St Hilda's boat crews have always played an important part in the history of rowing at the University of Oxford. The year 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of St Hilda's boat crew qualifying for the Summer Eights, the first women's crew to do so. Before this time, women did not compete at Summer Eights. By qualifying, St Hilda’s crew opened up the event for the rest of the women’s boat crews at Oxford. It was a huge breakthrough by a group that had only rowed a few times together previously. We are celebrating this important milestone with a special Sirens Dinner for the crew of 1969, (Eleanor Hicks, Barbara Welch, Yvonne Apelbourn, Janet Whiteway, Briget Sleeth, Angela Harvey, Pamela Martin, Dinah Woodcock and Jackie Wolf), as well as other College rowers, past and present.
"St Hilda’s College discovered that it had sufficient oarswomen to make up its own rowing eight. We decided to enter an eight for the hitherto male preserve of ‘Eights’. …we surprised the rowing world by doing extremely well in the ‘getting on’ races, so much that the men could not deny us entry to Eights Week." Eleanor Rawling, née Hicks, (Geography, 1967)
The crew of 1969's achievement built on the College's illustrious rowing history. In 1921, St Hilda's was the first women's Oxford college to have an eight. Their cox, William Best, coached St Hilda's crews for over 20 years.
Our rowing success continues to the present day. In 2008, St Hilda’s women’s crew reached its highest position in Summer Eights, 3rd on the river. The following year, as a mixed college, we entered our first men’s crew in the Summer Eights. Since then, both our women's and men's crews have gone from strength to strength. In Torpids 2016, for the first year in its history, St Hilda’s College Boat Club was awarded double blades, with both crews winning blades for bumping on all four days of the regatta. Our men’s squad won further blades in both Torpids and Summer Eights 2017. There was further success at Torpids 2019, the women's crew finished with five-bump blades and rose to Division 2. The men's crew, also won blades. They ended this year's Torpids at 7th in Division IV, the highest they have ever been.
Summer Eights is believed to have begun in 1915, while Torpids started in 1938. Eights Week, held in 5th week of Trinity Term, remains the major Oxford college rowing event of the year. We look forward to the 2019 Summer Eights, 29 May - 1 June, when we will be heading to the river once again to support St Hilda's crews.