The new Cambridge University Boathouse at Ely was officially opened on Saturday 3rd December by the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University – Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz.
Over 400 donors, friends, guests and current rowers came together to celebrate the new Centre of Excellence for Cambridge University rowing.
Bruce Perry, Vice-Chairman of CULRC welcomed all the guests and acted as the Master of Ceremonies for the afternoon. Speeches were given by Roger Stephens, Chairman of CUBC, Ashton Brown, President of CUWBC and the Vice Chancellor.
As a symbol of closer cooperation between the University rowing clubs three mixed eights took part in a row past of the new boathouse. Each boat included both openweight and lightweight members of the men’s and women’s current squads.
The build itself has taken over two and a half years including one year of enabling works and a further year of construction.
A core team of twenty volunteers from the three clubs have worked tirelessly either to raise funds or manage the planning and build projects. The outstanding and iconic design of the building is thanks to Architect, Jerry Bailey.
The bulk of the funds for the new boathouse have come from over 450 alumni and friends of the three clubs, CUBC, CUWBC and CULRC – a fantastic effort to raise nearly £5 million.
The new boathouse takes the clubs from inadequate facilities to a Centre of Excellence for rowing for Cambridge University and for Ely.
The aims have evolved over the past eight years to the following:-
- to create a new and secure home for Cambridge University Rowing that will last at least a hundred years,
- to create a ‘centre for excellence’,
- to match or better Oxford’s Wallingford Boathouse,
- to be ecologically intelligent,
- to create an environment where the three clubs can co-oeprate more closely on winning all six Boat Races each year.
Future events are intended, both to bring the University Clubs closer to the Ely community and to earn income to help offset the additional running costs of the new facility. Such events would include Regattas & Head Races, Training Camps, GB Trials and private matches. We also plan for the Cambridge University Colleges and other local clubs to be given access when possible.
The new Boathouse is the product of a joint undertaking by the three University rowing clubs CIBC. CUWBC and CULRC. The project has taken 8 years to reach completion from the original concept.
Serious training for the Boat Race has not been possible in Cambridge – on the congested River Cam – for generations. However, the long, straight stretch of the River Ouse in Ely has offered ideal training conditions. The Cambridge University Men’s Boat Race crews have trained at Ely since well before the War and, in recent years, have boated from a small Boathouse on a King’s School Ely site within the Marina. The Cambridge University Women’s Boat Race crews have been training at Ely regularly since the 1990’s and they too had to boat from very limited facilities at the King’s Ely Boathouse. The Cambridge University Lightweight Men’s crews have effectively had no home until now – boating from College Boat Clubs in Cambridge.
This important project was triggered back in 2008 when King’s School Ely indicated that they would like their Marina site back. This issue was discussed by the CUBC Committee and a newcomer to the Committee, Ewan Pearson – volunteered to initiate a search of the area for a suitable alternative location. After a thorough investigation it was confirmed that the River Ouse in Ely remained the best option. The site at Fore Mill Wash was purchased by CUBC and the two other clubs were invited to join the project. Ewan Pearson then formed the ‘Project Ely Group’ while Roger Stephens (CUBC Chairman) led the fundraising initiative. After a formal tendering procedure an architect was hired – Jerry Bailey – and a professional team was put in place to run the project. Needless to say, the initial planning stages were not straightforward but we finally won through with positive support from the University, generously funding part of the ‘on and off site’ ecological mitigation works and providing long term loan support.