Oxford University lightweight men head for the Tideway
This Saturday sees the 45th running of the lightweight men’s boat race between Oxford University Lightweight Rowing Club (OULRC) and their counterparts, CULRC. The first Lightweight Boat Race took place in 1975 on the Thames at Henley but this year the race is moving to the Championship Course on the Tideway, home of their heavyweight Boat Race.
We caught up with OULRC president Sooraj Mahesh who has been reading medicine at St Peter’s College and just recently qualified as a doctor. Born and raised in India and the UK, Mahesh is returning for his 4th Boat Race and has competed at both EUSA and BUCS for the university.
By comparison to Cambridge University Oxford has historically kept a very low profile on social media. We started by asking Sooraj Mahesh if this was a deliberate policy. “Historically the Oxford University boat clubs have operated independently of each other. We’ve seen Cambridge successfully unifying their programs and this is something we started to see happening at Oxford too. The Topolski fund has also helped to create a more cohesive connection between the four clubs at Oxford.”
Sooraj Mahesh, President of the Oxford University Lightweight Rowing Club in the 2 seat
Named in honour of Daniel Topolski, who dedicated much of his life to Oxford rowing, the Topolski Fund is a permanent endowment fund that aims to provide the four Oxford University clubs with a foundation level of funding in the absence of sponsorship. Managed by the Oxford University Endowment Management, the fund protects the amateur status of the races and ensures that Oxford students of any background can enjoy the unique experience of rowing for the university without significant financial burden.
“We have professionalised our lightweight rowing programme for this season. The transformation from a 2K race to rowing the full 6.8k on the Tideway has been a big step up for all of us. This has meant working closely with the OUBC physiologist Filipe Salbany and a big step up in the amount of UT2 work. The regular 5k pieces have not been too popular!”
The Oxford University Lightweight Rowing Club crew 2019 at Fulham Reach Boat Club for the Boat Race Challenge
This year’s crew includes one fresher, Nick Ryan, who is also the first millennial to compete in the race. Ryan won the OJ18 1x at the British Rowing Junior Championships last year sculling for Queen Elizabeth High School, Hexham. Stroke Doug Chesterton reached the semi-finals of the Princess Elizabeth Challenge Cup at Henley with Hampton and is a GB v France match winner.
Perhaps the most impressive athlete in the boat is Iain McGurgan, returning to the boat for a second year. Not only is he a practising doctor but he’s also studying for a DPhil in neuroscience at St Hilda’s College. McGurgan, who started rowing at Dublin University Boat Club in 2015, has managed to successfully combine working, studying and training whilst keeping his weight down under 70kgs. Full crew bios can be found here.
“We are excited to be rowing on the tideway on Saturday,” says Sooraj. We’re not looking to step on anyone’s toes or take anything away from the Boat Race, after all, it’s a completely separate event, pitched to a different audience and different rowers. However the move to the Tideway has enabled us to really move forward and step up in every area”
There are a series of friendly matches starting at 12:45 with the main event, the Lightweight Men’s Boat Race starting at 2.20pm on Saturday, March 23. You can follow the action on the Livestream here.