The fierce rivalry between universities has been present since the start of their existence. Topping league tables for academics has always been a priority. Add to the fold a host of competitive athletes, each wishing to outdo their rivals, lays the foundations for highly competitive sporting events.
Rewinding over a century ago, the need for university competition was highlighted by the Presidents of each Students Union during a meeting in 1918. Competition had existed before but with no association to oversee.
1919 heralded the official beginning of university sport in the UK - the first athletics meeting where 9 out of the 10 founding universities were represented.
Since that time over 52 sports are now included in the association.
As for rowing, it was added to the calendar in 1994. Its first stand-alone event was held at Holme Pierrepont with 105 crews taking to the water. By 2001 it became a two day event with over 500 crews, and growing to three days of racing and 1000 boats by 2006.
During the early years of the regatta it was Nottingham University who relevelled in the home advantage winning 9 out of the first 10 years Victor Ludorum titles. Durham, subsequently, became the dominant club until recent years where close neighbours, but rivals, Newcastle have won the past two regatta VL titles.
The cancellation of last year’s competition hasn’t deterred university rowers up and down the country. This weekend sees 1020 entries across all events and an almost event split between the genders.
A year of disrupted training has meant many new to the sport haven’t had the usual amount of time to build confidence in boats. And with Holme Pierrepont being well-known for it's challenging conditions it's testament to the universities, and athletes, that the beginner events are still well represented this year.
Although this week will be different, with covid protocols and social distancing measures in place, the true ethos of the event remains the same: athletes wearing their university colours with pride whilst trying to beat whatever crew is in the race with them.
words by Eleanor Brinkhoff