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Boat Race 2024: Cambridge University Boat Club women’s president Jenna Armstrong excited by potential of new-look crew

There is a contrast between the two Cambridge University Boat Club crews that will contest the Gemini Boat Races on Saturday (30 March).

The men’s boat will be top heavy with experience, with five of the athletes being returnees from 12 months ago when Cambridge swept aside their Oxford counterparts in every division.

Whereas the women’s boat will have just two members that know what it is like to tackle the top race.

CUBC Women’s president Jenna Armstrong. Picture: Keith Heppell
CUBC Women’s president Jenna Armstrong. Picture: Keith Heppell

However, the majority of those selected have been part of the club for a number of years and they also have a number of Blondie victories between them.

And president Jenna Armstrong – one of the two Blues in the boat alongside Carina Graf – believes that the group has gelled well over recent months.

She said: “Every year is really different. The 2022 season was very different because of how many Olympians and world champions were involved.

CUBC's Women's 2024 Boat Race crew. Picture: Paul Sanwell/OP Photographic
CUBC's Women's 2024 Boat Race crew. Picture: Paul Sanwell/OP Photographic

“Compared to last year, it feels pretty similar. We’re incredibly fit, maybe even fitter than the previous year.

“What makes this year’s group unique is we have quite a few athletes that have come up through the college programme, into Blondie and they are now making the step into the Blue boat. We had a lot looking to make that step.

“They’re excited, keen and really eager to learn. I’ve noticed that a lot from this group.

“It’s fun to lead a group of athletes that have been in the system for quite a long time. They already know each other, they’ve already gelled together and they speak a common language.

“We’ve been able to build on all of the work that has been done in recent years and we’re looking strong because of it.”

As well as being responsible for her own performance, in her role as president, Armstrong has also had to keep more than one eye on the progress of the rest of the squad.

Yet it is a role that the former skier has taken in her stride – thanks in part to the leaders within the group.

She added: “I’ve found it quite manageable.

“I spoke to a few prior presidents before I took on the role and so I knew what to expect.

“They gave me some good insight and it’s made it easier.

“I’ve been blessed with a great group. A lot of the leadership actually comes from them and that’s made the position a lot easier.

“As well as focusing on my own rowing, it’s about empowering the other athletes in the crew to help them be the best version of themselves.

“I’ve been a little more intentional about making sure other voices are heard in the boat and encouraging people to speak out.

“I try to speak less and less as the season goes on.

“There’s so much knowledge that can be shared among the whole squad.

“If we hit a dead end and nobody is speaking I’ll jump in, but otherwise I try to stay quiet and see what ideas other people come up with first.

“It’s been very much a case of one day at a time.

“It’s tough to not think about the outcome, but ultimately the outcome is based on what we do every day, every stroke and every outing.

“I’ve been trying really hard to be present in what we’ve been doing right now, knowing that the results will take care of themselves if we put in the work.”

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