Cambridge is one of the UK’s most prominent hotbeds for rowing. Countless legends of the sport have emerged from the region and the area boasts a wealth of boat houses across the junior, student, club and masters’ spectrum. Principal among them is the City of Cambridge Rowing Club (CCRC), an institution that hosts over 300 members and sits proudly on the banks of the winding Cam. Filippi have held a long-standing relationship with the club and the bulk of their fleet has been supplied from our factory on the Italian coastline. Our mission is to support all clubs, no matter how small or large, to achieve their aims in our shells and CCRC embolden that claim in their tussle to be named the region’s premier boat club.
“Nearly half of our fleet is Filippi and our senior squad exclusively rows in these shells”
Speaking with Tom Upton, recently appointed club captain, the mantra of CCRC is to be a boat club for all. “If I were given the choice of winning Henley Royal Regatta or having crews qualify in every club category for the Regatta proper, I’d go for the latter” he explained. Unimaginable though that may seem to some, this approach is indicative of a culture focused on inclusivity and a broad distribution of talent.
Henley Royal Regatta remains the pinnacle for club rowing in the UK and CCRC have qualified two boats into the event every single year since the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, they won their first round in the Thames Challenge Cup – racing a Filippi – before going out to eventual semi-finalists Leander Club. They also qualified a composite crew in the hotly contested Prince of Wales Challenge Cup for intermediate quad sculls. “’I think that was the first intermediate qualification for a Cambridge town club in a long time, so that was a real stand-out result,” said Tom.
On the women’s side, CCRC finished 56th at the Women’s Head of the River in a field dominated locally by Cantabrigian. Nestled less than a mile upstream, Cantabrigian have built a fearsome reputation in women’s club rowing and the rivalry between CCRC, Cantabrigian, Cambridge 99 and several other local clubs is symptomatic of a thriving community for rowing.
“We’re very much in the middle ground of clubs in the UK in terms of our participation base,” said Tom. “We still have junior squads, masters’ squads plus a learn-to-row scheme. On a competition basis, we still aim to compete nationally and ideally want to be the best rowing squad in the East of England. Naturally, marrying those two ambitions can be difficult but the ethos of the club is to provide opportunity in the sport for as many people as possible.”
“If I were given the choice of winning Henley Royal Regatta or having crews qualify in every club category for the Regatta proper, I’d go for the latter”
The challenge faced by so many outside of the Thames Valley is talent. So many graduates head to London after studies, leaving clubs like CCRC desperately seeking retention methods for fast athletes. “Our biggest challenge is that despite Cambridge’s strong tradition, the number of clubs actually works against the city sometimes,” commented Tom. “If you took the three largest clubs – CCRC, Cambridge 99 and Cantabrigian – and pulled the fastest athletes, you could boat a crew that was competitive on a national basis. That distribution of talent means we face the double-edged sword of compelling local racing but a tricky task to overcome clubs like Thames, Vesta, and London at events like Henley.”
The insurgency mentality that CCRC have adopted when pitching up against the might of the Putney embankment (where all four club trophies at Henley Royal Regatta currently reside) is one that we at Filippi resonate with. It’s easy to always back the top contender but the joy of sport is in watching a program evolve to become a better product than the sum of its parts.
“Nearly half of our fleet is Filippi and our senior squad exclusively rows in these shells,” said Tom. “Truthfully, part of it is because Filippi is seen as a better boat to steer on the Cam. That was what opened the door but the reason we stayed is the exceptional service and support Paul and the UK team constantly give. We get access to the world championships list – our men’s first eight was raced by the Romanians at the highest level before we got to it. The quality of the boats is simply not in question, and we feel confident arriving at the start line knowing our shells have been tried and tested by the fastest rowers in the world.”
That endorsement from the top programs is certainly an important stamp of credibility but where we try to differentiate is in providing the very best on and off-water service. We’re proud to power CCRC to greater heights year-on-year and the club, led by Tom and his committee, are committed to a vision that we at Filippi fully support. Winning is important but participation – across all abilities, ages, and genders – is critical to the continuation and growth of rowing. The more people on the Cam – preferably in Filippi shells – the better.