Jodie Cameron (MA 2021), the Eden Boat Club Membership & Communications Director, UStABC President 2019-20 and UStABC Women’s Captain 2020-21, recently raced in the Lightweight Women’s Boat Race for Cambridge University Boat Club, winning decisively and becoming the first Saint to become an Boat Race winner. She sat down with EBC Chairperson Matt Taylor in order to discuss her experience. Jodie is looking forward to attending the inaugural Saints Coastal Regatta in St Andrews’ East Sands on the 15th May, following her major successes as a coastal rower for the GBRT last summer.
What would you say are the main differences between rowing at St Andrews and rowing at Cambridge?
Size - is the most obvious one! CUBC is a relatively new amalgamation of 4 former clubs (separate male/female open/lightweight entities), this coupled with the historic culture of rowing within Cambridge means the relative size of St Andrews to Cambridge is a strong contrast.
Coaches & facilities - as a consequence of the larger size of CUBC, the number of coaches and the calibre of the facilities offered to athletes is far higher. However, as a direct effect of this rowing feels very separate to the other university sports because we have our own training facilities. his is very different to St Andrews, with the success and team feel of the ‘Saints’ brand.
The committee organisation - completely different to St Andrews is the committee structure of CUBC, which is nearly entirely made up of alumni who take strategic oversight of the club, in a more operational way that Saints’ Stewards do. Each squad has a President (similar to a captain) which does a lot of similar, logistical, motivational coordination but the entire club development/financial function of UStABC is done completely by a relatively distant board of past members.
What are the similarities between CUBC and UStABC?
Personality/mindset - to be honest, I’d imagine this is similar between most rowing clubs, particularly at university level. There is a major emphasis on teamwork in both clubs and there is genuine enjoyment in spending so much time with your friends for so many hours each day.
Training volume - both programmes have very similar programme design, with early starts and 5-6 training days each week.
Pride in the club and its vision - despite their different contexts, facilities and focuses, St Andrews and Cambridge both have a massive sense of pride in leaving your legacy in the club and supporting everyone else in reaching their goals as well, this is a really lovely atmosphere to be a part of.
What did you do to prepare for race day?
Cambridge has always had a big importance placed on visualisation; the method that involves the crew ‘rehearsing’ the entire race on land, preparing for a range of different circumstances (e.g. weather or blade clashes) and outcomes so that the crew can anticipate each other’s reactions and responses. These started a few weeks before the Boat Race and involved the coxes talking through the course and race plan (first devised in November) with the rest of the crew (including spares) listening, thinking about their response and, then, providing feedback. These take place weekly until the week before when they become a daily occurrence.
We also had a meeting with a sports psychologist which was really useful. For example, one thing we discussed was preparing for blade clashes and how to handle them - despite physical preparation for this with the open weight crews, it was really useful to think of the psychological impact of this and preemptively thinking about how to handle it before the actual race.
For the week preceding the race, your headspace begins to become wholly dedicated to race preparation and we move to London, where we live with a pool of alumni, supporters and parents who have offered to host CUBC crews. We boat out of Thames RC which is very much our Tideway base and allows us to feel a large degree of comfort and consistency on what is ultimately foreign water.
During these outings, we did low mileage but a lot of practice starts, including meetings with the race umpires. All of these elements, coupled with pre-Boat Race fixtures with the likes of Oxford Brookes and Imperial College London, made me personally feel highly prepared for the day, and I was nearly just looking forward to getting it done!
What were you thinking during the race?
Initially, I was very preoccupied focusing on the start as we, as a crew, had a poor history of starts in the fixtures - I knew we had to have a massive start, and if we did, we stood a good chance. I was also thinking about the Cox Box! During the lead up to the race, we had technical issues with our Cox Box and were struggling to hear commands from our cox, Amy, during some pieces and fixtures. However, we were able to prepare for this through visualisations and knowing the race plan ourselves. I also had a Speedcoach so I was able to give commands in the bows if needed.
To be honest, most of the rest of the race was a blur and by Chiswick Eyot, I was mostly focused on simply staying in time and just getting my blade in! By Barnes Bridge, I knew we were on the ‘home straight’ and I knew that I could get there. For the entire season, our squad had really good vibes, there was always a lot of vocals in the boat, whether it was encouragement or technical advice, and the race was no different which I really liked.
After the race, what normally happens?
We celebrated as a crew, hugging each other, just completely on a high and then waiting for the Lightweight Men’s Boat Race to come down. The open weights lifted our boat out and took care of our equipment for us. I cried! I was so relieved and emotional, I had given everything to it.
After the open weight Boat Race, there was a large dinner in central London; this was really special and much anticipated because it was the first Boat Race since CUBC has been one club and the first on the Tideway since 2019. On top of this, many of our crews had garnered reputations as being the best that Cambridge had ever fielding, including a swathe of Tokyo Olympians who appeared in the line ups. We were joined by the 2020 crews which had been selected but didn’t get to race, the 2021 crews which raced at Ely as well as dozens of alumni, including past crews from the 1970s.