Queen's, who finished Head of the River, being pursued by Merton, with Christ Church third, during the First Division race at the conclusion of Eights Week at Oxford on Saturday.
Summer Eights Prospects — Improved standard expectedIt is generally expected that the result of the Boat Race will be reflected in the crews in Eights and Mays, but there is, happily, little sign on the Isis of the disaster which Oxford suffered in the Boat Race two months ago. Had they won, of course, there is little doubt that we should have had an outbreak of "new look" Connibear [sic] crews. Certainly there are one or two undistinguished crews which are caricaturing the Americans, but no more than were trying to emulate Lady Margaret a year or two ago. And even in such isolated cases, something may well be gained, for at least it means that eight men are making a determined effort to achieve something together.
It would be rash, before the racing, to say that the Oxford crews are better than last year. But there does seem to be confirmation of an impression gained over the past two summers, that more intelligent and constructive coaching has been going on at Oxford than anywhere else in the country. Unfortunately little evidence of this is seen beyond the confines of the Isis, because of the chronically weak numerical state of the college boat clubs.
Continual wastageFar too many men seem to be unable to row for more than two years, and this continual wastage of the more experienced material, coupled with the incompatible dates of the Oxford examinations and Henley Royal Regatta, make it almost impossible to produce first-class crews. But if there are no potential Grand crews, it is still true that the overall standard of the first two divisions continues to rise. Incidentally, an innovation which must have helped this year is the introduction of a rule that crews below the third division must be off the river by 4.30pm. This means that the more seriously inclined have a far better chance of an uninterrupted outing.
To forecast the results of the racing which starts to-day would be hard indeed, when even those who have been regularly on the towing path seem disinclined to commit themselves. There is an expectation that Queen's will displace Balliol, which is justified by the superficial sight of both crews. There also seems to be a suspicion, if not an expectation, that either Merton or Christ Church will, or could, catch Queen's. Undoubtedly Christ Church are the crew which has the men this year, including two Blues and several trial caps. But if Queen's once reach the place of honour, they may prove hard to catch. If they finish head it will be for the first time since 1837.
Tough divisionLower in the first division there could be a landslide, but it is difficult to say who would reap the benefit, since so much depends on the first day's racing. Jesus and Lincoln are fancied, but could be robbed, respectively, by St. Edmund Hall and University. In the second division, Hertford, Worcester, and Pembroke all should — yet all cannot, since they are neighbours — make bumps. Here there must be heartburnings, with Wadham and St. Peter's bent on making difficult the way ahead, and St. Catherine's and Exeter, and perhaps Corpus, ready, and probably able, to pick off any stragglers. By and large this must be as tough a second division as there has been for many years.
Queen's go Ahead at Oxford — Balliol bumped at second attemptThe weather was overcast and an uncomfortable cross-wind from the Oxford bank for the first day of Eights Week when, in the seven divisions, there were 24 bumps and two overbumps.
As was generally expected, Queen's went head of the river. They were always coming up on Balliol though they first missed their bump at the top of Green Bank. However, they overlapped again almost at once and then made no mistake about it, catching Balliol just above the University boathouse.
There was an unusual incident in this division when, coming out of the Gut, bow in the Jesus boat caught a crab and was catapulted into the river. Jesus quickly recovered from this and, rowing on with only seven men, just managed to escape a bump by Oriel.
Queen's Still at the Head — Danger looming from MertonSunshine and little wind made pleasanter conditions for the second day of Summer Eights at Oxford when 26 bumps were made. Queen's rowed over comfortably at the head of the river, but their way was made easy because Merton caught Balliol coming out of the Gut.
That Merton made their bump so early must be a little disturbing to Queen's, who may be pushed to hold their place to-day and to-morrow. St. John's, by bumping Oriel II in the second division, climbed out of their ignominious place among the second boats and joined their own kind.
Merton not quite fast enoughThe big interest of the third day of Eights Week at Oxford was whether Queen's would retain their place at the head of the river. Merton are probably the fastest boat on the river but they were not quite fast enough to make up the distance for a bump.
They gained fast between the Concrete Bridge and The Gut and at the top of the Green Bank were no more than half a length behind. But it was significant that Queen's were rowing 32 to Merton's 36 and were always longer in the water. Over the second half of the course there was never much chance that Merton would get any closer. With the moral advantage of yesterday, Queen's should not be hard put to it to hold their position to-day.
There was an interesting bump in Division IV when Christ Church III caught St. Edmund Hall III. St. Edmund Hall first put on a third boat in 1948 and this is the first time it has ever been bumped. [not actually true: St. Edmund Hall III.were bumped twice in 1950].
Queen's Finish Head — well deserved place of honourAs a social occasion, Eights Week left little to be desired. Brilliant weather attracted a huge crowd on Saturday, the oarsmen provided plenty of excitement, and even the diehards seemed to be softening towards the prospect of a river frontage free of iron railings, from which it may actually be possible to obtain a good view of the rowing — at the expense of the diminishing vista of college barges.
The more serious students of rowing may perhaps have felt a mixture of admiration and frustration; admiration that so much has been done in the last few years, with so little material, and frustration at the sure knowledge of what the sequel will be. For there was no question either that this was the highest standard achieved in Eights for several years or that the majority of the first eights were really trying to row in an intelligent and efficient manner — quite unlike the present general trend of rowing in this country. Yet, almost inevitably, it seems, these crews will now be broken up or reconstituted, and such as go on to Henley will do so with half their members commuting between the Examination Schools and the boat tents. Looking further ahead, it can be expected that, of this summer's first eight men who are still in residence next year, up to 25 per cent. will have given up rowing.
Both crews roughQueen's, without the services of K. A. Mason, the University stroke, nevertheless finished Head of the River for the first time in 120 years, and fully deserved the place of honour, even if they were not quite as fast as Merton. Both crews were rough, and both worked tremendously hard, and demonstrated the advantages of doing so with their blades fully covered. Merton had the greater starting pace, but could never do more than threaten Queen's.
Christ Church were frankly disappointing, for they seemed to have the makings of the best crew on the river. They were reputedly fast in practice, but in the races their bladework was washy, and they lacked a properly coupled leg-drive. Magdalen, with an obviously weak crew, must have been rightly delighted to catch Balliol on Saturday. Balliol, after putting up a tremendous resistance to Queen's on the opening night, perhaps lost heart, for they got slower as the week progressed.
|B:||M. H. Harper|
|2:||G. L. Harvey|
|4:||M. T. Carter|
|5:||G. B. Simmill|
|6:||A. H. Gordon Clark|
|7:||C. P. Tootal|
|S:||J. E. Dove|
|C:||T. C. Frears|
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