By Lexi-Bothamley-Dakin, Second Year History
Over February, the University of Bristol Boat Club has been running, rowing, and cycling to the international space station 40 times to raise money for an adaptive single scull. To contextualise, in order to complete the staggering distance of 16,000km each of the club’s members would have had to take on 300km if it was spread equally. Which is no mean feat.
In addition to raising money for the scull, the challenge was chosen to prove that, even though we cannot travel far at the moment, collectively and with some imagination we can reach outer space. Although the third lockdown has certainly dampened the appetite for university sport, it cannot put an end to our achievements. Many of us have found it hard to motivate ourselves and reasons to continue training because of the incessant lockdowns. However, the University of Bristol Boat Club has strived to keep calm and carry on as normal and many of its members continuing to take on the task of full training despite the pandemic.
Of course, the main motivation is raising money for the adaptive single scull for the club. Rowing has often been criticised as an elitist sport, with only those with access and good financial standing able to participate. However, UBBC is hoping to change this assumption by making the club more accessible.
This year the club was joined by Xander Van der Poll who is currently studying medicine at the University. Van der Poll, an aspiring GB para-rower, is aiming to compete at the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles. Van der Poll himself has stated that, ‘Rowing allows me to feel an inexplicable freedom, developing UBBC as a centre for para-rowing will not only be an asset to the club but will grow a sport that can change lives.’ Inspired by Xander’s story, UBBC hope to facilitate a place for para-rowing within the University as well as the wider community.
This reasoning was reflected by Club Captain Hugo Clark who stated, “This fundraiser will allow people to join our club and enter the sport who simply wouldn’t have been able to do so otherwise.” Though the club has raised money in the past to make small improvements to the experience of current rowers, it is important to understand that that this is even more exciting for the club. Clark nicely summed the feeling up stating that ‘the key to understanding this fundraiser is that for we are providing the opportunity for people to kickstart their rowing experience.”
Raising money to fund the adaptive single scull for the club will allow more access to other students with disabilities, as well as forging a wider place for adaptive rowing within the South West. With strong connections to other clubs such as Bath, Monkton and Avon, this could certainly be a great project for the future and allow more access to disability sports within the area. These boats differ having a fixed seat and stabilising pontoons, therefore a completely separate boat needs to be funded.
At the time of writing, the club had raised a total of £950, as well as having completed a distance of over 4,000km. There have already been some impressive achievements by members as part of the challenge. For example, Orlando Kitto-Lloyd completed a marathon on the rowing machine in a time of just two hours and 48 minutes.
The sheer distance of the project is incredibly tough for members right now as we are all scattered over the country. However, it is allowing the group to join together and find some cohesion despite the continuation of lockdowns. The link to donate is included below, and you can follow the club on their adventure to outer space on their Instagram @uobboatclub. While donations can be made to their JustGiving page.
Featured image: UBBC