John's were dominant in last month's bumps, remaining top of the M1 division Hannah Mawardi for Varsity

St John’s College spends almost 90 times more on their boat club than less wealthy colleges, Varsity can reveal.

An investigation into Cambridge’s rowing scene, carried out using Freedom of Information requests, uncovered that St John's Lady Margaret Boat Club received £172,412 of funding from the college in the last year — £86,066 of which was directly from the college’s general funds.

This sum dwarfs the spending of some of its competition, such as Lucy Cavendish College who gave just £1,951 to their college boat club — roughly 88 times less than their wealthier counterpart. Another low spender was Newnham College, who only put £9,000 a year towards their boat club.

This spending was followed by King’s College, who pay £20,080 towards the running costs for their boathouse, but this sum only makes up 25% of the overall expenditure of the club. Gonville and Caius were the second highest spenders, shelling out £32,768 annually excluding staff costs and a further £28,453 in gifts allocated to the boathouse. 

All of these sums are dwarfed by Johns’ expenditure, who spent over £110,000 more annually than their closest competitor.

Speaking on this divide, Chris Launchbury, President of Lucy Cavendish College Boat Club, told Varsity that “not having our own boathouse” is “definitely limiting our ability to expand as a club”.

In particular, he stressed how “just having three boats, two of which are approaching 20 years old, doesn’t seem right”. Last year Caius spent £20,000 on a new boat, around 10 times Lucy Cavendish’s total funding.

Launchbury also expressed his concerns about “displays of wealth” and the issue of “microaggressions”, noting the sport’s “elitism” problems.

He explained that “it’s more on how the rowers feel valued,” and how seemingly small differences can affect students who are “predisposed to feeling like they don’t necessarily belong in Cambridge”.

Varsity found that the Lady Margaret Boat Club awarded each of their captains silver dishes, amounting to £335.80, and Gonville and Caius set aside £330 in their budget for rowing uniforms. Both of these expenses would make up around 20% of Lucy Cavendish’s budget.

Conversely, “less than a third” of Lucy Cavendish boat club members said they felt “membership and kit costs were affordable,” according to a survey done by the club.


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St John’s spends £19,073 annually on professional rowing coaches, yet the Lucy Cavendish Boat Club President stressed the importance of “individual hard work” when it comes to success on the Cam.

For Launchbury, the main disadvantage of less funding lies in the added “stress” and “responsibility” to students running the club, who may not be getting an equal “Cambridge experience”.

In last month’s Lent Bumps, the Lucy Cavendish M1 team achieved blades, bumping in all their races. However, they remain in the third division, as opposed to Lady Margaret’s M1, who also attained blades, remaining at the top of the first division.

A spokeswoman for St John’s said: “St John’s College supplied detailed figures as part of a comprehensive response to a Freedom of Information request. The figures supplied are being compared to partial or no responses from other institutions and therefore do not represent an accurate representation of the actual spend on rowing in Cambridge.”

Gonville and Caius College, and Lucy Cavendish College have been contacted for comment