A Story of Success
University College Ladies Boat Club was founded in 1975 and was the first women’s boat club in the country. The club is housed in the College boat-house and began its career with a Four donated by UCDBC. From this modest beginning with a handful of members the club has grown steadily in membership, assets and success.
It is not always easy to get much information on the early days of a new club and this difficulty increases when the club is not on the Belfield campus. This brief account of the club’s progress could not have been written without the very considerable help given by Audrey Phelan. As matters now stand it can benefit from the new budgeting procedures introduced by the AUC but, as with all new clubs the way of the pioneers was hard.
The Colours race with Trinity was first rowed in the early ‘80s originally at Islandbridge and later on the lower Liffey; since 1993 the race has been between Eights.
Within the past few years the club has certainly hit a purple patch, dominating senior women’s rowing; the Senior Eight has been unbeaten in Ireland for the past two years, and has also been powerful at lower levels. On the College front it won the Bank of Ireland Club of the Year award in 1994-95. The Intervarsities have been won for the past three years. Nationally, the results in recent seasons show the remarkable achievements and these have been repeated in international competition.
On the initiative of the club, together with Dublin University Ladies Boat Club, in 1994, the IARU extended its programme to include a Senior Eights Women’s Championships; the inaugural race was won by College. Strength in depth is shown by the results at the Commercial Regatta of 1996 at which points were awarded to crews placed in semi-finals and finals; UCD Ladies were the second most successful of all the clubs in the country. This strength was confirmed in the National Championships at Inniscarra Lake in July 1996 when five titles were won – Novice Fours and Eight, Senior Coxless Pair, Senior Coxless Fours and the Senior Eights. These wins should be added to the club’s previous total of eight titles in Novice, Intermediate and Sculling events elsewhere.
There has also been success on the international front. In 1988 an invitation Eight rowed at the first Henley Women’s Regatta against the British Eight. Since 1993 Henley has become an annual event in the club cycle. The Club fours event was won in 1994. In 1995 the club’s Senior Eight reached the final of the Open Eights but lost to the British Olympic Eight. In 1996 that event was won – a milestone in the history of rowing in UCD.
Neither has the club been afraid to test European waters. It rowed at Lucerne in 1995, coming fourth, and last season was victorious in the Coxless Pairs at Ghent, which were won again in the Belgian National Championships together with victory in the Eights.
Club members have represented Ireland in the Home Internationals, at Henley and in the World Championships. Currently all the senior panel are on the Irish squad. There have been wins in the Home Internationals with by far the most significant success was the silver medal won by Vanessa Lawrenson and Debbie Stack wearing Irish colours in a heavyweight Pair at the 1996 U23 World Championships; they also rowed in the heavyweight coxless Four at the ’96 Strathclyde World Championships. The squad in 1995 and 1996 included Audrey Phelan, Rebecca Quinn, Vanessa Lawrenson, Debbie Stack, Cara Hanrahan, Eithne Tiernan, Siobhan Foreman, Kate Rooney, Carol Ann Smith, Deirdre Wilson, Claire Fennessy and Sarah Honner.
Audrey Phelan summarises the progress made: “From very modest beginnings the club has developed into a remarkable force in women’s rowing in Ireland. This development brings with tit other problems; the membership far exceeds the number of club boats and the number of boats is too large for the accommodation available, although, on reflection, this can only be good complaint.”
“Many people over the years have dedicated a lot of time and energy to the club. Numerous people have gained huge amounts of enjoyment from participating in what is acknowledged to be one of the toughest sports. The support from these past members and ambition from present members is what is required to keep the club developing at the rate which it has done. The successes achieved over the past twenty years and, more importantly, the enjoyment derived from so many will hopefully be reflected in the growth of the club in the next 20 years.”
Dedicated coaches over the last few seasons include Nick Mahony, Peter Buckley, Jim Wallis, Carol Ann Smith, Erica Champ, David Hogan, Therese Reftery and Seamus Hussey.
(This account was taken from the book – St. Patrick’s Blue and Saffron, a miscellany of UCD Sport since 1895′ by Prof. Patrick N. Meenan, published 1997)