Alumni Spotlight Episode #One – Holly Hill

In Alumni Spotlight, Vice President Laura Foster will interview CUWBC alumni, discuss professional life, sport, friendship and what it means to be part of the CUWBC family after university.


Our alumni are incredibly important to the current team as they provide inspiration, on and off the water.  When our students look on the walls at Goldie and the Ely Boathouse they are reminded every day of the women who have gone before.   Core experiences remain the same, from freezing mornings to evenings in the gym or on the erg!  Every member of our club has made friendships that will last a lifetime, forging bonds that cannot be broken.

Laura begins the series Alumni Spotlight with recent alum, Holly Hill.

Holly Hill

CUWBC had five alumni racing in the recent World Cup III.  Imogen Grant (LWT and Blondie 16, BB17, BB18, Trinity College) won gold in the LWT W1x and Ida Gørtz Jacobsen  (BB19, Newnham College) won silver in the W4-. Melissa Wilson (BB13, 14,15,17, Gonville and Caius College, Lucy Cavendish College) raced in the 4x and Oonagh Cousins (spare 16, Blondie 17, Gonville and Caius College) competed in the 8+.  Holly Hill (BB 15, 17, Downing College) won a bronze medal at World Cup III in the women’s pair, here is what she had to say about the experience:

‘I went into the weekend in a new combination racing the pair with Polly Swann. I was really excited to have the chance to race with Pol as she won silver in the women’s eight in Rio 2016 and has also been world champion in the pair racing with Helen Glover in 2013 – so she’s got a lot of valuable experience!’

Noting the lack of boat time (5 days!) they had had in the lead up to the regatta she observed

‘[We] didn’t have much idea about where we’d pitch in versus the rest of the field but in some ways that allowed us to race the Heat with a little less pressure (although I’ve never stroked or steered a race before so I was actually pretty terrified of crashing Polly into the buoys). The Heat was also the first full 2k we’d done together so we learnt a lot from that and went into the semi-final feeling like we’d got good base speed but could work on our rhythm into the headwind (which was strong and consistent all weekend!). We then safely navigated our way through the semi and into the A final and went out to race feeling pretty excited and like we didn’t have much to lose!’

On winning bronze, she said

’We knew the Kiwi’s and Aussie’s would be a step ahead of the field but that we’d be in line with the chasing pack going through halfway. So it was just a case of trying to step the rhythm on again from the semi final and dig in for the second half! Coming third and getting to stand on the podium was an absolute dream and definitely the best outcome we could have hoped for this weekend.’

Looking forward Holly is excited for the rest of the season

‘We have a bit of work to do to close the gap to gold but it’s a challenge I think Pol and I are ready for and I’m excited to see what the summer brings if we get to stay racing the pair’

Holly also mentions the joy of getting to see the CUW network out in full force

‘It was also fantastic as always to compete alongside fellow CUW members from around the world!’

For the current athletes being able to look at alumni racing on the world stage provides huge inspiration for what can be achieved from a light blue background!

Holly Hill – in rowing

Holly was selected to be part of the World Class Start programme in 2013.   On arrival at Cambridge, Holly spent her first year at learning to scull. The following year she switched to rowing and raced in the 2015 Women’s Boat Race. 

Holly has won Bronze and Silver medals at U23 level, and made her debut in the GB Rowing Team senior squad at the 2017 World Cup in Lucerne, racing in the women’s four.  Holly and Cambridge team mate Melissa Wilson raced in the women’s pair at the 2017 World Rowing Championships in Sarasota-Bradenton, finishing fourth.