Fitz rower leads Cambridge to victory

Thursday, 6 April, 2017 - 16:30
Ashton Brown holding cup 2017

Congratulations to Fitzwilliam PhD student Ashton Brown, President of the Cambridge University Women's Boat Club, who led her crew to victory on Sunday 2 April in the 2017 Cancer Research UK Women's Boat Race, beating Oxford by 11 lengths.  

Following last year’s near sinking of the women’s boat and the subsequent case of pneumonia she suffered, Ashton was determined to do everything she could to make this, her third year, a successful racing one for Cambridge.

Ashton said: “I chose to run as President of the club so I could build on the strengths of the many amazing people on the team. My focus as President was for an open and transparent team which supported every athlete, not just those at the top of the squad.”

And what a successful year it has been: not only did Cambridge beat Oxford in this year’s Women’s Boat Race, but they also did so by 11 lengths and in a record time of 18 minutes and 34 seconds. A lot of hard work and dedication lies behind this Boat Race win: the team have 12 training sessions a week, of between 1.5 and 2 hours. These take place in Ely, where they row, and which requires them to catch a train at 5:55am, or in Cambridge, where they train on land.

Ashton said: "Fitz has supported me with awards from the Paul Day Sports Fund, as well as with academic funding for my PhD which allows me to not worry as much about my personal finances. But more importantly, I feel like everyone in the College is looking out for me. The emotional support is huge - the process of trialling can be very tiring - and being in charge this year it was nice to feel like someone was looking out for me while I was so busy looking after the team." 

In 2016 –17 Cambridge have also won all four other races against Oxford in the Blondie (reserve crew), Heavyweight Spare Pair, Lightweight Eight and Lightweight Spare Pair boats. Another Fitz student, Melody Swiers, a second-year vet, was in the winning Lightweight Spare Pair, alongside Rosie Boxall from Clare College, at the end of March. 

Sarah Winckless umpire standing next to Ashton Brown

Photo: Naomi Baker Sports Photography.

The last time Cambridge women won all three eights (Blue Boat, Blondie and Lightweight) was back in 1997, when Fitzwilliam alumna Sarah Winckless MBE (NatSci 1993) (pictured standing next to  Ashton) was in the team. Sarah umpired this year’s Boat Race, and was the first woman to ever do so on the Tideway and at Henley Royal Regatta.

This was Cambridge’s 42nd win in the Women’s Race, which still places them well ahead of Oxford’s 30 wins. Unfortunately, this year the Cambridge men lost to Oxford, meaning the light blues only have a total two-win advantage over the dark blues (82–80).

Photo: Naomi Baker Sports Photography

Did you know? The initiative to hold both men’s and women’s races on the same day owes much to Fitzwilliam alumna Helena Morrissey CBE (Philosophy 1984), former chief executive of Newton Investment Management, sponsors. 

Ashton Brown is funded by a Fitzwilliam College PhD studentship, and the Paul Day Sports Fund.

Find out more about studying and funding at Fitzwilliam College >>