No Outstanding CrewsSummer Eights always seem to begin at Oxford a week earlier than has seemed possible from one's earliest calculation. Certainly they begin at least a week too soon for the good of Oxford rowing.
For, except on the rare occasion when some college starts practice with a ready-made crew, there is always evidence of a lack of training and preparation, particularly at the beginning of the week. And this year promises to be no exception to the rule, for there is not one crew that is either really good or ready to race to-day, though this, of course, is not to say that there are no crews of promise.
New College, stroked by the new president, L. A. F. Stokes, with M. J. Hawkes at seven and C. G. Turner at six, are still very rough and not too well together. They look as though they lack coaching, but they should be safe in their headship unless Merton spring a surprise. Trinity stroked by C. G. V. Davidge, are rather erratic, but should have enough pace to keep away from Magdalen, who, though perhaps the best drilled crew at Oxford, seem to have no beginning and consequently to be struggling to build a finish out of nothing, and that at a hopelessly sluggish rate of striking. Since 1939 Merton have risen from twenty-fifth to fourth on the river, and they cannot expect to continue their upward way with the ease they have sometimes experienced in the past. They lack rhythm, but have drive and better length that most, and if they can find their form it is not impossible that they will bump Magdalen and Trinity.
Beyond that it is hard to see. Christ Church look as though they ought to hold their own, and Balliol, though inclined to rush, might catch Oriel. Worcester are expected to make bumps, but they are very clumsy and it is not obvious where the victims are to come from. University have paid a visit to Cambridge, where they were coached by Mr. Roy Meldrum, of Lady Margaret, and, if they do not exactly bear his hall-mark, the act of faith has still been of some value.
In the second division Queen's look better than usual, and Jesus should go up again, though they may have to wait for bumps to be made in front of them.
Weather more fitting for Torpids, with cold and blustery conditions, marked the opening of Eights Week at Oxford yesterday.
The main interest was in the first division race and New College had no difficulty in holding their place at the Head. Behind them, however Trinity were hard pressed by Magdalen, who, after missing them several times, made their bump near the University Boathouse.
The first division of Oxford University Summer Eights provided some fine racing last night and but for some excellent coxing New College, the leaders, would have fallen to Magdalen.
Coming along the Green Bank Magdalen were overlapping the leaders but steering close to a pile driven dam which obstructs the river New College gradually drew away again. They were without the services of N. J. Hawkes a Blue at No.7, suffering from a high temperature, and a substitute took his place. Merton moved up to third position at the expense of Trinity and Worcester, St. John's and Pembroke all made bumps in this division.
There was a dispute in the fourth division race and after a meeting of the O.U.B.C it was decided that Balliol II, New College III, and Worcester II shoudl re-row at mid-day to-day.
Magdalen go HeadIt is 19 years since Magdalen were last Head of the River at Oxford, but even the satisfaction of bumping their traditional rivals on Saturday must have been much dimmed by the realization that New College had had the worst of luck. For, they lost J. F. E. Smith shortly before the races with mumps, and on Friday night M. J. Hawkes went down with a temperature. Apparently this was not mumps, and as his temperature was down on Saturday, there was some hope, even, that Hawkes might take his place again after the weekend. But the damage was done.
On Saturday the three leading crews came up the Green Bank with only a few feet separating them. At the University boat-house Magdalen, showing greatly improved form, made a final effort which earned them their bump. Significantly it also took them away to about a quarter of a length from Merton, who had been pressing them so closely. Undoubtedly Merton are at present the fastest eight at Oxford, and they can hardly fail to catch New College to-night. But Magdalen now have the advantage of rowing in smooth water, which must give them an excellent chance of staying Head.
Magdalen stay HeadIt was perfect weather when the Oxford University Eights were continued yesterday, and once again the first division produced some keen racing.
N. J. Hawkes, a Blue, who has been suffereing from a temperature, returned to No. 7 in the New College boat, but Merton were not to be denied, and caught them in the Gut. Merton can now challenge Magdalen for the headship, and as they caught New College earlier than did Magdalen on Saturday to-day's race should be well worth watching.
Merton go HeadLast night Merton caught Magdalen within a few yards of the finishing line, and thus became Head of the River for the first time in their history.
Conditions were extremely difficult with a strong cross wind blowing on most of the course. After the start Merton gained steadily and were about a third of a length behind Magdalen at the University boathouse. For a time it looked as though Magdalen would hold their own, but in the last minute a magnificent spurt gave Merton their bump.
Merton Head of the RiverOxford Summer Eights ended yesterday with Merton, who went Head on Tuesday, retaining their position. It is over 150 years since Summer Eights were instituted at Oxford but this is the first time that Merton have been Head of the River. New College started at the Head but were bumped on Saturday by Magdalen, who were then themselves displaced by Merton.
Merton finish HeadRarely, if ever, in the history of Summer Eights at Oxford, can one college have risen steadily over a period of years as have Merton. And it was their proper reward that they should have finished head last night. Not inappropriately, they were heralded as they came out of the Gut by two runners carrying torches, who accompanied them to the finish.
In the six seasons since the war Merton have made 21 bumps, culminating on Tuesday night when they displaced Magdalen for the headship. It has been achieved through the keenness and determination of the boat club rather than through any individual effort, but it is only right to give credit to R. L. Arundel, who rowed for Oxford in 1948 and 1949 and has been in all the Merton crews since 1947.
It would be idle to pretend that Merton are a great crew, but they have the qualities of good college rowing — fair length and swing, good rhythm, and plenty of dash. They were certainly the fastest crew in Eights and thoroughly deserved their success.
Magdalen were, perhaps, the best finished crew, but they were lacking in leg drive and could not command a high enough rating for bumping races. They should be better over the Henley course. New College, even allowing for their bad luck in losing Smith before, and Hawkes for two days during the races, were disappointing. They were not at all together and were very rough. Still, one might have thought them potentially Oxford's best entry for Henley had the not gone down again last night.
It was stated during Eights Week that Merton had never before been Head of the River at Oxford. It is true that they have never finished Head, but in 1839 they did hold that position for two nights during the racing. Records are a little obscure, for it is stated that "On the first night, owing to the boats being late through a dispute at starting caused by the high wind, the race began 'after dark' at 9 o'clock. Merton bumped Balliol, but the race was cancelled. In consequence of this, starting lines were instituted, which were held 'by a man on the shore'." But according to the chart of the racing in 1839 Balliol displaced Exeter from the Headship on the first night, and Merton bumped Exeter on the second night and Balliol on the third night. They remained Head of the River for two nights, and were then caught by Brasenose, who had bee rising steadily from sixth place, and on the last night they were re-bumped by Balliol, so that they both started and finished third.
There is a tradition that their discomfiture was due to holding their bump supper on the night after going Head, instead of at the end of the racing. Possibly this contributed to their being re-bumped by Balliol, but as Brasenose missed only one bump in the seven nights racing that took place that year, one cannot but suspect that Merton were perhaps wise to make sure of their celebrations when they did. It is record that Brasenose "gave a supper in their Hall to 150 gentlement, in honour of their victory, after the race."
|B:||N. W. Sanders (Radley)||10st 10lb|
|2:||K. R. Spencer (Wellingborough G.S.)||12st 11lb|
|3:||C. D. Milling (Radley)||12st 8lb|
|4:||P. D. Leuch (Radley)||13st 6lb|
|5:||R. L. Arundel (Marlborough)||14st 5lb|
|6:||A. J. Smith (Melbourne G.S.)||13st|
|7:||H. M. C. Quick (Shrewsbury)||13st 10lb|
|S:||D. R. Tristram (Radley)||11st 7lb|
|C:||D. W. Bannister (Manchester G.S.)||9st 7lb|
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