Boat naming ceremony

CUBC welcomes guests to inaugural Benefactors’ Day in recognition of support

The Cambridge University Boat Club (CUBC) community and the Cambridge University Development and Alumni Relations Office (CUDAR) were delighted to host a group of benefactors for an event-filled day. 

After being welcomed to Ely Boathouse, the guests were able to watch the men’s crew (and the women’s crew for those arriving at 6:30am!) in their final preparations ahead of the 2024 Boat Race, held this year on 30 March. Following a boat-naming ceremony in glorious sunshine, guests headed inside for a plaque unveiling, before departing to Cambridge for lunch at Jesus College and a tour of Goldie Boathouse. The day concluded with two behind-the-scenes presentations at the Fitzwilliam Museum, followed by a drinks reception hosted by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Debbie Prentice.

Simon Harris, Chair, Rowing and Management Board, thanked everyone in attendance, including the dedicated groups of Club volunteers, before delivering some heartfelt remarks at the boat-naming ceremony.  Benefactors and students then stepped forward to conduct the time-honoured tradition of pouring champagne on the bow to celebrate the boats’ new names. There were seven boats named in total; David, Stephen, Jim, Matt, Siobhan, Stephen (yes, there were two!) and Harry (further details below).

Simon said:

“The Benefactors’ Day recognises the significant group of dedicated philanthropists whose generosity enables CUBC to fulfil its mission of equipping student-athletes to win boat races, prioritising excellence, wellbeing and inclusivity.”

Simon explained how successful support of the Club’s endowment would be fundamental in building a financially sustainable future. He continued:

“Our gratitude is beyond measure and we are delighted to welcome many of you here today.”

Following on from the boat-naming, attendees moved inside to enjoy a celebratory drink before witnessing the unveiling of a Benefactors’ Plaque by Nick Bliss, Chair of The CUBC Foundation (TCF). Nick has been a driving force in the unified Club’s new philanthropic programme and is committed to supporting the mission of the Club.

Nick said:

“I am very honoured to have been asked to speak at the unveiling of our new Benefactors’ plaque at Ely Boathouse. We would like to thank you all again for joining us today, particularly those donors whose philanthropic leadership has created such positive momentum for the Club, both on and off the water.”

In 2020, following Cambridge’s crews coming together as a single, united Club, the CUBC Rowing Charitable Fund was launched. The aim of the Club’s new endowment is to ensure that the CUBC – and through the Club, the University – have the financial wherewithal to deliver, in perpetuity, a modern rowing programme which offers all students the opportunity to join that programme and which operates to the very highest international standards.

Nick continued:

“We have all been fortunate enough to experience the extraordinary emotions felt when lining up on the stake boats on Boat Race day. And you all have seized this moment and used it to ensure that future generations of student-athletes have that same opportunity and access the formidable combination of a world-class rowing programme and an outstanding academic experience. Because of your generosity, we are ensuring the future of high-performance rowing at Cambridge, and the Boat Races themselves.

Today we are recognising new members of the 2020 Club, The Presidents’ List of Benefactors, and the Coaches’ List of Benefactors.

In addition to those recognised during the boat naming, I would also like to highlight two more donors – Sam Brooks and Dick Cashin, of the Coaches’ List of Benefactors.”

The group then enjoyed a lunch at Jesus College where Rob Baker, Chief Men’s Coach thanked everyone for their support and generosity.

Rob said:

“On behalf of myself and Paddy Ryan, our Chief Women’s Chief Coach, who is coaching on the Tideway this afternoon, I want to thank you again for being here.

Because of your generosity, our crews are already performing exceptionally well – experiencing success on the water and thriving in their academic endeavours. “

To conclude the day, guests then proceeded to The Fitzwilliam Museum, where Dr Victoria Avery, Keeper of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, delivered a presentation on the Boat Race trophies in the Seminar Room. Professor Caroline Vout and Professor Christopher Young gave a fascinating talk on the Olympics 1924 Exhibition in the Armoury. Finally, to conclude the day, Vice-Chancellor, Professor Debbie Prentice joined the group for an evening drinks reception.

Details of the Boats and Benefactors

(IV) David, in honour of David Cassidy

David Cassidy, Chief Executive of Proman, was a winning Blue in 1997 and rowed in Goldie in 1996 and 1998, the year in which he served as President. He was also President of the Hawks’ Club from 1999 to 2000.

(IV) Stephen, in honour of Stephen Peel

Stephen Peel rowed in the Blue Boat for all 3 years of his undergraduate degree, winning in 1986, and serving as CUBC President in 1987. He rowed in the GB national team from 1985 to 1988, competing in three world championships, the Commonwealth Games (winning a silver medal) and the 1988 Olympics in Seoul (finishing 4th in the coxless 4s).  He also won the Grand and Stewards Cups at Henley.  He now competes in masters rowing with Crabtree BC. He has also founded the Infinity Boat Club in Teesside, which aims to deliver a competitive rowing program to less privileged school children in the area.

(IV) Jim, in honour of Jim Garman

Jim Garman, head of EMEA Alternatives and co-head of Real Estate within Goldman Sachs Asset Management, was in the men’s Blue Boat three years running, in 1987, 1988 and 1989, serving as President in 1988. 1989 was the 135th Boat Race and the first time in the history of the race that both crews were coxed by women.

(IV) Matt, in honour of Matt Brittin

Matt Brittin, President of EMEA Business & Operations for Google, was in the Men’s Blue Boat in 1987, 1988 and 1989, serving as president in 1989. He rowed for Great Britain from 1985 to 1989, winning a bronze medal at the World Rowing Championships in 1989.

(II) Siobhan, in honour of Siobhan Cassidy

Siobhan Cassidy is Chair of The Boat Race Company Limited (BRCL). She was also Vice-Chair and Chair of Cambridge University Women’s Boat Club, for whom she won a Blue in 1995. Siobhan joined the BRCL board in 2018 and represented CUWBC and the newly integrated Cambridge University Boat Club as a Club Representative. As a rower, Siobhan also represented Great Britain at Under 23 level, winning a bronze medal at the World Student Games.

(II) Stephen, in honour of Stephen Berger

Stephen Berger is an American entrepreneur, investment banker, civil servant and political advisor. He was an undergraduate at Dartmouth, rowed in two Blue Boats in 1983 and 84, and was President in 1984.

(II) Harry, in honour of Harry Mahon

Our final donor asked for their boat to be named in honour of Harry Mahon, an inspirational coach who helped Cambridge to eight Boat Race triumphs. A week before he died after a four-year struggle against liver cancer aged 59, Harry Mahon was out coaching with Robin Williams, then Cambridge’s chief men’s coach. Robin said: “Harry spent 45 minutes on the megaphone and went as if at 100 miles an hour, just like he always did. It was a really special sunny morning, a perfect coaching session.” Mahon was born in New Zealand. His uncle and grandfather were rowers. He first made his mark by coaching eights to world titles in 1982 and 1983. He then coached at national level in Canada, Switzerland, New Zealand and in Britain, where he was Cambridge’s finishing coach. At one time he coached New Zealand and Switzerland simultaneously. He went out on a high: assisting the Great Britain eight to gold in Sydney 2000 and winning the Boat Race in 2001. In an interview Harry said: “I get a thrill out of helping someone go fast, perhaps for a few strokes. Rowing for me is a catalyst for communication. It leaves you with friendships, and that is the important part.” Donald Legget once said about Harry: “So many coaches are on an ego trip, and Harry just was not like that. He had one ambition, to help people go as fast as possible and enjoy their rowing. He was the most outstanding rowing coach in the world.”

More information about our benefactor recognition levels can be found here: