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Three becomes one to form Reef Boericke’s Boat Race ambitions with Cambridge University

Reef Boericke is trialling with Cambridge University Boat Club. Picture: Keith Heppell
Reef Boericke is trialling with Cambridge University Boat Club. Picture: Keith Heppell

Reef Boericke is making up for lost time at Cambridge University Boat Club.

The 21-year-old Gonville & Caius engineering student was a member of the victorious reserve Goldie crew in the last academic year, and that was after taking up the sport late despite attending one of the traditional school breeding grounds for rowers.

Boericke was a pupil at St Paul’s but shunned an oar in favour of trying to combine three disciplines into one.

“My parents did triathlon and I started when I was really young, about eight,” said Boericke, who was born in Philadelphia before the family moved to the UK when he was three.

“I grew up with my parents dabbling in it and then I started doing it. I had some natural talent so I kept doing it. But I haven’t since I came to Cambridge, I couldn’t really keep up both.”

After four years of people telling him to take up rowing, Boericke finally relented and went down a route that his father had taken at Cornell University.

“I was tall, and fit, and at Cambridge everyone tries it,” he says.

“I was fit and so that was helpful – it helped people pick me out and say we will try to make him good, but it was definitely difficult to adjust so late to try to learn the technical stuff.”

His initial introduction, as with so many freshers, came during the Michaelmas Term with his college boat club, Caius.

It was mainly focused on the erg machine, but he progressed to row in both the Lent and May Bumps in 2019.

Having made the adjustment, Boericke then decided to attend the CUBC development squad that summer.

“From doing triathlon, I was used to doing a lot of training and doing it at quite a high level,” he explains.

“I wanted to give it a go and enjoyed that year a lot so wanted to come back and try to make a boat.

“It was a bit random because that year we didn’t end up going to Henley but it was very good to do the training schedule and see if it was going to work or not with full-time studying.

“Once I realised that was doable, I came back and tried again.”

After the openweight 2020 Boat Races were cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Boericke was back to trial for CUBC again last September.

It was a unique experience, but the squad mentality proved to be a boost in a campaign which fluctuated between being on and off the water.

“I was very lucky that I was in a house with five other rowers,” says Boericke.

“We were alternately in lockdown and on the water a lot, but I was very lucky that in the lockdown periods we had six of us training in the house because we just had the erg in our garden and had to make do.

“It was a strange year. We would be training super intensely just by ourselves for a month, and then have to get on the water and try to make boats work again.”

When elite athlete exemption was given for a handful of CUBC rowers to return to the water during last winter’s lockdown to prepare for the 2021 Boat Race at Ely, Boericke was one of them.

He was part of a group of 12 heading out in a boat, with the rest of the eventual reserve Goldie crew, for which he was selected, still on land training.

It all paid off in the end, with both the Blue boat and Goldie beating Oxford on the River Great Ouse.

Boericke is looking to push on again this year, in a squad which features some international stars and Olympic medallists.

“Take all the chances in this term being put out in pairs and fours to learn how to do it,” says Boericke of his hopes for the season.

“No disrespect to the guys last year but there is some much bigger talent coming into the squad this year than you might have looked at last year.

“It’s exciting because you get to train with Olympians and really big guys, but it’s also a bit intimidating to try to move up the squad when there are people like that coming in.”

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