The St. Edmund Hall crew, now head of the river in the Oxford Summer Eights.
Christ Church best eight — Keble's chance for four bumpsTo make reliable forecasts about the summer eights at Oxford is always a chancy business, because on the short Isis course it is never at all certain that the faster crews will have time to make the bumps which their form indicates that they should make, nor that apparently poor crews will not squeeze the short burst of speed to enable them to catch crews which they could not hope to beat in a side by side race.
One thing does seem clear, however, and that is that the gloomy prophets who forecast a low standard in eights because of the continued existence of the University crew are unlikely to be proved right. It is possible that, with the services of J. R. H. Lander at stroke, Christ Church might be the best Oxford college crew since the way. But even without him they are, at this stage, quite as good as were the Christ Church crew which, in spite of the handicap of Schools during Henley Regatta, went so near to winning the Ladies's Plate last year.
More hard hitMagdalen, lacking two Blues, are more hard hit. But they should at least maintain, and may even improve on, their present position. Keble have also released two men to the University crew, which is a great sacrifice for a college whose boat club has for long been in the doldrums. But one may well overlook the psychological aspect, which perhaps leads a crew in this situation to rise to the occasion. Keble start low on the river, at a time when the standard in the second division is not much below that at the bottom of the first division. But they may be the most likely of all the first boats to make their four bumps, unless they are robbed by a quick bump ahead of them. This could be brought about by Corpus, who are faster than usual.
The main interest in the eights, however, centres on whether St. Edmund Hall will catch Christ Church. St. Edmund Hall have done all their training at Henley, so they have not been seen alongside their opponents. But they are certainly above the standard of recent Oxford eights. It is possible, on the eve of the races, to see them as potentially the fastest crew on the Isis. But it is difficult to see them bumping Christ Church in the time available. It may well prove, indeed, that the House [Christ Church] are the faster crew all over.
Look precariousMerton have a rough but strong crew, and many think they will make short work of Queen's. If so St. Edmund Hall will have no chance of reaching Christ Church until the last night. Balliol, Jesus and New College all look precarious. But it is hard to say which wolf will play havoc in this particular fold. Worcester should be able at least to hold their position, although lacking the services of R. L. Howard. Hertford may not be so slow as some think, but Trinity are hard hit by giving up A. G. S. Barstow to the University crew. Brasenose should reverse their downward trend of recent years.
Eights Week Excitement — Narrow escapes on first dayEights Week began at Oxford yesterday with easy rowing conditions and fine weather, which showed up the new boathouses to advantange. Here surely are three modern buildings of which Oxford may be proud. It only seemed unfortunate that the racing baptism, if not the actual opening of the two latest boathouses, should have coincided with the removal of the bridge across the New Cut which has connected the boathouses with the green bank for several years past. This seems a short-sighted action which will causes spectators much inconvenience, and, presumably, complicate the servicing of the 12 college boat clubs now housed on this site.
There were only two bumps in the first division, but plenty of narrow escapes. Christ Church, as expected, were well outside their distance ahead of Queen's, before the latter were bumped by Merton, just below the gut. St. Edmund Hall were then close on Merton's tail and had to steer out sharply to avoid them. However, they were well clear of Magdalen, who, in turn, were drawing away from Balliol. Then came the excitement, with Balliol Jesus, and Lincoln almost overlapping at the freewater stone. They remained close all over the course, but the gaps opened up a little on the green bank. Worcester and New College rowed over, but Hertford succumbed to Trinity.
In the second division Brasenose led the way over quite safely, well outside their distance ahead of Pembroke. Pembroke were hard pressed by Oriel, who in turn escaped only because St. John's caught University just below the O.U.B.C. So it looks here as though St. John's should have a rich bag in the next three days. They can reach the sandwich boat position, so might even complete five bumps. Behind them Corpus, Keble, and St. Catherine's all made early bumps.
Christ Church Row Over — Lincoln bump JesusOn the second day of Eights at Oxford Christ Church, with Merton behind, easily kept their place at the Head of the River. But the real threat to them, not yet imminent, was begun when St. Edmund Hall, who are possibly the fastest boat on the river, caught Queen's at the concrete bridge. In the middle of the First Division Lincoln made their bump on Jesus which they had just failed to do on the first day. They wasted no time about it yesterday and caught Jesus in the Gut.
Balliol II nearly achieved the distinction of taking their place among the first boats. At the University boathouse they were still a clear length behind St. Peter's Hall, but along the barges they put in a great finish and only failed by a foot to make their bump. One of the pleasanter features of Oxford rowing is the steady rise of Keble. Yesterday they made their second bump when they caught Wadham, and to-day they should add a third at the expense of Corpus. As Keble have steadily gone up in the past three years, Wadham, equally steadily, have gone down.
