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Bristol Boat Club 2017/18: a season for the women to remember

Over the first three years of the University of Bristol Boat club’s development plan, the club has made its mark in an ever-growing industry of competitive UK university rowing centres.

By Charlotte Greenwood, Masters Student, Contemporary Identities

Over the first three years of the University of Bristol Boat club’s development plan, the club has made its mark in an ever-growing industry of competitive UK university rowing centres. The aim to place Bristol as a high-performance rowing centre, a university that attracts not just for its well-earned academic reputation but its equal opportunity for sporting success, has been a drive for the boat club over the past 3 years. With the introduction of full-time coach Cameron Kennedy and assistant coach Edward Bloomfield back in 2015, the club has made a rapid progression towards achieving this status, challenging other high performance centres in the process with multiple successes at head races and regattas.

In 2015, the two new coaches quickly took on the challenge of taking the club in a high-performance direction. Cam, who had previously coached the women’s squad at Durham University, was shortly joined by Ed who had been coaching at Abingdon Boys School in Oxfordshire. Despite Ed’s position as assistant coach, he quickly took on a role as Bristol women’s coach in 2015 and began his journey of multiple success. Ed rowed as a junior at St Edwards School in Oxfordshire and later for Royal Chester Rowing Club whilst studying at university before taking a coaching position in Abingdon. His experience as an athlete, student and now coach have proved to be invaluable in his remarkable achievements since his introduction.

Spending the entirety of his contract at the boathouse, supporting athletes at weight sessions at Combe dingle and travelling the country to assist crews before and after racing, Ed definitely works beyond his job description. Taking on the monumental task of establishing a stronger and larger women’s squad, Ed coached the women to being the only university rowing team to have three crews enter the academic eights category at the prestigious Henley Women’s Regatta in 2017, and the only university to have two crews to qualify for this same event. As in 2018, a year later, the top women’s eight reached the semi-finals at Henley Women’s as well as reaching the quarter finals in the women’s four. These achievements at prestigious events have not gone unnoticed, and other rowing universities have commented on Bristol’s rapid successes. Yet, despite this success with the women’s programme, Ed’s quiet modesty has left his hard-fought triumphs under wraps.

Supporting Cam’s leadership throughout the past three years, Ed also mentored athlete Alice Davies, a novice rower when she joined Bristol in 2015, to this year taking a seat within the U23 Women’s GB eight; an achievement for UBBC’s women’s squad that has never been done before.

It is therefore no large claim to assert that Ed is undoubtedly one of the best British university rowing coaches over recent years. His careful execution of a tailored rowing programme has done wonders for Bristol’s now larger women’s squad, and is an undoubted testament to Ed’s efforts and meticulous coaching style. Perhaps the most impressive achievement of his university coaching debut was his top women’s eight placing 4th at the BUCS Regatta in Nottingham in the Championship 8+ category in May this year. Whilst a 4th position may sound underwhelming, within this final heat Bristol beat Durham, a high-performance rowing centre that receives funding for its programme. Bristol were placed within this competitive mix, taking a position behind three other high performance rowing centres in the process.

Bristol's success has not been limited to the home water, with Ed’s coaching guiding his women’s eight to take gold at the European University Rowing Championships in Portugal this summer - pipping the University of London at the finish line and taking a win over international crews from Germany, Norway and Croatia.

Following these remarkable few years with Bristol, Ed continues to lead the women’s squad to achieving what once seemed unachievable. Taking his squad to international success, providing a strong challenge to other high performance rowing universities and training an athlete to a national level, Ed remains humble and is vital to ambitions for Bristol to achieve a well-deserved high performance status.

Featured image: UBBC / Alice Lovett

It's definitely an exciting time for UBBC - let us know your thoughts on their chances for this 18/19 season!

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