Van Mildert Boat Club

Who we are and where we came from

Van Mildert Boat Club (VMBC) is a student-run rowing club for members of Van Mildert College, Durham University, England. It is open to all undergraduate and postgraduate members of the College. Founded in 1965, the club's home water is the River Wear, which is also used by another 11 Durham University Colleges, Durham Amateur Rowing Club and Durham Univeristy Boat Club. All Durham University College Boat Clubs are also represented by the umbrella organisation Durham College Rowing (DCR). The colours of the club are yellow and black, the same VMBC Blade as Van Mildert College, with club blades identified by the single colour yellow.
Funding is provided by membership fees from Club Members, Van Mildert JCR, Sponsors and Alumni, allowing VMBC to maintain a healthy fleet of boats - from training boats to racing-level sculling and sweep boats. An Executive Committee is responsible for the running of the club and the members of this committee are elected annually.
The club regularly attends regional and national events, primarily ones held within the University calendar of October-June. This includes the Head of the River Race, Womens Head of the River Race, Durham Regatta, Hexham Regatta, York Regatta, Tyne Head and many more. Training takes place during term time as either land sessions or water sessions, with land sessions taking place at Van Mildert College, the college gym or the Maiden Castle Ergo Suite (University Sports Centre). Pre-seasonal training takes place before term begins in order to build up fitness after holiday breaks.


VMBC is interested in collating the history of the club to add to this page. Please get in touch with the Webmaster if you have any contributions.

Contribution from Mike Arnott (Rowed with VMBC from 1968-71)

All names are from cox to bow

Top left: VMBC/UCBC Tideway Head (HoRR) 1971. Started No. 268, finished No. 123

J. Simpson, J. Scott-Maxwell, P. Wallis, M. Arnott, B. McWilliam, J. Ramshaw, B. Meatyard, G. Armstrong, J. Hunter

Top centre: VMBC Winning Admirals Cup 1971 in the original Van Mildert

Canbin, Wallis, Arnott, Meatyard, Ramshaw

Top right: VMBC Junior IV at York Spring Regatta 1969

J.Simpson, R. Allword, S. Scott, P. Barnes, P. Wallis

Middle left: Nicholls, Barnes, Meatyard, Crochford, Wallis

Middle centre: VMBC rowing past Dunelm House

Middle right: VMBC (near side) vs. Grey College (far side)

E. Crowe, M. Arnott, A. Reed, P. Riley, P. Heafield

Bottom left: VMBC at York Spring Regatta 1970

Arnott, Wallis, Ramshaw, Meatyard

Bottom centre: VMBC after winning Admirals Cup 1971 in the original Van Mildert

Wallis, Arnott, Meatyard, Ramshaw

Contribution from Martin Hallett (Captain of VMBC for 1978-79 season)

In the late seventies, the club possessed one fine and two clinker "fours", and a "tub" pair (all wooden) plus two single sculls - a wooden clinker and a fibreglass fine, which required the balancing skills of a circus high-wire artiste to stay upright in. When I started rowing in 1976 we had just 4 big and 2 small serviceable sticks of wood to propel these beasts! Before long we did manage to acquire 4 more, but everything was done on a shoestring budget. I sanded down and revarnished oars in my college room, with them hanging out the window to dry. Kit consisted of a black singlet with yellow-ish diagonal - this was later superseded by white singlets with a vertical black and yellow stripe on one side and "VMBC" on the other - but no new kit could disguise the fact that we were essentially a bunch of scruffy urchins who liked messing about with boats. We had modest successes in inter-collegiate and public events, with occasional appearances by some members in the DUBC crews. Best fun of all was the twice yearly "Bumps" races, which do not appear to be held anymore, which is a great shame. You are really missing out on a massive adrenalin surge if you have never rowed in the "Bumps".

VMBC at Head of the River in 1979

Head of the River Crew 1979 in action, storming from 380th to 131st position

In 1978 VMBC managed to attend The Head of The River Race in a joint crew with Grey College, but in 1979 we managed to get a full Mildert crew together, for possibly the first time (although records from earlier years were a bit patchy and there may have been an earlier appearance). An Eight was borrowed from Monkton Coombe School - it was the first time that some of the crew had even been in an Eight, or rowed over that distance! By amazing coincidence our starting number was 380, the same as the 2010 crew. A brisk head wind made for choppy conditions and twenty boats perished beneath the waves that year, but HMS Mildert ploughed on regardless, amassing some six inches of water in the bottom of the boat, and finished in a stunning 131st position, the best known result surpassing even the recent 2010 result.

VMBC Tyne Regatta Winners 1978 (Novice 4+)

VMBC Novice crew victorious at Tyne Regatta in June 1978, which elevated us to the lofty status of "Senior C". Left to Right - Martin Hallett, Pete Hall (Cox), Dave Cowan, Bobeck Lewinski.

