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Jen Thum - Coxing At Univ

When I first arrived at Oxford, I had no experience at all with rowing. I didn’t even know that coxswains are responsible for steering the boat! Long story short, I wasn’t interested in trying out coxing because I thought I would be particularly good at it. Rather, I did it because I saw how close-knit and vibrant the rowing community is at Univ, and I wanted to make new friends with people outside my program and degree-level. What I lacked in height I made up for in motivational skills, and I thought it would be nice to encourage my friends to dominate on the river like the total champions they are.

I started out as a novice men’s cox during my first term, and just a few months later I was in the 1st boat with eight incredibly talented guys, some of whom had been rowing for years, learning more from them at every session. In my time with UCBC I coxed both the Men’s 1st VIII and Univ X, the men’s ‘beer boat’. The difference between these crews is a great example of the variety of determination and impulse you’ll find at UCBC, with the former practicing eight times per week and the latter generally visiting the boathouse only for races and barbecues.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that both of these experiences led me to impressive ends: with the 1st VIII I was coached by an Olympian, coxed on the Olympic course at Dorney Lake, and entered external regattas to contribute to the great pride of the College. But with Univ X, though we had five times as many pub nights and crew dates as gym sessions, I won blades in Summer Eights twice.

One of Univ's most successful coxes was Olympian Acer Nethercott. Acer first began coxing a women’s beer boat for laughs as a novice, then went on to cox for Oxford University against Cambridge three times, and finally won a silver medal in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing with the GB Men’s Eight. Acer was a great friend of UCBC, and often returned to College to show new rowers and coxes his medal (which he kept in a sock—typical of how light-heartedly UCBC acknowledges its successes).

He maintained, and I agree, that the best feeling a cox can have is rowing past Univ Boathouse on the Saturday of Summer Eights to the cheers of 20,000 screaming spectators. That is when you feel like an absolute champion, and a credit to your college. Current Univ rowers and coxes have the unique ability to trial for two 1st VIIIs in Division I, while also having the choice to participate more casually in the rowing scene. The bottom line is that no matter what kind of coxing you do with UCBC, you’ll have the chance to feel a strong sense of accomplishment and sportsmanship. The boat only works when everyone contributes to do their best, and because of this crews tend to build lifelong friendships. Your teammates are like your family. There will also be times when your other Univ friends will want to take a boat out for a spin in good weather, and it’s always nice to help them fill the driver’s seat.

UCBC is a novelty in that it draws participation from postgraduates as well as undergraduates, and is particularly active in comparison with other colleges’ clubs. Our Boat Club always needs inspiring, peppy, and ambitious students to motivate crews and navigate them to victory: so if you want to have a great social life and a lot of fun, and you’re looking to build your own confidence and the confidence of others, give coxing a try. Univ is by far the best place to do it, and you might even find yourself in a Blue Boat or Olympic seat in subsequent years!

Jen Thum Former Men's 1st VIII Cox, Captain of Coxes 2011-2012

Posted on May 09, 2012

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