Evelyn Boettcher will be captaining one of the boats which will be racing in the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Races on Friday.
A Gates Cambridge Scholar will be captaining one of the boats which will be racing in the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Races this year.
Evelyn Boettcher  is crew captain of the “Blondie” Reserve second boat that is racing Oxford in the Blondie vs. Osiris Boat Race on Friday, April 10th.
Evelyn comes from the landlocked state of Oklahoma so, although she did a lot of sport growing up, but only started rowing when she attended Wellesley College in 2006. However, she switched to play Varsity Basketball the rest of her first year at college. It was when she transferred to the University of Pennsylvania that she got the rowing bug. She rowed throughout her three undergraduate years at the university, earning a Varsity Letter.
However, between her undergraduate degree and starting at Cambridge she didn’t row for three years. She says: “While I was doing my master’s degree for three years at Harvard – the final year of which I lived and studied in Inner Mongolia – I did not touch an oar or erg or boat.”
In her first year at Cambridge she was swept up by the enthusiasm for rowing among her fellow students and decided to row for her college. For the first year of her PhD in Politics and International Studies, where she is focusing on security cooperation and engagement programs in the Asia-Pacific region, she rowed with the Magdalene College crew and was encouraged to join the Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club Development Squad in early 2014. She raced for the Development Squad in Henley Women’s Regatta last summer, then left for research fieldwork over the summer. On a brief trip home to Oklahoma in August, she worked on improving her technique by rowing with coaches and rowers from Oklahoma City University out of Devon Boathouse in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (USA). She also learned to scull in a one woman boat over the summer.
When she returned to Cambridge in October, she signed up with the Cambridge team as a CUWBC triallist and was named Captain of Blondie in the early spring.
She says: “I think as captain you need to be able to understand each member of your crew, what she brings to the team as an individual, and ensure that everyone feels comfortable and thus able to perform at their very best when the time comes.”
The commitment needed to prepare for such an important race is impressive. The crew trains twice a day except on Mondays. For three week days each week they catch the 5:55am train to Ely for an early morning row, with an erg or weights workout to follow the same afternoon. On weekends, they do double sessions in Ely until mid-afternoon.
Evelyn, who plans to continue rowing after her PhD is finished, says that what drew her to rowing was in fact getting up early and being outdoors. She says: “Growing up, my mother always encouraged my sister and me to play outside and try new things. I love being outdoors in the fresh air, and I love getting up as the sun rises. Rowing is truly challenging – workouts are tough, and long morning rows in freezing weather and near total darkness are not easy. But then you have a row in which the boat just glides along, and it feels like you are floating along the water. And side by side racing – it just doesn’t get better than that. I love the personal challenge of rowing, and the rewarding moments like these make it all worthwhile.”
Being in the Cambridge crew is icing on the cake, she adds. “At Cambridge, I have the opportunity to be a part of truly amazing academic and athletic traditions – to be a true scholar athlete. For this extraordinary opportunity, I shall always be grateful for the Gates Cambridge scholarship which allowed me to come to this University and experience all these moments, both on and off the water!”
*Update: The Blondie boat was beaten by the Oxford Reserve Team, but Evelyn says: “We were very proud of what we’d accomplished. It is a tough, tough race! It was so special to be out there in the first women’s Boat Race on the Tideway course.”
Picture credit: Christopher Down.