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Larkin Sayre talks of pride in being part of Cambridge University Women's Boat Club




Cambridge University Women's Boat Club president Larkin Sayre. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge University Women's Boat Club president Larkin Sayre. Picture: Keith Heppell

One race may symbolise Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club, but it does not define them.

The Boat Race is the public-facing moment, as it were, however, far more lies beneath the surface and behind the doors of Goldie Boathouse.

When this year’s Boat Race was rightly cancelled on March 16 because of the coronavirus outbreak, it denied the oarsmen and women the opportunity to put in practice six months’ hard work.

As the severity of the situation had ramped up across the globe, it became apparent to the athletes that the prospects of competing against Oxford on March 29 were diminishing.

“There was no way this race could be run so it was absolutely right that it was cancelled,” said CUWBC president Larkin Sayre.

“Our executive committee and all the people involved worked so hard to try to do the best thing for the team, for the health of everyone involved and the public.

“In a strange way, it was actually really heartening to be part of that community and people who just really wanted us to race and were working really hard to try to make that happen, but at the end of the day it wasn’t the right thing.

“It dawned on us slowly by following the newsand seeing what was going on, understanding the magnitude of what was happening, that it slowly settled in that this was not possible.”

On the day of the race, the squad joined together virtually on Zoom, talking through each stage of the way and where they would be on the Championship Course at that exact time.

The rowers remain in contact in various parts of the country and around the world, and not having a race has helped put things in perspective for Sayre.

“It really makes it clear that what’s important about being a rower at CUWBC isn’t the actual race itself – it’s what brings us together and part of the reason we train together – but it’s not what you benefit from,” said the Emmanuel College student.

“The race itself is amazing and I did it last year, it was one of the best days of my life, but what I love about CUWBC is the people and the training we do together day in, day out.

“The race itself is 20 minutes, so if you’re so focused on just that one race then I think that’s not going about it quite the right way – it’s about the process.

“Even the night we were told as a group it was cancelled, we were there for each other and we spent the evening together as a squad, just us.

“I’m very proud of the squad. Throughout the year, even before we knew that the race would be cancelled, we always talked about the process and investing in the process, thinking about going on this journey together.

“If you focused solely on that one race or beating this one team, rather than focusing on being the best you can be, then you’re not quite achieving what you want to be achieving.”

Sayre earned her Blue last year in Cambridge’s victory over Oxford, and had raced for reserve crew Blondie in 2018, but this is her last year rowing.

“You can always wonder what the outcome of the race might have been, but there is no way this could have been different,” said the PhD student in material science.

“Being president and stroking the Blue boat was going to be the pinnacle of my rowing career and everything I had dreamed of, and I’m still so proud of that whether we raced or not.”

She added: “Next year, I need to devote my time to my PhD.”



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