St John's College Boat Club is the rowing club of St
John's College, Oxford. For nearly 150 years, it has offered any member
of the college the opportunity to learn how to row and compete at
various University and external competitions. St John's is proud that
membership to the Boat Club is free of charge, and that the Club has an
atmosphere of friendly camaraderie and dedication to constantly strive
Beginners are just as welcome to the Club as experienced oarsmen, and
SJCBC has a proud record of success in Christ Church Regatta (the races
held in November exclusively for newcomers to the sport). Members are
encouraged to continue on to compete in the annual Oxford bumps races of
Torpids (spring) and Eights (summer), and are given access to excellent
facilities and coaching which have ensured several recent successes.
Members train together to varying levels of intensity, producing
crews that compete at the top end of college rowing as well as crews who
enjoy the lighter side of the sport. Crew dates, Boatie cocktail nights,
curry nights and other social events such as black tie dinners at the
end of Torpids and Eights make SJCBC one of St John's College's most
entertaining and socially diverse organisations.
The origins of St John's College Boat Club are lost in
the mists of time. However, the Boat Club as we know it today was formed
in 1863 by New Zealand born undergraduate, C.Y. Fell. Recognising that
St John's was a college of 'hopeless idlers, intent only on pleasure',
Mr Fell took it upon himself to raise the funds necessary to pay off the
old Club's debts and buy a new racing boat. Such efforts propelled SJCBC
to immediate bumping success in 1864 as the college 1st VIII won blades.
So began 'a fine rowing spirit which mainly helped to gradually turn the
College from a set of idlers into an eager lot of rowing men'.
In the late 19th century, the Boat Club grew beyond what could have
been expected of 'a small College [that] does not recruit from rowing
schools'. A second boat was created, the Club began to produce its first
of many Varsity oarsmen, and the 1st VIII bumped up to the dizzy heights
of 2nd on the river - the highest position the college has ever held in
The early 20th century saw SJCBC's 1st Torpid cement its standing in
the first division, whilst the 1st VIII battled for position amongst the
crews of the second and top divisions. A university-wide shortage of
students during World War II led SJCBC to ally with Worcester College
Boat Club, allowing both colleges to continue to compete in Oxford bumps
racing. The union dissolved in 1945 and ushered in the college's most
successful period of rowing. SJCBC held the Torpids headship in 1946,
1961 and 1967, cemented its position within the first divisions and
competed regularly at Henley Royal Regatta.
The 1970s saw a downturn in the college's rowing fortunes, but in
1979 women began rowing for SJCBC, the same year as the first female
undergraduates were admitted to the college. In the 80s and 90s the Boat
Club rapidly expanded: new boats were bought in 1984, 1986 and 1989, the
Boat Club regularly fielded five crews or more in both Torpids and
Eights, and St John's performed consistently well in Christ Church
Regatta with victories in 1984, 1985, 1990, 1991 and 1992. Both men's
and women's crews improved their standings throughout the period, with
the women also competing in their first external competition at Bisway
Head in 1987 and at Henley the following year.
Today, SJCBC can truly be regarded as the one of the real up and coming
boat clubs in Oxford. The Menís 1st VIII are now in their highest position
since 1997 and the Menís 1st Torpid have not been higher than they are now
since before at least 1980 (when detailed records begin). The Womenís 1st
VIII are at their highest ever position and almost a division and a half
higher than at the start of 2005.
The St John's College Boat Club colours are a white
shield with blue cross upon a navy blue background.
The Men's 1st boats race in all-white uniform with blue trim and the
2nd crews compete in all-blue with white trim.
The Women's boats race in all-black with blue trim.
The Boat Club flag consists of a lamb carrying a flag atop a navy blue
cross set against a white background. The symbol of the lamb and flag is that
of St John the Baptist, after whom the College was named.