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In the lead up to the Boat Race 2023, we spoke to our PhD student, Sam Clark, about Hughes Hall, the big race, and life before coxing.

We are delighted to share that Sam, who hadn’t coxed before joining the College, will be coxing the Cambridge University Boat Club Women’s Lightweights later this month.

The 2023 Lightweight Boat Races will held on the Tideway on Monday, 20th March: Women’s race at 10:20 am, Men’s at 11:30 am. CUBC Women’s Lightweights won last year so Sam is hoping to lead them to another victory and continue their winning streak. Sam tells us more.

What were you up to before Cambridge?

I’m from Somerset, in the South West of the UK. I did my undergrad in Chemistry at the less-discussed O****d, at Lincoln College. I tried out rowing there, but didn’t carry on with it, instead getting into boxing. At the end of my undergrad I decided I wasn’t yet done with chemistry, so I came to Cambridge to study for a PhD in chemistry!

How have you found life at Hughes?

I’ve loved it here! I was pooled to Hughes during my application, and was initially uncertain how I’d find it – it’s the polar opposite to the college I was at for my undergrad. However, I’m so glad I found Hughes; as a PhD student it’s great to be in a community of more mature students. It’s also been an opportunity to meet some really fascinating people. The undergrads starting at Hughes all have a little bit more life experience behind them, and it’s amazing the walks of life that have brought everyone here. I immediately found it welcoming, and in fact it was the first person from Hughes that I met (ex-HHBC President, Imogen Binnian) who asked me if I’d consider coxing. I said “no chance”…

Sam in action earlier this season – and with lucky Cambridge Blue hair. Image credit: James Trotman

How you balance rowing with your studies?

It’s a challenge, but it’s been a slow build over the past three years which has allowed me to get progressively better at managing it. I first learned to cox at Hughes Hall Boat Club (HHBC) in 2020, and initially found even a single morning session quite tough. However you find your own rhythm, and stepping up to the relatively fast paced training at CUBC has felt natural. If anything, rowing has made me more productive – multiple demands on my time has forced me to think carefully and plan ahead in my lab work, which has often saved me time in the long run!

Tell us how you feel about being part of the Boat Race?

I’m unbelievably excited. What a privilege – especially for someone who had never even coxed before coming to Hughes! Anyone who has ever been in a boat with me can tell you how excited I get during racing. That goes doubly for the lightweight women’s squad, who share my need for speed! Beyond that, to get to compete with such a fantastic group of women is an enormous privilege. The tenacity they show, completing the full training load alongside the additional constraints of lightweight rowing, is astonishing and inspiring.

What’s next for you – in life and rowing?

Traditionally a very existential question to ask a PhD student… and I’m no different. I’ve loved every second of my season with CUBC, and depending on my PhD I may have another season with them yet! Beyond that is a mystery.

“I’m unbelievably excited…to get to compete with such a fantastic group of women is an enormous privilege.” Image credit: Nordin Ćatić

About the Lightweight Boat Race

The Oxford Cambridge Lightweight Boat Race was founded 1975 and raced over 2000 meters in Henley on Thames until 2018. For the first time, on 23rd March 2019 the race was held on the Tideway in London over the same Championship Course as the open weight University Boat Races. The Lightweight Women’s Boat Race joined the Henley Boat Races in 1984 and raced there until 2019 before joining the men on the Tideway in 2020.
The 2023 Lightweight Boat Races will held on the Tideway on Monday 20th March:
  • The Women’s race will start at 10:20 am
  • The Men’s will start at 11:30 am

Good luck to Sam and crew!

Further information

For more: https://www.lightweightboatraces.co.uk/

The Gemini Boat Race 2023: https://www.theboatrace.org/ 

Cambridge University Boat Club: https://cubc.org.uk/ 

Hughes Hall Boat Club: https://hugheshallrowing.wordpress.com/joining-the-boatclub/


Right hand side image credit: AllMarkOne