Men's Blue Boat

Matt Edge: “nothing I’ve found can bring peace to a busy Cambridge life like rowing can”

When Matt’s Mum signed him up to rowing after watching the 2013 Boat Race on TV with huge interest, he probably never imagined he’d be racing against Oxford years later. Having experienced victory in the Lightweight crew when he was President, Matt went on to be one of the winning crew in the Blue Boat in 2023 and is thrilled to again have the chance to compete in the Blue Boat on 30 March.

You’ve now been rowing for 10 years and have a fair amount of experience – what values and skills does that enable you to bring to the squad?

“I wouldn’t say I’ve seen it all but probably more than my fair share so I’d like to think I bring a calmness through some of the turbulence of the season. I’ve been a part of some of Cambridge’s less successful campaigns so I know what it’s like to lose these races and learnt the hard way what it takes to win. My teammates may rightly say that I’m very stubborn in trying to pass these lessons on but I’d rather that than they have to find out on their own.”

Do you have to be very experienced to trial for CUBC? What would you say was more important than experience?

“Not at all, I’ve seen many people who took up rowing only months before go on to great things at CUBC. Enthusiasm, hard work, and an awareness of your strengths and weaknesses can take you a very long way. Every person who shows up to trial at CUBC and dares to dream of making it does their part for pushing the standard whether they make the crew or not.”

What would you say to students who are really new to rowing and are keen to give it a try?

“Enjoy it! Savour the process of improvement and the bonds this sport can give you. Make sure to keep an eye on the bigger picture.”

You were in the winning Lightweight Boat as Lightweight President in 2022 and then last year in the winning Blue Boat crew – how did that feel and what would it feel like to repeat those victories?

“Two very different wins. My presidential season was the last of my undergraduate and I thought my last at Cambridge. I’d rowed in the previous two Lightweight Blue Boats and came up short both times, the second of which fumbling the final piece of an otherwise clean sweep against Oxford on home water. It stung. The lightweights were without a win for four years, since the successful 2018 season from which all bar one of the squad left and had to be rebuilt. I’d seen all my friends endure the winter cold and pitch black mornings and had to up and leave for greener pastures and I felt they were owed a win. And that was to my last year where I had a chance to do something about it. So no stone was left unturned, nothing was to be left to chance. The season had been fraught and tensions boiled over at times, long evenings were spent at the dining table with my vice-president asking “will it make the boat go faster?”. We’d gone too far and sacrificed too much. We had to win. On race day, we came out of the blocks into an unfamiliar place; up on Oxford. Within a minute we were clear of them and by two it was all but over. They kept us on our toes for the following 16 minutes but we knew we’d done enough. At the line, I experienced the feeling that my closest friends and I had toiled for for the past three years, through lockdowns and snowstorms, and it turned out to be relief. It was done. I’d done my job. We had won.

On the other hand, racing the Boat Race for the first time was all a bit of a blur. I’d been incredibly lucky to scrape into the crew and was trying to learn as much as possible and take it all in. I’d watched the Boat Race as a child and dreamed of going to Cambridge but I don’t think it occurred to me, an out and out nerd, that I could dream of making it to the race myself. It was a huge privilege to find myself living out my wildest childhood goal. I tried my best to soak it in, I thought I owed that to everyone who strives to be in such an enviable position. I still don’t have the words to describe it, I can only think back and smile. It doesn’t mean much to most people, but it means the world to me.”

Was it difficult to move from lightweight to openweight?

“Quite the opposite! We were doing all the same training. I still hold the lightweights in reverence, it’s hard work. Logistically, it couldn’t have been easier. The structure of the club is such that I had all the same coaches and knew the program well, I was just sent out in different boats.”

What do you owe your success to? 

“Luck. Anything that can’t be attributed to that, should be pinned on the fantastic coaching I have received over the years; from Bill Parker as a junior, Nick Acock as a lightweight, and the past few years under the masterful eye of Rob Baker.”

What does the CUBC community mean to you? 

“I don’t have a brother but I think every season is a bit like having 40 of them. The support I’ve felt from them through incredibly tough times can’t be overstated. I see the same in all those from former years who come back to do what they can to repay the huge debt we owe to the CUBC.”

You’re currently studying a PhD in Chemistry – how do you balance academic life with rowing and are there positive lessons you’ve learnt from this?

“It’s tricky at times. With a research degree, you have to be very self-motivated and rowing can definitely help with scheduling. If I take a break from it, I find myself saying “I’ve got all day, I can do it later”. When you’re rowing, you’ve got to get it done in the window you get to get it done!”

What impact does rowing have on your physical and mental health?

“It takes its toll, you don’t always feel as healthy as you are when you can hardly get through an afternoon without a nap and the stress of selection looms over you. But nothing I’ve found can bring peace to a busy Cambridge life like rowing can.” 

Alongside preparing students-athletes to beat Oxford, as Matt’s story shows time spent rowing for Cambridge develops life-long friendships, a close-knit support system, and the determination necessary to achieve even the most difficult goals. 

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