06 Feb #On The Water with Pippa Whittaker
PIPPA WHITTAKER AT CHRIST’S COLLEGE IS STILL OBSESSED WITH ROWING
I’m not sure I knew what I was letting myself in for the first day I turned up to Henley Rowing Club, but it’s thirteen years later and I’m still obsessed with rowing.
Over the years I have rowed at so many different types of club: junior, full time, student and in London with a full time job. But so far, Cambridge has been a totally unique experience and a club I feel privileged to be part of.
I feel incredibly lucky to have grown up in the town of the world’s most famous regatta, I was bound to give rowing a go at some point, but I was even luckier that when I did it was with an amazing club and coach, Chris Boothroyd. Within twelve months of starting I won my first race in a GB Lycra alongside three girls I still call my best friends today. It’s the feeling of training so hard and achieving your goals together that makes rowing so special, and I’ve been pretty addicted to racing ever since!
I continued to row at Henley until I finished my A-levels, which culminated in three gold medals at the Coupe de la Jeunesse for Great Britain in 2009. After that I decided that rowing was more than just my after-school hobby and I moved to Leander Club to train full time for a year to make the transition into a senior programme.
I did my undergraduate degree in Mathematics at Loughborough University, which was a sporting paradise. It was probably the opposite to what I have got used to at Cambridge – in a single scull on Holme Pierrepoint, but I loved it nonetheless. I am proud to have won the championship single at BUCS and to be World University Champion in the women’s four, which was probably one of the most enjoyable races I’ve had along the way.
I am still a member at Leander and spent another couple of years rowing there full time. How many people can say they spent all day doing sport with their mates – it was great. I raced at the Commonwealth Regatta in Scotland in 2014 and won the women’s single and double for England with Cambridge alumni, Fran Rawlins. However even though a friend told me that “a bad day on the water is still better than a good day in the office” eventually I decided I’d check that for myself!
The change from rowing to work was massive, but it was made so much easier by a super supportive boss, who made it possible to spend every evening at Thames Rowing Club. It makes me so happy that we get to boat from Thames for our tideway weekends, I love being back. I had a pretty incredible summer racing at Henley with three lightweights in the Princess Grace. Everything at Thames is done at full steam- a full time job, battle paddles and ergs, but also total commitment to the fun stuff too! Learning just how much I can enjoy the sport and the people has been one of the most valuable lessons so far.
I’m very happy to be at Cambridge now studying a post experience Masters in Finance at the business school. I hope it will help me further my career but it’s also given me the chance to spend every day with incredibly determined and inspiring people. I’ve really enjoyed the season so far, from winning the first GB trial with Trish to weaving past ten or so crews at Fours Head! It feels very special to work towards a clear shared goal. It really does feel like you are part of something bigger, and I hope after perhaps another thirteen years of rowing I will be part of the alumni that are so supportive of our dreams!