Mention the letters RBT to anyone involved in Oxford rowing
and they’ll know who you are talking about: Robin
Bourne-Taylor, of Christ Church, and more recently Great
Britain.Whilst his contemporaries were on the Isis two weeks ago,
Bourne-Taylor, described by Sydney veteran Tim Foster as a
“rising star” of British rowing, was in Munich
competing at the second world cup regatta of the season, in his
third consecutive year in the Great Britain VIII. He will now head to the Olympics in Athens to compete in a
boat that won gold last time around. In September, he will return
to Oxford as President of OUBC and look toward finishing his
engineering degree, another Boat Race, another world
championships, and finally, Sandhurst. Exuding a quiet confidence, he is obviously somebody who is
sure of his own abilities, yet unpresumptuous about what the
future might hold. When I ask him how he thinks he will feel if
the schedule allows him to go to the opening ceremony of the
Games, he stresses the fact that official selection is yet to be
made but says, “I’m a patriotic type of guy, so I
imagine it would be pretty special.” Equally, the respect
for the abilities of the people he competes with is palpable. When Robin arrived in Oxford, he rejected the life of a
typical student and devoted himself fully to OUBC. “I made
the conscious decision that I wasn’t going to go out and get
pissed every night. I wanted to win the Boat Race and see where
my rowing went from there.” One sacrifice he does seem to
lament a little is his involvement in college life, but again
emphasising the positives, he says, “The relationships you
have with the guys in the crew are pretty tight, and I don’t
feel I’ve missed out too much.” Anybody who watched the
Boat Race in 2002 or 2003 would be inclined to agree. The other thing about Bourne- Taylor is that unlike some
university oarsmen, he seems genuinely enthusiastic about college
rowing. “I can’t think of anywhere where there is such
a massive enthusiasm for rowing concentrated in such a small
environment,” he says. He has acquired legend status within
his college Boat Club. Affectionately referred to as the RBT3000,
freshers are passed down a mantra attributed (no-one is sure
whether accurately) to him: “I do not feel pain, I feel
electrical impulses to my brain.” In his first Summer
Eights, stroking his college 1st VIII, he won first division
blades without having to row out of the gut; last year, in the
midst of finals, he rushed home from a GB training session to
race in the top division. Conversation naturally moves to the Great Britain squad and
his hopes for this summer. Bourne- Taylor says whilst the fifth
place at the first international regatta of the season was below
par, the fourth achieved in Munich was more encouraging. As he
points out, the important thing is to be quick in August, not
June, and he has great belief in what the crew can achieve then.
Whilst he will not be drawn on whether he is expecting a medal,
highlighting that the goals the VIII have set themselves are not
about potential outcome, one senses that as a highly competitive
individual he has his sights set on gold. After that, as a member of Oxford University Officer Training
Corps, an organisation that he cites as giving him support over
the past four years, he is relishing the prospect of Sandhurst. I
ask him whether he will continue to row to such a high level when
in the army, and his response is typical: “I hope to, but
we’ll see what happens.” Given his track record, I
wouldn’t bet against it.ARCHIVE: 6th week TT 2004