The Balliol crew rowing past the college barges on Saturday, the last day of Eights Week at Oxford, when they retained their place at the head of the river. The barges on the Isis are to be replaced by new boathouses.See also the article below from 5 Jun 1956.
No apathy on the IsisThere was a time when Oxford oarsmen were said to be apathetic to their rowing. But that is certainly not true to-day. A dozen eights were practising at Henley before term was begun, and there were others at Putney and elsewhere. Perhaps there has never been a wider enthusiasm on the Isis. That the results of all this hard work are depressing serves merely to emphasize the keenness which draws men to the river, with only the slightest prospect of any rewarding success.
For the fact is that there are a few crews which can hope for success in Eights Week, which will be started to-night and ends on Saturday. Balliol, Merton, Queen's, Christ Church, and Pembroke seem the most likely. But there is not a single college which can confidently expect to send an eight to Henley with more than an outside chance of success.
The basic weaknesses and handicaps of Oxford rowing are too complex to consider now. The immediate and obvious trouble is that no single college, except perhaps Merton, acts as a magnet to school oarsmen, in the way that, for example, Magdalen and New College did in the past. Spread out through a dozen or more crews there is the material to make four or five good eights. But there is still no crew which is not trying to make do with several virtual novices. It is true that the efforts to teach novices could be, and should be, more successful. But if only one or two boat clubs were in a stronger position it would make an enormous difference. To win the Ladies' Plate would be a far greater stimulus, to college rowing in general, than to win the Boat Race.
Tough customersBalliol, it is thought, will be hard put to it to hold the headship which they regained last year. That is probably true; but they have shown themselves tough customers before, and will no doubt do so again. Merton are without three of their most experienced men, including B. S. Mawer, this year's University stroke. This makes them very weak in the bows. Nevertheless they look to be the only crew which might displace Balliol. Magdalen may have some pace, but are lacking in experience, being more or less the same crew which rowed in the Torpids.
The plight of New College epitomizes the present situation in Oxford college rowing. For, having two Blues, the past and present presidents of the O.U.B.C., they have nevertheless had the greatest difficulty in finding enough regular men to man their first eight at all.
Queen's, who, since 1952 have risen from twenty-second to sixth on the river, have the strongest, and perhaps the fastest crew of all, and should certainly rise farther. Christ Church, having lost their Blue, G. Sorrell, and M. S. Murray-Threipland, are still good enough to make several bumps, if Queen's do not rob them. Of the rest of the first division, Brasenose are probably the best.
Balliol row over at the HeadConditions could hardly have been bettered for the opening day of Summer Eights at Oxford. There was brilliant sunshine, and a light cross wind from the Berkshire shore was no handicap to the crews. Balliol rowed over easily at the head of the river, and were at least three lengths up on Merton, who are disappointing and will have to raise considerably more speed and dash if they are to make a bump.
In all 32 bumps were made in the seven divisions. St. Peter's Hall had six boats on the river. Five of them made bumps, the fifth boat by bumping Balliol V climbing out of the seventh division. Unfortunately the first boat spoiled what should have been a fine record when they fell to Jesus at the top of the second division.
Summer Eights Confusion
Five crews to re-row to-dayAfter the brilliance of the first day the weather changed completely for the second day of the Summer Eights at Oxford, which were summer in name only. There was a cold head wind against the crews and rain fell for most of the afternooon.
Balliol again rowed through at the head and were a good two lengths in front of Merton. In Division II there was considerable confusion over disputed bumps and St. Catherine's, Worcester, Hertford, Pembroke, and Exeter have been ordered to re-row to-day at noon.
Helpful conditions for Eights Week
Balliol stay at the HeadIf the weather had not lived up to the promise of the first day of Eights Week at Oxford, rowing conditions have, at least, been more helpful than for several years. And that, no doubt, has had its effect upon the crews. The best may be little, if at all, better than last year. But there are certainly more respectable crews, and more individual oarsmen of promise, in the crews.
Balliol must now be reckoned to be as safe to retain the headship as any crew can ever be in a bumping race. Yesterday Merton perhaps closed up on them a little below the Gut, but over the full distance Balliol are convincingly the stronger. Whether or not they are faster than Queen's it is hard to say. Queen's have made three bumps so far without difficulty, and must stand an excellent chance of catching Merton to-day. Christ Church, who started behind Queen's, and were therefore unable to make a bump on Wednesday, also have a fair turn of speed. They have caught Trinity and New College convincingly, and may well improve their position again to-day at the expense of Magdalen.
Balliol remain Head
Improving standard of Eights WeekIt may, perhaps, be not unfair to say that Eights Week at Oxford this year left only one thing to be desired. And that was the sight of one, or two, really first class crews. The weather was generally kind, and the racing was excellent. There was no shortage of useful individual oarsmen; but nor was there any single crew which escaped the limitations imposed by having to carry one or two weak men.
The good racing may, incidentally, have been one of the first rewards of reducing Eights Week from six to four days, for there is not the same tendency for a crew, in a good year, to rise too far above, and, in a bad year, to sink too far below, its proper level. And this, in turn, reduces the likelihood of too many easy bumps in the higher divisions.
Fastest claimBalliol, because they handsomely held the headship, must be accorded the place of honour which they well deserved. But it remains a matter for speculation whether they, or Queen's, were really the faster. By the ease with which they caught Merton on Saturday, at the bottom of the green bank, Queen's may have a claim to that title. The claim may be strengthened by the fact that, at various times during the fours days' racing, Merton had closed the gap on Balliol. But this only occurred early in the races; Balliol were clearly strong finishers, and in all probability they could have kept away.