St. Edmund Hall near success — Eights Week reaches thrilling climaxThe scene is now set for the final day of the Eights Week racing at Oxford and the question all will be asking to-day is whether St. Edmund Hall will gain the headship of the river for the first time in their history.
On yesterday's showing it looked as though they might pull it off, for they started at great pace, and were striking a full 40 when they caught Merton, going into the Gut. Merton, in their efforts to keep away, had closed a little on Christ Church. So those who add two and two may well deduce that the headship will change to-night. But in boat racing, and particularly in bumping races, two and two do not always make four.
There is a great difference between closing up on the head of the river crew, and catching them. It is probable that St. Edmund Hall will close on Christ Church in the early stages of the race. But it must be highly problematical whether they can keep up the pressure to make good their starting distance of a length and a quarter. Either way there is certain to be a great race.
Queen's check fallLast night was also critical for those following the leaders. For Queen's it brought a check in their downward fall, for although Magdalen were within a canvas in the Gut, Queen's fought them off and were half a length clear at the O.U.B.C. This means that to-night, unless Magdalen do better, they will be in danger from Lincoln, who bumped Balliol on the green bank.
Trinity made their third bump without difficulty, and are well places to make their fourth, at the expense of Jesus. Brasenose put themselves out of danger, by catching New College. St. John's, also well placed, may make two bumps to-night, through the sandwich position, to finish in the first division. Keble should make a fourth bump though their bump yesterday on Corpus was disputed. The committee is deciding whether it is to stand. If not the crews will re-row this morning.
Eights Week Enhanced — St. Edmund Hall go headNo doubt the new atmosphere which seemed to pervade Oxford Eights Week this year was due to many causes: to the feeling that the university crew had risen above its trials and won the Boat Race on its own merits last March; and recollections of success at Henley last summer; to the fact that the racing now reaches a climax on a Saturday — this year fine and sunny; to pride in a row of fine new boathouses, which must have brought many old college members back to admire their new quarters, and perhaps also to the knowledge that, hidden away on the secluded waters at Wallingford, the first university eight to contest the Grand Challenge Cup for a hundred years is now in preparation.
Whatever the causes, an enormous crowd gathered at Oxford on Saturday, and were rewarded by seeing the best collection of Oxford College crew for many years. Of the crews since the war, probably only Trinity, in 1949, have produced anything as good as St. Edmund Hall and Christ Church. But, perhaps, even more important, there were quite good crews scattered throughout the first two divisions. Keble, for example, who started 21st and made four bumps, might well have been as fast as St. Edmund Hall and Christ Church if they had had the services of D. W. Shaw and I. L. Elliott.
Have done muchChrist Church have done much for Oxford rowing in the last few years, and it was a pity that they had to be unseated on the final night. But in the circumstances it was also fitting that 1959 should herald a new crew at the head of the river, from a college which has never before held that honour. St. Edmund Hall have worked hard, and thoroughly deserved their success. Their pace was obvious, but some questioned their staying powers. Probably those underestimated the ability of C. W. Holden, who was able to spurt again and again, although backed by a fit and strong crew, he rowed Christ Church down just above the pink post.
Magdalen, threatened by Lincoln, who already had two bumps to their credit, rowed much better than before, and caught the luckless Queen's at the concrete bridge. Trinity, rough but very energetic, made their fourth bump to finish eighth, and so turned out to be the unidentified wolf whose threat to the middle of the first division was hinted at at the beginning of the week. Brasenose bade fair to follow in their wake, but were thwarted by Worcester on the last night. St. John's, another strong and rough crew, made five bumps to establish themselves in the first division.
Bitter pillBut what a bitter pill for New College. Here, one of the greatest names in Oxford college rowing, who first went head in 1888, sank from the first division, for the first time, so far as one can see, since 1878. Lower in the second division Keble made their four bumps, as already reported, and St. Edmund Hall II made five, to finish in the second division, the highest second boat on the river, a clear indication that their first boat's success was no flash in the pan.
Finally, in self protection against those who make a hobby of studying the peregrinations which enliven the lower divisions, it must be reported that Magdalen IV enjoyed the unusual experience of twice bumping the same crew [St Catherine's III], and yet finishing up behind them without ever having been bumped by them.
|St Edmund Hall|
|B:||D. S. Dormer||12st 3lb|
|2:||R. C. J. Bate||12st 2lb|
|3:||J. F. Hewitt||12st 5lb|
|4:||M. G. Sherratt||12st 11lb|
|5:||J. L. Fage||13st|
|6:||M. L. Pelham||13st|
|7:||C. H. Douglas-Mann||12st 4lb|
|S:||C. W. Holden||11st 5lb|
|C:||P. J. Reynolds||8st 5lb|
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