Meet Oliver Boyne: Downing student and CUBC Men's President

Ahead of the Boat Race, we spoke to Oliver Boyne, Downing PhD student and the President of the Cambridge University Boat Club's Men's Openweight squad. Oliver told us about his time at Downing as both an undergraduate and postgraduate, as well as his responsibilities at one of the University's most historic sports clubs. 

When did you start at Downing?

I matriculated in October 2016.

What made you choose Downing?

I came for open days when looking at applying to Cambridge, and visited the colleges near the Engineering Department – Downing looked the nicest!

What do you study?

I did an MEng in Mechanical Engineering at Downing, graduating in 2020. I am now in my 3rd year of a PhD in Computer Vision at the Engineering Department.

When did you start rowing?

I started coxing in 2016 with Downing College Boat Club.

Was it always coxing that appealed to you?

No actually – I started out trying both rowing and coxing as a fresher – but was very quickly told I’d only ever be good at one of them…

What are the cox’s main responsibilities?

The cox has three main roles in my opinion, in order of importance – (1) Safety – making sure that there is no danger of crashing or injury, (2) boat and session management – making sure there aren’t any issues with the equipment, facilitating the running of a session by herding the athletes, and steering the boat correctly during the session, and (3) motivation and improving the technical level of the crew.

What was being part of the Downing College Boat Club like?

DCBC was a huge part of my undergrad experience – I’ve made some of my closest friends while at the club, and had some fantastic memories.

How does the University boat club compare?

The CUBC is a very special club to be a part of. Every day you’re surrounded by the history and stories behind the Boat Race, and you train with some of the best student athletes in the country.

What is the training schedule like?

The training schedule is pretty intense! During term times, we tend to have 7 water sessions and 6 land sessions per week, and we shift this to more water sessions outside of term time. We organise the sessions so they are mostly outside of 9-5 so that athletes can still make academic commitments.

What does being president of the boat club entail?

The role of the Men’s Openweight President is to lead the squad to win the Boat Races and be the driver of the culture within the squad. It’s up to the individual president to lead in their own style, for me that involves managing people – making sure everyone is on the right path with regards to training, academics, etc., and constantly communicating with our coaching team to facilitate our training program.

How have you enjoyed your time as president so far?

I have found my presidency incredibly rewarding. It’s a tough juggling act with academic commitments and the already tough training schedule we have, but seeing the effort pay off as the squad continues to perform well is a very special feeling.

How do you find balancing work with your sporting commitments?

It’s definitely a difficult task. With this being my 7th year of rowing while doing a Cambridge degree, I’ve learned to make sure to maximise work during down times in training in order to keep on top of everything. At certain pinch points in the season, such as near the Boat Race, it is especially tricky, so I have to plan ahead effectively.

You’re just been undertaking boat race trials, how has that been?

Trialling with the club is very tough – you’re always being assessed by the coaches, and you have to be able to perform consistently to earn a seat on Boat Race day.

What’s been your favourite rowing memory? (Uni or Downing boat club)

For me it would have to be my Goldie (CUBC reserve crew) race in 2021. We had just come out of lockdown, unsure if the race would even be allowed to run, and had a very short period of time to come together as a crew for our race. Our race was on our home turf in Ely, and we beat Oxford by 6 boat lengths. The feeling of crossing the finish line was enough to fuel me for the past 2 years of trialling with CUBC.

What’s your favourite thing about Downing?

The large number of societies and opportunities within the college make it an environment that fosters passions, whether sport, academic, or anything else! I spent a lot of my time as an undergrad focused solely on the Boat Club, which is a fantastic group within the college, but have seen others get involved in many smaller societies, each with their own niches and traditions. Just last year, my brother (also an Engineer at Downing!) and I founded a Board Games club at Downing, and it was great to see yet another of these groups grow within the college.

What’s the best thing about the university boat club?

Definitely the people in the squad. For however special the event and the history of the Club is, it’s nothing without a good group to write the new chapters of the Boat Race. I’ve trained and raced day-in, day-out, with some of the guys on the squad for 4 years now, and you forge some close friendships.

Published 15 March 2023