Getting Involved

Want to start rowing?

If you are interested in getting involved in Churchill College Boat Club, please let us know! You can contact the Men’s or Women’s Captains via their email addresses on the Committee page.

Whether you would like to row, cox or coach, and whether you are an experienced rower or a total novice, CCBC has a crew at your level of ability and interest for you to be a part of.

Who is eligible?

The Churchill College Boat Club is open to all members of Churchill College – undergraduate students, postgraduate students, and fellows.

How is the Club organised?

Although the Club President and Senior Treasurer are College fellows, the day-to-day running of the Boat Club is managed by a committee of students. There are men’s and women’s crews in the Churchill College Boat Club, and so there are corresponding men’s and women’s captains (1st boat), vice-captains (2nd boat) and lower boats captains, as well as an overall captain. The club has built up links with a wide range of coaches who kindly give up their time for us throughout the year.

Why would I want to row?

  • It’s a great way to get fit
  • The racing is thrilling
  • It’s a fun, safe sport
  • Rowing in the Bumps on the Cam is a fantastic Cambridge tradition
  • You get the chance to compete in major international events like the Head of the River Race and the Henley Royal Regatta
  • So many people in Cambridge are involved in rowing that it has a bustling social scene all of its own – it’s a great way to make friends
  • And I forgot to mention, rowing is highly addictive

What types of races do Churchill crews compete in?

Head races

These are time trials against the clock. The premier race of Michaelmas term for both seniors and novices is a head race called the Fairbairn Cup. Churchill crews also compete in the Head of the River Race on the Tideway in London. This is the premier head race in Europe.


These are side-by-side races which involve between two and six crews. The Clare Novices Regatta and the Emma Sprints are two prominent College regattas on the Cam. Churchill crews also compete in regattas outside Cambridge, including the Henley Royal Regatta, the world’s premier rowing contest.

Bumps races

The Bumps races are the highlight of the Cambridge rowing calendar. In these thrilling races, seventeen boats per division start in a long line a length and a half apart, and the aim is to try to “bump” into the boat in front before being hit by the pursuing crew.

Other races

All the above races are for eights. There are also head races and regattas for fours, pairs, single sculls and double sculls throughout the year.

I’ve never rowed before but I would like to give it a try. How can I get involved?

If you have never rowed before, the best way to get involved is to sign up to join a novice crew in Michaelmas term. In fact, most Cambridge senior rowers, and the vast majority of senior rowers at Churchill, learned to row as novices in Cambridge.

There are usually between three and four novice crews for men and for women. The number of crews depends on the number of people interested, so everyone can get involved. Early in the term, you will be taught the basics of rowing so that you get a good feel for the correct technique and rhythm required. Halfway through the term, you will get your first chance to test your skills in your first race, the Cam Winter Head.

Later in the term is your first side-by-side race, the Clare Novice Regatta, and the highlight of the term is the prestigious Fairbairn Cup race. You will also be introduced to the social side of rowing, through formal swaps, crew meals, and the Boat Club Dinner at the end of term.

Novice crews are a major focus of CCBC’s Michaelmas rowing program, and a great deal of effort goes into teaching novices how to row well and how to enjoy the sport. After all, we want people to enjoy rowing so they will carry on as seniors!

What can CCBC offer the more experienced rower?

The top crews in the Churchill College Boat Club take their rowing seriously, so if you’re into rowing, you will be able to find similarly competitive people to train and race with. CCBC gives experienced rowers the opportunity to compete against other top College crews in the Bumps and in all the College races throughout the year on the Cam, as well as in major events around England including Henley and the Head of the River Race. Best of all, it’s all included in your College fees!

You can use Churchill’s ergometers and weights free of charge for land training. The College even has a range of small boats available for students’ use, including a single scull and two doubles/pairs. The very best rowers have the opportunity to trial for the University’s varsity crews – CUBC, CUWBC and CULRC.

I want to row, but mainly for fun.

If you can’t commit the time necessary to be in a top crew, or if you haven’t rowed before and didn’t join a novice crew in Michaelmas term, you can still be involved by rowing in one of the lower boats. These crews take rowing a little less seriously, and have fewer outings and fewer land training sessions.

However, you’re still out on the water enough to keep fit, row well and enjoy yourself, and you still get the thrill of competing in all the races on the Cam throughout the year. So if you’re keen to row just for fun, rowing in one of the lower boats is ideal… although I defy anyone to row “just for fun” when the gun goes off to start a Bumps race!

How are crews selected?

The trials for the higher boats are usually quite competitive. Crews are selected each term by coaches and senior club members. Crews are selected on the basis of technique, fitness and coachability. Potential crew members are evaluated on their performance during outings and on their times for 2000 metres on the ergometer. In rowing, good technique and rhythm are as important as brute strength.

How much time will rowing take up?

Rowing is a physically and technically demanding sport, and it is necessary to train frequently to stay sharp and fit. Novice crews typically have two or three outings per week. Each outing lasts around two hours, and novice outings are usually held in the mornings before lectures. Senior crews in Michaelmas term typically have three or four outings per week.

Rowing in Lent term becomes more intensive and competitive as crews prepare for the Lent bumps. Senior crews in Lent term typically have four or five outings and one or two circuit training sessions per week. For lower crews, it’s up to crew members to decide how much time they want to commit, but two or three outings and perhaps one circuit training session per week would be typical. Outings may be held in the morning or in the middle of the day… it’s up to the crew members to agree on the best time.

May term is the highlight of the rowing year, and senior crews typically have five or six outings and two circuit training sessions per week. For lower crews, again it’s up to crew members to decide how much time they want to commit, but three outings and one circuit training session per week would be typical. Senior crews row in the early evening, and lower boats row in the morning or afternoon.

Aside from water and land training, there are usually between two and four races each term (usually at the weekend), and at the end of Lent and May terms, the four-day Bumps races from Tuesday to Saturday.

Rowing only takes place in term time, so basically the rowing year is made up of three intensive eight-week periods. Crews training for major events outside of Cambridge (for example the Head of the River Race or Henley) train for a few weeks extra after Lent and May terms, as these events are in the Cambridge vacations. CCBC holds a week training camp (that also serves as a selection camp for the May term senior crews) in Molesey, London, at Easter time.

Any more questions?

If you have any more questions at all, then get in touch with one of the Boat Club Captains on the Committee page.