A triumphant but sodden Ollie in the ThamesBenedict Tufnell/Row360

Three weeks on from this year’s historic Boat Race clean sweep, Varsity caught up with CUBC’s Ollie Boyne, who shared his reflections about his time as the men’s openweight president.

While many of us watched Cambridge triumph on the Thames last month, only a few of us are aware of the amount of time and hard work that went into delivering this exceptional performance. Months of intense preparation which included a series of competitions and a training camp abroad, was all geared towards the most important event of the year. As Ollie affirmed: “the ultimate focus of the CUBC is to beat Oxford in the Boat Race. That is the bottom line.”

Speaking about the Boat Race Ollie said: “there is nothing quite like it. Seeing the amount of people there, the BBC cameras, knowing millions are watching, it was very special”. Despite the hype, all crews had their game faces on, and he was quick to point out that: “as soon as we were on the water it didn’t matter if there were ten people on the bank or a quarter of a million. It’s the same race, it’s the same job regardless”. Going into the Goldie race, Boyne knew it would be a tough encounter but felt confident in his crew and his ability to “control the controllables”. It proved to be a tight affair and after the success of the lightweights, the women’s Blue boat and Blondie, there was mounting pressure to keep the winning streak going. Fortunately, Goldie prevailed by a length.

Surprisingly, Ollie’s journey into the sport began at Cambridge. Matriculating in 2016, it was during Freshers’ Week that he tried rowing for the first time and he admits he “got hooked”. Ollie told me: “I came to Cambridge knowing nothing about rowing and I wasn’t a hundred percent sure what the Boat Race even was.” For three years Ollie coxed in his college and in 2019 he had the opportunity to receive coaching through CUBC’s development squad summer training programme. The Covid pandemic nearly brought his coxing career to an end. However, in 2020 Ollie began his PhD in Engineering and in the 2021 Boat Race held in Ely, he coxed Goldie, a position he has retained ever since. This certainly serves as inspiration for anyone who has taken up rowing or coxing for the first time.


Mountain View

Cambridge men complete clean sweep

This season Ollie has also served as President, acting as the student leader of the squad and the main link between the athletes and coaches. Yet, the role was more than that; it was about establishing what the culture became for the year, how things were approached, and setbacks dealt with. Although, he had to “lead slightly differently” because of his unique situation being the cox in Goldie. Playing to his strengths, he made sure his focus was on the organizational side of things and “getting the details right”. His goal was to “get people into the right places, making sure everyone knew what they were doing and that no one felt like the small details limited what they could do.” This focus on marginal gains definitely paid dividends.

Undoubtably, the unification of the club has “brought the standard on” and allowed for greater squad development, but Boyne firmly believes the secret to CUBC’s success is its culture. “You’ve got to row well, but ultimately when it’s tough in the middle of the race and you’re not sure if you can win, when you know the guys in the boat incredibly well, you trust them – that is what makes the difference.” From his experience at CUBC, what Ollie enjoyed most was being part of a “group of ridiculously motivated and talented people” all working towards a common goal. When it all came together, it was “just so special”. His biggest takeaway from his time as President was learning not to panic and “to be ok with not everything working”. It has been a long season, with so many moving parts and Ollie concluded that: “whilst a lot has to go right for you to win, a lot can go wrong. That is the nature of the challenge.”