Special Interest in Eights WeekIt has been suggested that Eights Week, which will be begun today, may see the last of the traditional bumping races at Oxford. This is almost certain not to be so. A new road bridge is being built alongside the concrete footbridge, and obstructions in the river, which are making navigation difficult this year, will make it impossible for next year's Torpids to be rowed in lanes, as they have been for the past two years. Even if the obstruction were clear next summer, which is unlikely, the system of Eights would not be changed without another year's experience of Torpids in their new form.
The Eights this year are specially interesting for two reasons. First, Oxford oarsmen are evidently still full of the crusading spirit so far as new ideas are concerned, and second, the gloomy forecasts of those who have opposed the recent policy of keeping representative University and Isis crews together are clearly refuted by a general improvement of the standard throughout the first and second divisions.
It is a mistake to belittle experiments with oars and rigging. Even when they appear misguided they are adding to the store of rowing knowledge, and their psychological benefit is often overlooked. An interested oarsman is likely to be an enthusiastic oarsman, and enthusiasm is an essential part of competitive sport. No doubt some of the Oxford crews are too severely rigged; no doubt some of the college treasurers will be shocked to find that lightweight oars do not last long; no doubt Magdalen will be laughed at for trying to put the clock back to the fixed-pin era. Perhaps in the end some of the more discerning spectators will conclude that it is not what you use but how you use it that really matters.
In the meantime the crews look healthy. St. Edmund Hall, rich in material, should stay head. Behind them Christ Church, Merton, Magdalen and Lincoln are all better than last year and all well matched. There could well be no change in the first five places. Queen's, Brasenose and Trinity are all threatened by St. John's, who have risen 16 place since 1957. Balliol may well gather some of the crumbs sent down to them by John's. Keble, better than ever, even without their Blues, are set to break into the first division, and New College at last have the material to reverse the depressing descent they have suffered for the past five years.
It is worth noting that because of schools only three Blues are rowing in Eights, R. C. I Bate and J. C. D. Sherratt for Keble [presumably St. Edmund Hall was meant] and C. M. Davis, the president, for Lincoln. The improvement is therefore not because there is no University crew to take men away from the colleges this term, but, more probably, due to the higher standard of trials and junior trials, to experience gained in winter and summer Isis crews and, perhaps, to the new system in Torpids, which has taught more men to race hard over the full distance.
St. Edmund Hall Row Over — Best of Oxford college crewsEights week opened in perfect weather yesterday with a light holding breeze and the sun shining. Only five bumps were made in the first two divisions bearing witness to the evenness of the standard. St. Edmund Hall rowed over at the head of the river with no difficulty, though Christ Church may have closed up a little below the Gut. St. Edmund Hall looked rough when rowing, but are certainly one of the best Oxford college crews of recent years.
Christ Church were well away from Merton, who lost distance to Magdalen, but it was Magdalen who fell victims. Coming into the Gut they had only a quarter of a length of clear water from Lincoln who in turn were hard pressed by Queen's. At the bottom of the Green Bank one was not sure whether Lincoln would bump or be bumped first, but C. M. Davis, the president of the O.U.B.C., timed his spurt perfectly and took Lincoln up on Magdalen at the pink post, making his bump opposite the New Cut.
Brasenose were far behind Queen's, but in no danger. Trinity were quickly caught by St. John's. Balliol, therefore, had no chance to show what they could do but Hertford caught Jesus without much difficulty. Worcester were certainly unlucky to start in front ot Keble, who are probably the one crew which might give St. Edmund Hall a close race.
They caught Worcester below the gut. There was then a most exciting race between Pembroke and Oriel and New College. For a time it looked as though New College might drive Oriel on to Pembroke, but they seemed to ride at the top of the green bank and no bump was made. The rest of the second division rowed over except for St. Catherine's, who fell to Exeter early on.
There now seems little doubt that St. Edmund Hall will retain the headship unless some unforeseen mishap occurs. Lincoln should catch Merton tonight and on yesterday's showing Queen's are well placed to catch Magdalen. St. John's and Keble should also make bumps and Keble may perhaps register a second bump as sandwich boat.
Uncertainties of Eights Week — Merton's effort in vainHowever strong the arguments may be against bumping races there is no denying the entertainment and excitement which they sometimes produce, and the extraordinary changes of form. It seemed certain in Eights Week at Oxford yesterday that Lincoln would catch Merton without difficulty, and even more certain that Queen's would catch Magdalen. But Lincoln only succeeded with the skin of their teeth, and Queen's failed altogether.
