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Caians celebrate opening of new Boathouse

  • 22 November 2016

The new Caius Boathouse, set squarely on the footprint of the 1879 original but boasting state-of-the-art facilities and building technology, has been opened with a celebratory gathering of almost 200 Boat Club members, Fellows and major donors.

The building, funded entirely through the generosity of benefactors of the College, has space to house some 30 boats, and also features a large gym for land training, changing rooms, a crew room and a specialist boat workshop. The facilities reflect the popularity of rowing at Caius, whose men's and women's crews dominate the river and regularly produce Blues rowers.

The £4.5m project was designed by Cambridge firm bb+c architects, and the building was constructed by Suffolk-based Cocksedge Building Contractors. The College’s Boathouse Committee was chaired by Dr Jimmy Altham, Senior Treasurer of Caius Boat Club, who oversaw the scheme from its inception through to completion this autumn. Funds for the project were raised within just 12 months of the campaign launch in February 2013 when Dr Anne Lyon was Development Director, with the sum raised also paying for the renovation of the graduate accommodation building at 28 Ferry Path next door. The house, now renamed Alice Cheng House in honour of the donor behind the refurbishment project, contains six generously laid-out apartments for graduate students with partners. The accommodation is available to Caians but can also be rented out to couples studying at other colleges.

The names of eighteen primary benefactors are featured on a plaque on the wall at the entrance to the new building.

The new Boathouse, built on and slightly beyond the footprint of the original building, is built of red brick with its roof clad in pre-patinated copper. It is topped with a clock tower - permitted only to colleges that have been Head of the River for five years, according to Cambridge folklore - together with a weathervane and flagpole. The old building, cramped and in need of repair after almost 150 years, had barely enough room for boats and, when first built, was equipped with an earth closet as a lavatory. Dating back almost 140 years, it catered neither for the numbers who now take part in rowing at Caius, nor for women: female changing facilities were certainly never part of the original plans (which are kept in the College archive). 

At a ceremony on Sunday 20 November, the Hon Dr John Lehman, Caius Boat Club Captain 1966-67 and Secretary of the US Navy 1981-87, officially opened the Boathouse and the Master of Caius, Professor Sir Alan Fersht, opened the refurbished graduate accommodation, together with Dr Cheng. Prof Fersht said: "Both buildings reflect the efforts of all at Caius to provide our students with outstanding facilities for study and recreation. Caius has an unrivalled rowing tradition in Cambridge and the new Boathouse will provide our oarsmen and women with some of the best training facilities on the river. One of our greatest sporting strengths is our track record in encouraging and bringing on not only existing rowers but those new to rowing who take it up at Caius and hugely enjoy the sporting and social benefits it offers.

"We are enormously indebted to all our donors, and particularly to the extraordinary generosity of the benefactors who facilitated these two linked building projects."

Caius Development Director James Howell added:  "The new Boathouse is a fabulous new facility for Caius Boat Club and a fitting reward for its outstanding success on the river over the last two decades. It has been made possible by the generosity of generations of former oarsmen and women, delighted by this success. The College has not had to contribute a penny to the project, which has been entirely funded by these most loyal Caians.

"In Alice Cheng House we now have accommodation of the very highest standard for our accompanied graduate students, and we are most grateful to Dr Cheng, and our other donors, who have provided these homes for these young couples".

Caius boatman Simon Goodbrand said the new building would help the College continue its strong rowing tradition, with a new workshop offering much-improved facilities for boat repair and refurbishment.

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