The Boat Race 2018: Q&A with Spencer Furey
American rower Spencer Furey tells us about competing for Cambridge in the 2018 Cancer Research UK Boat Race
Cambridge University | Jesus College | Course American History | 24yrs • 193cm • 89.5kg
Where are you from in the States, and what brought you to the UK? What are you studying here?
I am from New Jersey, born and raised. I received a BA in History with a minor in English from Dartmouth College in June 2017. I came to the UK to study American History at Cambridge and to participate in the 2018 Boat Race.
What got you involved in rowing, and how did you come to be a part of 2018's Boat Race?
Playing tennis in high school, I envisioned myself as a college tennis player. I even took a gap year after graduating from high school to live at a tennis academy in Florida, where I essentially trained as a professional athlete. When there were no spots left on the Dartmouth tennis roster after I had been accepted, however, I needed to find something new. I saw a poster in the gymnasium encouraging students to try rowing because no prior experience was required. Remembering that an ex-girlfriend mentioned to me that I would like rowing, I went to the first informational meeting. I suppose the rest is history.
The first Oxford versus Cambridge Boat Race took place over 180 years ago, in 1829. Is the Boat Race an event you were aware of before you arrived in the UK? What does it mean to be taking part in such a historic event, and one which Oxford and Cambridge alumni the world round take an interest in?
I have loved rowing since I began the sport at Dartmouth four years ago. I possess a bit of an obsessive personality, and when I become interested in something, I throw all of my energy into that pursuit. Rowing was no different. I tried to learn everything I could about the sport during my freshman year, and naturally happened upon the Boat Race. I remember watching the race for the first time in the spring of 2014 and thinking that it was a competition that I wanted to take part in one day. If I worked hard in the classroom and on the water, I told myself, I might have the opportunity to join the tradition. I’m thrilled to have made the Blue Boat [The highest level of boats in the races -ed], and I consider it a privilege to join such a distinguished tradition. I hope, along with my eight crewmates, to make Cambridge alumni proud on the 24th of March.
Given the traditional British weather, is it more difficult to train in the UK than it is in the USA?
I went to university in New Hampshire, so we could not row from late November until late March or early April because the river was frozen. As a result, rowing on liquid water year round is a real treat. Nevertheless, training in the UK does present its challenges. It is often cold and wet throughout the winter, which means training sessions are often unpleasant. Coupled with the frequent presence of stiff winds, this makes for challenging conditions. On the early, cold, and wet mornings, it is great to have such a supportive group of teammates.
How do you prepare in terms of training for the Boat Race?
Because the Boat Race is such a long race, our training focuses on building a strong aerobic base. As a result, we incorporate a variety of techniques and strategies to prepare. Our main training regimen consists of long miles rowing out of our boathouse in Ely or on the ergometer in Goldie Boathouse in Cambridge. Some days we do shorter, higher intensity workouts to work our anaerobic fitness. We also lift weights and do full body exercise circuits, focusing on core strength and stability.
How intense is the Oxford / Cambridge rivalry when it comes to the Boat Race?
There is a rivalry. I would say it is analogous to Red Sox versus Yankees or Duke versus North Carolina. We train all year to beat Oxford in one race. They do the same. Any time a group of individuals dedicates itself so wholeheartedly to one pursuit, there is bound to be a certain amount of rivalry and animosity. It is only natural. Nevertheless, there is mutual respect between the two programs for the other’s accomplishments.
Although the US and UK speak a common language, given the slight differences in culture - and even US/UK terminology - how easy is it to be part of an international crew?
This year, we have five Brits and four Americans in the boat. I would say it has not been particularly difficult fitting in to the Cambridge squad. All the guys respect each other and are eager to learn about each other’s backgrounds. In that sense, CUBC is a melting pot of sorts. I have found one of the most rewarding parts of being a member of the CUBC is learning about how my teammates’ lives and childhood/adolescent experiences differed from my own.
As an American, what do you enjoy about living and studying in the UK, and is there anything you miss about the USA whilst you're here?
Living and studying in the UK has been great thus far. As a graduate student, I enjoy a much more flexible schedule than in the US. My coursework is interesting, and I am surrounded by smart and motivated young men and women. Cambridge is a beautiful and historic city that I am still very much exploring. Aside from meeting new people and immersing myself in a new culture, I enjoy getting down to London when possible. That said, I do miss the States. I miss my parents and my Dartmouth friends. I intend to visit Dartmouth once again this spring, which I am very much looking forward to. I also miss driving on the correct side of the road.
A big part of the Boat Race is its charitable donations - in particular to Cancer Research UK. How does it feel to take part in a sport you love whilst also being part of raising money for a great cause?
Frankly, it is the best of both worlds. To be able to compete in such a storied event is a blessing, and one that I would not trade for anything. But to be doing so while raising money for cancer research makes the event even more special for athletes and fans alike.
How much of an accomplishment and a personal achievement is it for you to be part of the 2018 Boat Race? Is there a big sense of pride at representing the USA in your crew at the Boat Race?
I would say it is an accomplishment to be part of the Boat Race. Nevertheless, we do not row just to participate in the race—we want to win. Otherwise, and it may sound harsh, but it is all for naught.
There is a sense of pride in representing the United States in the race. There have been a large number of talented American oarsmen who have raced, and Finn, Dara, Jim, and I are excited and honored to join that tradition.
Find out about more of the Americans competing in this year's Boat Race below: