After six years it has become something of a habit to expect Trinity to remain Head of the River at Oxford. They have but a shadow of last year's crew, but even so it is well within the bounds of possibility that they will succeed again in the Summer Eights that will be begun to-day.
In Davidge, Trinity have the best stroke at the university, and providing he has fully recovered from the jaundice that kept him out of the Boat Race he may just pull them through. Behind Trinity are Magdalen, who can go quite fast for a short distance, but are reported to be weak over the second half of the course. New College, lying third, are powerful, and considered by many to be the fastest eight at Oxford. Whether they have the necessary margin of speed to catch either Magdalen or Trinity is more doubtful.
Christ Church started practice with poor prospects, but Gladstone is rowing well at six, and with the old Blue, J. R. L. Carstairs, brought in at five, they have improved a lot. They may be pressed by Merton, who have a good record in recent years, but they should be capable of catching Brasenose, and possibly of going still further. Other crews which might make bumps in the First Division, if they get the chance, are Oriel and Balliol, while Lincoln might possibly come up from the Second Division. Lower down Jesus and Corpus might be successful.
There is no crew this year as good as Trinity were last summer, but there is perhaps less difference between the crews at the bottom and top of the First Division. With more practice all the first seven crews, and several others, could attain quite a fair standard. Unfortunately the date of Eights Week has always made it very difficult to produce good crews, and this difficulty is aggravated by the present shortage of experience coaches.
There is little question that seven divisions are more than the Isis can cope with; five would be nearer the mark. It may brighten the prospect of Eights Week to have a few "schools" and "rugger" eights, bedecked in top hats and coloured jerseys, but it contributes little to Oxford rowing. Very few of the men in the college third and fourth eights, let alone fifth eights, are destined to move up next year, and in the meantime they make it even harder for the serious crews to get uninterrupted practice on the already over-short course.
The Oxford Summer Eights were begun yesterday in fine weather before a very large crowd.
Chief interest was in whether Trinity, who have been head for six years, would keep their position. New College, the third boat, caught Magdalen in the Gut and will be in a position to challenge Trinity to-night.
The outstanding feature of the racing in the Oxford University Summer Eights last night was the success of New College in depriving Trinity of the Headship of the river. New College were last Head in 1937, since when Trinity have held it for six years, twice before the war and four times since. New College were stroked by L. A. F. Stokes.
In Division VI there will be a re-row. Because of two bumps ahead of them blocking the river, St. Peter's Hall III, St. Edmund Hall III, Worcester III, and New College IV were unable to get through and will re-row in that order this morning at 12 o'clock.
New College Finish HeadThere has been little in the past week to remind one of the glories of pre-war Eights weeks. Attendances have been only moderate, and the sartorial effort, or lack of effort, of the spectators has not helped to brighten the scene.
But the rowing, if not exactly inspiring, has certainly shown an improvement on the last few years. That is not to say that the standard at the top of the first division is much higher, but there is a less rapid deterioration as one looks down the list of crews. There are probably eight or nine crews which could make a decent showing in the Ladies Plate, which is a healthy sign.
It is difficult to judge just how good New College are, because they have not been extended. They may not be as fast as Trinity were last year, but they are certainly considerably the best crew in Oxford this year. Merton were probably the second fastest crew on the river and if they had succeeded in catching Christ Church on Saturday, instead of on Tuesday, the might well have finished second instead of fourth. In 1939 they started twenty-fifth on the river. By 1947 they stood eighteenth, and in the past four years have risen 14 places. This is a remarkable performance for which much credit must got to R. L. Arundel. Whatever doubts there may have been about his ability in a University crew, there can certainly be none about his value in a college crew.
Trinity were very weak and would have gone down several places more had they not been blessed with the services of Davidge at stroke. On paper, and on looks, Magdalen should have done better. But they were short and lacked punch, partly because they skied their blades. Cavanagh drove them hard, but could get no real pace out of his crew.
For Oriel Fiske, at seven, rowed excellently but had insufficient support to make them formidable. Also rowing seven, Blacker took Balliol up three places, which was more than they had hoped for. Lincoln should have been able to catch Pembroke, but missed them on five successive nights, largely because they could not maintain their length. Magdalen II made two bumps to strengthen their position as the highest second eight on the river. Other successful crews were Corpus, who made six bumps, Exeter III with seven, and St. Catherine's III, who made no fewer than eight bumps.
|B:||J. F. E. Smith (Eton)||11st 8lb|
|2:||K. R. J. Trott (Haberdashers' Aske's)||12st 3lb|
|3:||D. H. Neale (Leighton Park)||12st 5lb|
|4:||C. G. Turner (Winchester)||14st|
|5:||R. A. F. McMillan (Winchester)||14st|
|6:||J. Hayes (Shrewsbury)||12st 10lb|
|7:||M. J. Hawkes (Bedford)||12st 5lb|
|S:||L. A. F. Stokes (Winchester)||13st 1lb|
|C:||M. Pratelli (Magdalen C. S.)||8st 12lb|
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