Wednesday, 19 November 2014
Less than ten months ago, the University of Worcester’s Rowing Club was facing up to the biggest challenge in its history.
February 2014 saw the River Severn in Worcester rise to its highest levels since Environment Agency records began, and, although the city’s flood defences prevented widespread damage, the Club’s riverside base was affected.
However, potential disaster turned to triumph when, with the help of a social media campaign, clubs from around the world came forward to help, ensuring that the Club not only recovered, it managed to turn 2013/14 into its most successful ever season, and has started the new season in a similar vein.
Club President, Charlotte Wilkes, explains: “In February, the river levels rose to the highest they had been in the Club’s history, and to complicate matters further, a protected tree right next to our boathouse fell and damaged even more of our fleet.
“When we were able to assess the damage, we found that only three of our 15 boats had been unaffected by the floods.”
The University community banded together to help, with the Club’s members creating a social media campaign to reach out to the worldwide rowing community, and had offers of help from close to home and further afield.
“We had a massive amount of help from clubs across the country and all over the world – clubs from the USA and Germany helped us out when they heard about the campaign,” explains third year student Charlotte.
“We were offered kit, equipment and training facilities – Birmingham University was good enough to let us train on their lake, for example.
“What was really great to see was how everyone came together as a Club – there was a real sense of teamwork and everyone supported the fundraising efforts in any way they could.”
Around £2,000 was raised, which helped cover costs involved with training elsewhere, as well as supporting the purchase of new boats, resulting in a ‘smaller but better fleet’ than they had prior to the floods, Charlotte says.
Just a month after the flood waters had peaked, Club crews were winning races and setting course records at regattas across the region, and the performance at the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) Championships at the National Watersports Centre in May was among the strongest in the Club’s ten-year history.
This year saw the highest ever number of first year students join the Rowing Club, and the excellent performances have continued – the men’s squad set two new course records at their latest meet, at Stourport last weekend.
Charlotte, who, like many of her clubmates, had never rowed before coming to university, adds: “I’d almost go as far as to say that, in our case, the floods were a blessing in disguise.
“Everyone pulled together, both the rowing community and those within the Club, and now we are back to being able to race competitively and perform well.
“We’d like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who helped us out, particularly Kanghua and Oarsport, who really did help us get back on our feet.”