A small group of anonymous donors has pledged £12.6 million to help secure the future of University rowing. This is the biggest gift ever to have been received by sport at Oxford.

Student rowers carry their boat, often known as a 'shell', to the river. Image © Oxford University Images / Rob Judges Photography

This generous support, which comprises a £10.6 million gift and a further £2 million in matched funding, represents a major step towards creating a £20 million permanent endowment – the first of its kind to benefit both men and women equally from the outset.

The endowment will be named the Topolski Fund in honour of former Oxford rower and coach, Dan Topolski, who passed away in February 2015.

Once completed, the Topolski Fund will be sufficient to fund all four of the University's rowing clubs in perpetuity, enabling them to have the best possible coaching and training programmes without being dependent on external funding. The four clubs (the Men's, Women's, Men's Lightweight and Women's Lightweight) will function under the newly formed Oxford University Rowing Association.

Professor Louise Richardson, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford commented: 'Rowing has a rich history at Oxford and this gift, the largest ever given to sport at Oxford, will ensure it remains an important part of the University's identity. It will enable each of our rowing teams access to the very best training opportunities. We are extremely grateful to these donors for their generosity and commitment to sport at Oxford.'

A reputation for sporting achievement

Oxford's tradition of academic excellence has historically gone hand-in-hand with a reputation for sporting achievement, and rowing is no exception.

Since the first Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge in 1829, rowing has grown to become one of the University's biggest and most successful sports. It has produced no fewer than 120 Olympians and 78 medallists, including Constantine Louloudis, Andrew Triggs Hodge, Peter Reed, Zoe Lee, Zoe de Toledo and Sir Matthew Pinsent – winner of four consecutive Olympic gold medals and one of Great Britain's most successful ever athletes.

Sir John Bell, Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford and President of the Oxford University Boat Club (OUBC), said: 'The establishment of this endowment presents a great opportunity for rowing at Oxford. It will allow all four clubs to pull together to become stronger and ensure excellence in rowing at Oxford flourishes. OUBC is very grateful to the donors for this truly transformational gift.'