and go on to then compete successfully at GB trials. We also had an amazing performance from Aidan Thompson who managed to pull out an incredible 3rd place overall on the ergo and 6th place overall on the water. This is an excellent weekend for Aidan, continuing his success from this summer, when he represented Surrey at EUSA following a championship silver medal in the single at BUCS regatta 2022. Both athletes are now into the thick of the GB trialing system and have great prospects for the upcoming season.

Back at Surrey Sports park, USBC’s very own BUCS indoors event took place to both raise money for the club and to also provide a platform for local universities to compete on the national stage! BUCS indoors is an indoor rowing competition in which athletes compete against every other university in Great Britain. The beginners competed over 1000m as did the adaptive category where Surrey’s very own Clara Ojiako beat all but one adaptive athlete in the country earning her a championship silver medal. An incredible feat to achieve in November of her first season in the program! With well over 50 athletes registered for our local event the seniors got stuck into some 2000m racing, pbs and close racing all around. Feedback from BUCS was really positive, commenting on the atmosphere of the event and the swift organisation. Shout out to all involved in running the including stag TV who expertly ran a professional livestream for the whole event on our facebook. GB trials in Boston was one of the other host locations for BUCS indoors (as part of the trialing process) which meant the efforts of Aidan Thompson and Tom Fortnum on the ergo earned them a gold and bronze championship BUCS medal respectively. Aidan again, cementing his position at the very top end of university rowing whilst Tom, after winning a beginner gold medal at BUCS regatta in May 2021, is the first Surrey man to achieve a podium at both beginner and championship level.


For the first on water race of the season for the majority of athletes, two boats were sent to take on Teddington Head, a race approximately 5.2km in length and that takes place between the Hampton Court Golden Gates and Steven’s Ait. In the Op 4+ category, the crew consisted of Joseph Wright, Thomas Fortnum, Manuel Bradicic, Ianto Brewer and Shreeya Pahhiar (Cox). The boys put in a great effort to come out in 3rd place in the category, a great way to start off the season for the Surrey coxed four. Over on the women’s side, the boat in the W8+ category (pictured below) which included athletes Ellen Green, Elsie Overend and Bryony Hewitt who all won gold at the BUCS National Championships in the beginner category earlier this year, had a good race and also finished third in their category. Overall a successful first race of the season.


A week later on Saturday 19th November, four boats traveled to the tideway to race over the 6.8km Fours Head course. Firstly, with a bit of a shuffling of the order and now with two blades instead of one, the men’s crew that raced Teddington Head in a sweep boat were now ready to take on the tideway in a sculling boat in the Op Academic 4x- category. The boys managed to finish the course with a time of 19:44.2, finishing 7th and just 4.6 seconds behind the boat in 6th place. Another good race for the lads, showing their versatility being able to perform in both the sweep and sculling disciplines. As for the women, two coxed four boats were entered into the W4+ Academic category which made for some healthy competition! The boat consisting of Sacha Kennedy, Ellen Green, Elsie Overend and Amy Lavelle coxed by Ellie HD stormed down the course to finish 2nd and just 4.3 seconds behind the winners, a bittersweet result for the girls being so fast but also so close to the win. The other Surrey coxed four made up of Freya Spurling, Bryony Hewitt, Rachel Staite and Maddie Egan coxed by Ella Collins had a good run down the track and finished in 11th place. Last but by no means least, the Surrey women’s quad raced in the W Academic 4x- category. Ness Beal, Fran Rennie, Amy Hill and Lois Catling had a tight battle with Reading University, finishing just 1.3 seconds behind them by the end of the time trial. These results show the strength in depth that the Surrey women have this season, an exciting squad that surely will produce some amazing results in the summer! Overall definitely a weekend to celebrate, leaving the whole squad excited to get stuck into some more racing in the new year.

After closing off the month with Aurum Dinner, an event that celebrates the achievements of the club over the past year, USBC and all of its athletes now look on to continuing the winter graft throughout December and Christmas.