St. Edmund Hall were well away from Christ Church, who, in turn, were well away from Merton. Lincoln were almost withing striking distance of Merton when they emerged from the Gut, and actually made a shot for a bump at the top of the Green Banks [sic]. They had several more attempts, but Merton hung on and were still rowing when they passed the finish. But the umpire awarded a bump to Lincoln, though it was not clear where it had occurred. On Wednesday Queen's were close to Lincoln when Lincoln caught Magdalen, but yesterday Magdalen were never in any danger and finished well outside their distance ahead of Queen's.
The rest of the racing in the first division went according to expectations. St. John's easily catching Brasenose, and Balliol catching Trinity, whilst Keble duly made their two bumps, catching Jesus to reach the sandwich boat position and Hertford an hour later, to establish themselves in the first division.
In the second division there was again a struggle between Pembroke, Oriel and New College, but here it was New College who were unlucky, for they closed rapidly up the barges and actually hit Oriel as they crossed the finishing line, but the umpire ruled that Oriel were clear of the line before the bump was made.
Oxford Eights as ExpectedThere were no real surprises, but there was, nevertheless, some keen racing on the third day of eights at Oxford yesterday. At the head Christ Church closed a little on St. Edmund Hall, but one could not say that this necessarily indicated anything more than that St. Edmund Hall knew they were in no danger.
Christ Church were not pressed at all by Lincoln, who were well outside their distance at the finish. Magdalen, whose rowing was much improved, came within a canvas of Merton, who were saved by the cool leadership of their stroke, A. A. Edwards.
At the top of the green bank Queen's were half a length ahead of St. John's, and looked as though they might halt their upward progress. But they faltered at the O.U.B.C., where St. John's rushed up on them, to make their bump opposite the new boathouses. At the time Queen's were a little outside their distance behind Magdalen, but they had closed up in the early stages of the race, so that there is every prospect of a great struggle between Merton, Magdalen, and St. John's tonight.
Balliol and Keble both made early bumps, but in the second divsion there was a hard race between Pembroke, Worcester, and Jesus. Jesus just found the pace to keep away from Worcester, and Pembroke, who obviously have more pace than their practice form suggested, were just not fast enough to get within striking distance. New College at last struck the form for which their supporters had been looking and they caught Oriel below the Gut. Exeter and St. Peter's Hall, who had attracted little notice in practice, both duly made their third bumps.
St. Edmund Hall stay Head — Keble an outstanding crewIt is rare indeed for an Oxford college to be in the fortunate position of having to make only one change in the composition of a crew which rowed head of the river in the preceding year, and that the inclusion of a Blue in place of a mere trial cap. In these circumstances it was to be expected that St. Edmund Hall would stay head without difficulty, and it may be said that they fully lived up to expectations. Rough, and perhaps short at the finish, they nevertheless had real pace, and it is heartening that they can take their crew complete to Henley.
Apart from St. Edmund Hall the outstanding crew were Keble, who made five bumps to enter the first division for the first time since 1905. Though lacking in physique, they were technically the best crew at Oxford, and never had to row beyond the green bank. They, too, hope to go to Henley unchanged. Lincoln, who had not been in the first four since 1868, duly reached third position on Thursday, but could not get within distance of Christ Church, who were considerably better than of late.
Held offMerton should not be dissatisfied with holding fourth position, due to their fine racing. Magdalen again pressed them on Saturday, but Merton held them off, and Magdalen themselves fell to St. John's at the top of the green bank. Magdalen had reverted to fixed-pin rowlocks. But it would be academic to argue the merits of fixed and swivel rowlocks now, since the choice, for virtually everyone except Eton, was made years ago, not on merits but on popular prejudice, and it is unlikely that anyone would have followed Magdalen's example even if they had been successful.
By bumping Magdalen, St. John's gained their twentieth place in 20 nights of racing. Hard work and enthusiasm earned them their success. But it is as well to see it in perspective. On the opening night of Eights in 1952 they lay eighth, and then dropped 17 places to their lowest ebb, twenty-fifth in 1956. So 10 years of bumping races have seen them right down and right back. By the same token, Keble have now risen 19 places in seven years of racing, and could certainly have made four or five more bumps this year if they had had the opportunity.
|St Edmund Hall|
|B:||E. A. S. Hutchinson (Tiffin School)||11st 1lb|
|2:||A. J. Goddard (Radley)||11st 0lb|
|3:||B. T. C. Morris (Radley)||11st 4lb|
|4:||S. C. Farmer (King's School, Canterbury)||11st 12lb|
|5:||J. C. D. Sherratt (St. Edward's)||12st 10lb|
|6:||M. L. Pelham (St. Edward's)||12st 13lb|
|7:||R. C. I. Bate (Tonbridge)||12st 2lb|
|S:||C. W. Holden (St. Edward's)||11st 3lb|
|C:||P. J. Renynolds (Uppingham)||8st 4lb|
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