Hughes Hall and Lucy Cavendish have rowed together since 2002Hannah Spry

Hughes Hall and Lucy Cavendish have announced their decision to form separate boat clubs, ending a 15-year alliance.

Hughes Hall and Lucy Cavendish College Boat Club (HHLCCBC), which was formed in 2002 following several years in which the two graduate colleges repeatedly lacked the depth to produce competitive women’s crews on their own, will be dissolved with immediate effect, with women’s crews from both colleges to compete independently in future.

The two clubs trained separately over the summer, ahead of the formal split. The two colleges released a joint statement: “With the recent increase in student body size, both Hughes and Lucy now have adequate numbers to run their own clubs.”

When HHLCCBC was formed, both Hughes Hall and Lucy Cavendish were struggling in Bumps, with Hughes Hall’s first boat languishing at the bottom end of the W3 division of the May Bumps, and Lucy Cavendish only competing in the less prestigious Lent Races, where they finished third from last in 2000, after sinking eight places in four days of racing.

Since the merger however, fortunes have been completely reversed. Four sets of blades from five May Bumps between 2005 and 2009 saw HHLCCBC race up the charts, and they currently sit in 8th place in the second division. The club’s position is even more favourable in the Lents, where Bumps on Peterhouse and Queens’ in 2017 took the club to 15th on the river, an all time high for any boat from either college.

Lucy Cavendish will inherit these positions in Lents and Mays, as well as taking over the combined club’s W3 position, which will become Lucy Cavendish W2. For Hughes Hall, this means that they will drop more than a full division in both sets of Bumps races to take up the position of the combined club’s second boat.

Cooperation between the clubs will continue, as the two clubs currently share space in the boathouse of Emmanuel College; however, a benefaction to Lucy Cavendish has allowed the college to build its own gym, meaning that the college’s rowers are no longer dependent on sharing facilities with Hughes Hall. Meanwhile, Hughes Hall Boat Club told Varsity that they are “actively seeking to acquire a new women’s boat”, as two of the combined club’s three women’s boats are owned by Lucy Cavendish College.

In recent years, the two colleges have been a constant presence in the University crews, with at least one rower from Hughes Hall or Lucy Cavendish representing the Light Blues in each of the last four Women’s Boat Races. Last year’s crew, which dominated Oxford to win by eleven lengths, featured two rowers from Lucy Cavendish - newcomer Melissa Wilson, and Myriam Goudet, a veteran of the famous 2016 race where Cambridge very nearly sank.

Commenting on the split, Lucy Cavendish Boat Club President April Bowman said: “Whilst the women’s team has grown under the joint Boat Club, commanding some impressive places in the Bumps and beyond, Lucy is very excited to stand on her own and looks forward to seeing the Hughes ladies on the river.”

Nazhif Zaini, president of Hughes Hall Boat Club, similarly said: “Having built a formidable rowing programme from amongst friends and as a joint boat club, the Hughes Hall women rowers will now on their own no doubt keep that rigour and determination alive. I wish Lucy Cavendish Boat Club well on the river.”

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