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Bronya Sykes wants to give back to Cambridge University Boat Club after being elected women’s president

Bronya Sykes, the new CUBC women's president. Picture: Keith Heppell
Bronya Sykes, the new CUBC women's president. Picture: Keith Heppell

Bronya Sykes is relishing the opportunity of giving something back to Cambridge University Boat Club after being elected the women’s president.

The 21-year-old Gonville & Caius student has been chosen by her peers to lead the Light Blues openweight women for the 2021/22 campaign, with Charlie Marcus taking on the role on the men’s side of the club.

Sykes will be going into her third year at Cambridge, and was selected for the Blue boat for the cancelled 2020 Boat Race to face Oxford and was then part of the victorious crew on the River Great Ouse in Ely this April.

“It’s been amazing for the rest of the squad to put their faith in me that I will lead them through the next year and will be the best ambassador and representative of them – it’s lovely to feel that I’ve got that support,” she said. “I’m really excited as well because rowing is such a huge part of my life and to be able to give something back is really exciting, so I’m really looking forward to it.”

Sykes took up rowing aged 11 at Trafford Boat Club, and when arriving at Cambridge, having not raced much in the previous three years, was just intending to find out where she stood within the squad and had been expecting to be cut early.

But she went through the whole process before the pandemic led to there being no Boat Race in 2020.

“The last two years I’ve been at Cambridge, it’s been the best couple of years that I’ve had,” said Sykes.

“From a performance side, I’ve really improved but then also being part of the squad I’ve made some of my closest friends and I just love the atmosphere there.

“I thought about it a little bit – it was a case of I thought I had something to bring to the club and I’m really passionate about the club and I’m really invested in that.

“I want other people to be able to have the same experience I did and enjoy it the way that I did. It was all part of the reason I decided to run.”

The Boat Race may be the priority and the point of the year when the eyes of the country fall on the Cambridge and Oxford rowers, but there is much more that happens away from the public gaze.

“You watch on TV the Boat Race crew, and in a normal year we will have the reserve race and we will have around the same time the spares’ race but, beyond that, we also do other things throughout the year,” explained Sykes.

“We did BUCS (British Universities & Colleges Sport Championships) this year, and the women won the Victor Ludorum which was amazing, and we do Henley Women’s Regatta and Henley Royal Regatta.

“We’ve got all these other things as well, and people have their own ambitions. Whilst overall the whole team and squad is focused on the Boat Race, there is so much more to it than just the Boat Race.

“It really is this lovely supportive atmosphere, and it’s no longer just CUWBC, it’s one club so as president you are talking to the men’s side to see how best we can work together and with all the lightweights and everyone.

“It’s really nice to be able to help see people achieve their own individual goals within the Boat Race campaign.”

Of course, the role will combine balancing academics, trialling and the position of president, but Sykes, who is studying natural sciences, has already sought the advice of some predecessors.

“Talking to some of the previous presidents, there is obviously a lot of work involved, but I’ve had a couple of years to get used to juggling academics and rowing,” she said.

“It is extra work, but I think it is something I can manage, but you spend so much time thinking about rowing anyhow that you might as well put that extra time to good use to give something back to the club.”

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