Each of these crews had the services of one Blue, D. A. Cross for Balliol, and K. L. Mason for Queen's, but neither was otherwise rich in talent. Their successes pointed a lesson, for it was noticeable that these two crews rowed longer, and covered their blades better, than any other crews on the river, though several others were, perhaps, more polished in style.
Non-stayersMerton had a fair turn of pace, but did not stay well. Christ Church were possibly the third fastest crew, and were unlucky to have to start immediately behind Queen's. But, truth to tell, by the time one reached the third, and certainly the fourth choice, there were a number of contenders, and they were by no means all crews high on the river.
This was, indeed a feature of the Eights this year. For if there were no outstanding crews, there were, none the less, more respectable and promising crews than usual, among them several welcome newcomers to this class. Jesus did well to make four bumps and finish well in the first division. Wadham looked as though they might follow suit, but were held off by a most determined Lincoln crew, which improved after a shaky start. Hertford had their best crew for many years, but were robbed of their chance of making four bumps on the second night. And Exeter, too, were certainly among the fastest. They were particularly unlukcy, for they twice just failed to catch Pembroke, who thus blocked their way. Besides Queen's and Jesus, 10 other crews made their four bumps, including the Queen's second boat, two Pembroke boats, and no fewer than three St. Peter's Hall boats.
Home of Lost Barges ?
Divided views on change along the IsisFrom a Special Correspondent
The boat club barges which bring an Edwardian grandeur to Eights Week in Oxford are one by one yielding their stations along the Isis and being sold for houseboats. To-day there are still 13 of them moored by Christ Church Meadow; in little more than a year the number may be six or seven.
The Oxford barges, with their cheerful windows and roofs designed as grandstands, are direct if less seaworthy descendant of the floats of the City companies which used to go in state procession along the Thames. They had their social as well as sporting uses, and in the days when servants were plentiful were the meeting place of dining clubs.
They have long since passed out of the hands of college barge clubs and become the dressing rooms of the boat clubs. Rowing opinion in recent years has hardened against them. It will be evident to any inquirer along the Isis that Oxford rowing men are sternly bent on ending the long ascendancy of Cambridge; and they feel that an important requirement is properly equipped boathouses.
The barges do not hold boats, though they serve as a storage place for oars and sculls. It is objected that they narrow the river and involve crews in the uncomfortable business of changing and then making their way to the University boathouse or private boathouses where their boats are stored.
No Leisured Class"I hope the barges will be gone in 10 years," says Mr. R. H. Carnegie, the president of the Oxford University Boat Club. "I don't mean this from the aesthetic point of view, but from the point of view of rowing. Boathouses are more efficient. The disappearance of the barges is a sign of the fact that there is no longer a leisured class at Oxford."
Many of those concerned with finance share this view. They see the barges as a permanent expense, a constant wasting asset. The fear is also expressed that there might be disaster with a large crowd on an old barge.
The trend to boathouses began about 1936 when Christ Church, whose barge was in a poor state, decided that it should not be replaced. They were widely criticized at the time. Later two other boathouses were built, one by Magdalen and Trinity and the other by Worcester and Merton. Now seven more colleges are planning to give up their barges. A boathouse is to be built shortly by New College and Balliol; a second will follow for Queen's, Lincoln, and Oriel; and a third is planned by Brasenose and Exeter. If, as is expected, these colleges get rid of their barges and University College move into the University Boat Club when it reverts to them, the Isis will be transformed.
A certain fantasyArchitecturally, more is hoped for from the new boathouses than was provided by the old ones. Mr. A. H. Smith, the Warden of New College and Vice-Chancellor of the University, says that theirs "has a certain amount of fantasy about it with the air of the waterside. It will have folding doors of a gay colour. To give the flavour of the waterside the rail around the projecting concrete platform looks rather like the taffrail of a ship. I still regret the barges, but I do think we are doing the best we can to reproduce a little of their fantasy."
On the question of cost informed opinion is by no means united. Mr. Vere Davidge, the treasurer of the O.U.B.C. and senior treasurer of the Keble College Boat Club, says "No figures have been produced which in my opinion have proved that in the long run a boathouse is any cheaper than a barge." Interest on the initial outlay must be considered as well as rates, electricity and upkeep. Among the likely survivors, in addition to Keble, are Corpus Christi, Hertford, Jesus, Pembroke, St. John's, and Wadham.
Mr. Talboys, a waterman who has spent 70 years working on the Isis and now, at 83, is thinking of selling the barge from which he rents punts, does not approve of the trend: "I can't think why they do it," he said. "There isn't anything in the whole world quite like a barge."
|B:||G. Archer (Poole G.S.)||11st 0lb|
|2:||D. J. M. Clements (Blundell's)||11st 2lb|
|3:||N. H. Cunnington (King Edward VII, Sheffield)||12st 3lb|
|4:||A. C. Copeman (Queensland University)||12st 1lb|
|5:||L. A. Mills (Kingston G.S.)||12st 1lb|
|6:||D. A. Cross (Winchester)||13st 0lb|
|7:||C. P. Banfield (Shrewsbury)||13st 0lb|
|S:||J. C. Bolton (Shrewsbury)||11st 9lb|
|C:||P. U. Kringlebotten (Oslo University)||9st 5lb|
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