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St Edmund’s College Boat Club - The Launch of Lily

On a rather chilly Saturday afternoon in late January, the sun sparkled on the Cam as the members and guests of St Edmund’s College Boat Club assembled at the Cambridge ‘99s Boathouse to see history in the making. For the first time in the College’s illustrious 120 years, the men’s crews were finally to be endowed with a brand new rowing 8+, and the Boat Club was going to mark the occasion in style!

The story began back in April 2015 at the luxurious surroundings of the Oriental Club in London at the annual Boat Club gathering for the 2020 Dinner. The fundraising began in earnest and by the end of a most convivial evening, Lily Harter (SECBC Senior Captain) was charged with the new purchase!

After a few trips to Byfleet by Lily over the late summer to check on progress the new boat was finally delivered personally by Philip Gregory, the MD of Janousek.

The men’s crews had great fun finally putting the boat together under the watchful eye of our ‘adopted’ boatman and friend Pete Twitchett (Emma).

After much planning around Cam races and guests’ diaries the launch date of the 30th January was finally penned into the calendar.

The Master welcomed the assembled crowd, now eager with anticipation. Handing over to the Senior Captain to see the boat launched in the time honoured tradition – ‘I name this boat “Lily”, God bless her and all who go out in her!’ – Glen Chua (SECBC Men’s Captain) whipped away the Boat Club flag and the name was revealed, Andy Harter popped a magnum of champagne and ‘Lily SEC710’ was duly christened.

As the invitation guest crew disappeared to get changed for the inaugural paddle, M1 kindly took the boat to ‘heads’ and gently placed her in the water. Blades were set and ‘Lily’ was ready to go as the crew emerged running from the Boat House, to rousing cheers and rapturous applause, resplendent in commemoration team sweatshirts:

Cox: Aviv Fonea (SECBC President)

Stroke: Patrick Short (SECBC & Blue’s Squad)

7: Annamarie Phelps CBE (Chairman of British Rowing, Olympian and World Champion)

6: Hon. Matthew Bullock (Master)

5: Dr George Gordon (SECBC Treasurer)

4: Richard Phelps (Olympian and 3x Boat Race winner)

3: Prof Paul Luzio (Former Master & SECBC Honorary President)

2: Lily Harter (SECBC Senior Captain)

Bow: Dr Andy Harter (SECBC Senior Committee)

The inevitable ‘boat faff’ ensued as the crew finely adjusted footplates, checked gates, tightened screws and ‘numbered off’ from Bow!

A gentle push out and ‘Lily’ sat beautifully out on the river basked in the winter sun. A call to ‘backstops, all 8, light pressure, go!’ and we were off! Gently but firmly we eased a swathe through the water, taking a rather unorthodox line under Victoria Bridge and passed by the brilliant red of the imposing Maggie Boathouse.

Jesus Lock loomed all too soon and thwarted any ambition we may have harboured of rowing further. A textbook tight spin between the moored narrow boats pointed us back downstream. Again rowing ‘all 8’ the boat was sitting amazingly well for a ‘scratch eight’ although the timing may have been a little suspect on occasions. As we picked up speed for the grand-finale row passed the Boat House, we were cruelly impeded by a rather pedestrian 4+, and our glory moment was a little too premature for the loyal crowd awaiting our return. A rather tentative row in to the quay as Aviv was most conscious that the first scratch would be the one we always remember. Glen was ably on hand to ensure the newly-painted blades remained in pristine condition as the rest of M1 gently brought us to a halt.

Another glass of champagne awaited, a celebratory crew photo and congratulations all round (Lily receives a congratulatory hug from the Chair of The Cambridge ‘99s RC, John Jenner). Whilst the rest of the crew layered up and sought sanctuary in the warmth of the Boat House, Richard Phelps was off searching for a bike for a guest alumnus coaching session with the men’s crew. M1 took to the river most elegantly to show us how it really should be done! As we heard the ‘go!’ from the cox, eight blades tapped down together to take the first catch in perfect unison … and ‘Lily’ headed off for her first encounter with Long Reach.