But is 'Trust in Mildert' the first Eight owned by VMBC? My memories are a bit vague now, but I know that for Mildert Day in 1977, we carried an old leaky Eight from one the boathouses near Prebends Bridge, all the way up to the college, sat it proudly in the lake, and invited all-comers to participate in time-trials from one side of the lake to the other. The Eight, already leaking when we started, was even the worse for wear by the time the day ended, sinking sadly beneath the waters. It was obviously retrieved and carted away, but was only good for scrap after so many impacts with the opposing sides of the lake. Now I have a vague recollection that this boat was owned by VMBC, and who else would have allowed us to commit such sacrilege, but I cannot be sure. The only person who would probably know is a John Cotton, who was Captain in 1976-77, and who got me interested in rowing in the first place. Maybe it should, and will, remain a mystery!!

Contributions from Chris Guy (Captain for VMBC for 1975-76 season)


Left: The winners of the 'Mayor's Plate' (now known as the Novice Cup) at Durham Regatta 1974. Left to right -Back row: Chris Guy, Rob Rowland.

Front row - Pete Bennett, C. Robinson, John Lewis.

Middle: The same crew attending a race in York on the River Ouse.

Right: From cox to bow - Chris Guy, Phillipa Knight, Janet Ashley, Helen Trebiatowski, Helen.

Contributions from Simon Scott (Van Mildert 1965-9, 8 December 1946 – 10 August 2008) courtesy of the VMA Obituaries

Simon was a founder member of the College during its initial year in Parsons Field House in 1965-6. He came to Durham from Kings School Worcester to read engineering and graduated in 1969 after ‘recycling’, as he put it, his first year. A major factor in this sequence of events was his commitment to the College Boat Club. Simon arrived at Van Mildert with an impressive background in school rowing and dedicated his enthusiasms to founding VMBC, perhaps at the expense of any enthusiasm for engineering. Within a few weeks of the College opening it had acquired a Boat House, a tub pair and a sufficient fleet of boats to enable the College to compete on the river from the word go. Simon’s boast was that he had persuaded or coerced every member of the College’s first year into having at least one excursion on the river, with the year culminating in victory in the MacFarlane-Grieve challenge trophy for first time rowers – a result entirely due to his tireless commitment as a coach and boat maintenance expert. As the club grew Simon was instrumental in persuading the JCR to purchase the College’s first ‘fine’ boat, built by Simms, which opened up more competitive prospects and paved the way for the College’s most successful crew in the early days, winning Admirals, the Centenary Ferrymasters’ Challenge Cup on the Tyne and several ‘Senior’ events on the regatta circuit. In his school days Simon had been a keen Scout, from which he gained an amazing practical ability to fix just about anything.
In 2004 he was diagnosed with a skin cancer condition but typically maintained an active and busy life. He was regularly seen on the towpath at regatta events in the Worcester region and was delighted to meet up with current members of VMBC who were competing at Worcester regatta in 2007.

The Van Mildert

The Van Mildert was believed to be the first fine racing boat owned by the college. By 2005 the boat was no longer in a rowable condition and was auction for DUCK (Durham University Charities Kommittee) in order to raise money for charity. It was split into quarters following the auction, with the bow decorating a wall outside of the college bar where it can be seen today. In June 2012 it was decided that the latest purchased boat, an Intersport 4+ bought with contributions from the JCR, would be named 'Van Mildert'.

Van Mildert 4+

Bought: Summer 2010

Use: Men's 1st IV, River Wear

Naming: 20th June 2012 with Senior Tutor in attendance

Financing: VMBC + Van Mildert JCR Part 3 Acc't

Trust in Mildert (TiM)

Bought: Summer Term 2010. Received Sept. 2010 TiM Naming Ceremony, Tyne United RC
Initial use: Stored at Tyne United RC and used for weekly VIII's outings by the men and women's first VIII's. First raced at Rutherford Head of the River 2010 by the men in the morning and women in the afternoon (A day of sub-zero temperatures and blizzards) The men came 12th, winning IM3 VIII's, beating all the Durham College crews, Leeds Uni 1st VIII, amongst other competitors. (Crew - Lucy Madden, John Harris, Charlie Brunt, Si Zieleniewski, Arwyn Daview, Andy Wood, Will Stagg, Robbie Edwards, Mike Harrap). Not bad first race!
Naming: 30th January 2011 at TURC. After a speech by the then current President, Jarris, the then Master, Prof. Paddy O'Meara christened the boat the "Trust in Mildert". The name was chosen by the Van Mildert Trust, the main funder of the purchase.
Financing: The VIII at the time would've been around £18,000 off the shelf. The club was able to meet this cost with the generous donation of £15,000 from the Van Mildert Trust, Boat Club funds and a contribution from our Ernst & Young's sponsorship.
Life since: Raced at HoRR 2011 and 2012 by the men's 1st VIII's, Yorkshire Head 2011 for the Women's 1st VIII. Tyne Head 2011 for the men's and women's 1st VIII's. Hayward Cup 2012 Men's 1st and 2nd and Women's 1st VIII. Admiral's Regatta 2012 Mixed VIII's. Moved to the Wear following Rutherford 2011.