Katy Hempson, a 5th year medical student, is trialling for the Cambridge crews as part of the famous Oxford/Cambridge Boat Race which takes place each year on the Tideway of the River Thames.

For Katy, who took up rowing when she came to Cambridge from her school in Chorley, rowing at this level means juggling the demands of training, academic work and hospital placements.

It helps that there are several medics who also row and who sync their schedules to make sure they don’t end up training on their own. Katy said:

“It’s not like any other sport I've ever done. If you're not committed to it, it won't work. I get up at 4:50 in the morning and I train. Then I go do a full day at the hospital and then come back and I train.

You don't really have time for much else. But it's fun. It's all about strength and speed and endurance, and you make some incredible friendships and memories.”

Three rowers in a boat under a bridge
Katy (right) is preparing to race Trial VIIIs side by side with another Cambridge crew. Photo Credit: AllMarkOne

Land based training – including weights and erging (using rowing machines) -  takes place at the Cambridge boathouse, but rowing practice is at Ely where the river is wider, longer and less busy.

The squad forms supportive and close friendships, but with six crews that race against Oxford -two openweight, two openweight reserves and two lightweight boats - friends inevitably end up competing for one of the 48 rowing seats. 

Katy said:

“Around key selection times I kind of tend to keep myself to myself or spend time with people in the other boats who I’m not competing with for a place.

Sometimes it can be a bit tense, but we all have the same goals  – to make the boats go as fast as possible and to beat Oxford, and that brings everyone together even when selection is tough.”

Rowing boat from above with 8 rowers and the cox
Katy (seat 3) racing as part of the Cambridge A crew against Oxford Brookes. Photo Credit: AllMarkOne

Having previously rowed in the lightweight category, this year she is trialling for the openweight squad, where she could be part of the Blue Boat, or ‘Blondie’ (the Reserve Boat).

The crews will be announced a couple of weeks before the race on Saturday 30 March.

And when the rowing season is over … she’ll be competing in the Varsity Triathlon.

Announcement: 20 March 2024: 

Katy is selected for the Women's Reserve Boat in 7 seat and will compete against Oxford's Osiris on the Championship Course at 15:01 on Saturday 30 March.

Group of rowers in yellow jerseys and boots
The Blondie Crew. Katy is 3rd from right. Photo: Nordin Ćatić



Photo Credits: AllMarkOne, Row360/Benedict Tufnell and Nordin Ćatić