New Mood of Oxford College CrewsGloomy prophecies of a general relapse of Oxford rowing after the unhappy experiences of the last two Boat Races maye well be dispelled by the Summer Eights which will be begun today. It would perhaps be putting it too strongly to say that rowing on the Isis seems to have woken from a bad dream, but it is certainly true that the shock and bewilderment of two months ago has given way to a new mood of enthusiasm and confidence.
It seems, too, that some lessons have been learnt, for all the crews are working for the long and solid finish which was so conspicuously absent in this year's University crew, and in this the Blues, who have returned to their college crews, have been setting the example. Spades are not on the Isis this year, or at least relegated to second eights. For the first eights Trad is back in the form of oars of conventional pattern. One may point out that if spades have any useful application — as many well qualified coaches think, both here and on the Continent — they should surely be at their best in short distance bumping races. But the reaction is symptomatic and probably inevitable.
Keble are the outstanding crew although, for them, the prospect of the headship is still at least a year ahead. With four Blues, including G. V. Cooper, and no weak links, they should be the best Oxford college crew since Trinity in 1949. At the moment towpath gossip is more interested in their shortcomings than in their merits, but this should not worry them, as the merits are very real.
Balliol also have a sound crew with plenty of strength, though without Keble's wealth of talent, and for the time being, at least, they may reckon Keble men among their strongest supporters, for unless they can catch Magdalen, St. John's, and Merton in succession they may jeopardize Keble's chance of coming within striking distance of the headship for next year. Lincoln have not stood so high since 1868, and their crew is worth its position. One can hardly see them going higher, but if they find Balliol behind them on Saturday there is certainly no better stroke than C. M. Davis to get them home.
Christ Church, in a beautiful new lightweight boat, built by their own boatman, Mr. G. Harris, certainly have a turn of speed. But they do not look to have either the length or the cohesion to gain the headship. St. Edmund Hall, though not quite so strong or experienced as in the past two years, nevertheless have more length and solidarity and should hold their place, though this is a difficult prediction as they were training at Henley until a few days ago.
Lower down New College have a much stronger crew than recently, and with the new president, T. W. Tennant to help them, they may well regain the first division. Jesus, Oriel, and University should also go up. At last year there will only be 11 crews in each division instead of the usual 12, because of the bridge building at Donnington Road.
Eights Week Handicap — Green Bank denied to spectatorsSpring came to Oxford yesterday for the opening day of the Summer Eights, a welcome change for the not very numerous spectators. But for the serious followers of rowing, as opposed to the social visitors, the Eights unhappily are no longer easy to watch. Cycling is not permitted, and for the first time in my memory, access was denied this year to the Green Bank, whence it has always been possible to watch the racing from below the Gut all the way to the finish. Now there seems to be no possibility of seeing more than a brief stretch of the river.
Christ Church left nothing to chance and made their bump on St. Edmund Hall near the pink post, well out of my field of vision. Having thus gained the headship on the first night they should have no difficulty in holding it. St. John's bumped Merton, also well down the Green Bank. But Magdalen held off Balliol rather longer than expected and were finally caught opposite the Balliol barge. Queen's, unlucky in their starting position, inevitably fell victim to Keble. Trinity made a valuable bump on Hertford, thus placing two crews between themselves and New College, who made an early bump on Worcester.
Leading Crews Row Over — St. John's halted at lastAlthough there was quite a nip in the air, the sun shone again when the Summer Eights were resumed at Oxford yesterday. The first four crews rowed over, giving a much better opportunity of judging form. It was clear enough why Christ Church made such short work of St. Edmund Hall on Wednesday. There were rowing two feet longer and with their blades better covered. They were comfortably outside their distance yesterday.
St. John's, who, speaking from memory, have only missed one bump in about five years [correct], came to the end of their triumphal climb, at least for the time being. They were a full distance behind Lincoln, who, at the finish, were certainly not down on St. Edmund Hall. Merton fell to Balliol, who should press St. John's today, though they will find them quite a tough nut to crack. Magdalen, with a last-minute substitute in the crew, fell to Keble, who should now catch Merton without much difficulty.
In the second division New College reached the sandwich boat position, and, if they make no mistake over Hertford, they should have a good chance of making a second bump tonight, at the expense of Brasenose. In the whole of this division only two crews rowed over — Hertford and St. Peter's — who were probably unlucky to be robbed of a chance of a bump by a quick bump ahead of them. St. Catherine's made their two bumps yesterday, and should be good for at least one more.
No Challenge to Christ Church — Three outstanding eightsWith continuous sunshine and the wind shedding some of its Arctic chill, Summer Eights at Oxford almost took on their proper guise. Unless something quite unforeseen happens Christ Church need have no fears that they will be ousted from their position at the Head of the River. Yesterday they had another easy row as St. Edmund Hall were uncomfortably concerned in keeping away from Lincoln, who, in the Gut, were little more than a quarter of a length behind. Along the Green Bank St. Edmund Hall drew away again to be a length ahead at the University Boat House.
Yesterday's racing produced a situation for Christ Church which may possibly be a record. Not only was the first boat at the Head of the River but the second boat, by bumping St. Edmund Hall II, became the leading second eight and the third crew, in division four, headed the third eights.
Keble pursued their upward way when they caught Merton before Donnington Bridge, and New College, with a bump on Brasenose, climbed back into division one. They, with Trinity II, Lincoln III and Keble IV have now made four bumps. There was not much excitement for the spectators when the second division came by — or rather did not. With five bumps, all of them in the Gut, the only crews to row through were St. Catherine's and the sandwich boat, Wadham, who followed them at a respectful distance.
Oriel II had bad luck in division three. On Thursday they had made an easy bump on Queen's II. Yesterday number two in the Oriel boat, catching a crab, unwittingly left the boat halfway along the Green Bank and with only seven men rowing Oriel were caught by Queen's near the finishing post.
Christ Church Row Over at Head — Thoroughly deserved successIt scarcely seemed possible, this year, that there could be four consecutive fine days for Eights Week, but such was the case. A large crowd turned up on Saturday to see Christ Church row over, well outside their distance, at the head of the river, and Keble register their twenty-third bump in eight years. But this, of course, few of them did see, for Keble once again made their bump below the Gut.
Christ Church thoroughly deserved their success, the more so, perhaps, because they did not have any exceptional individual talent; to be precise, one Blue and two Trials caps. They were rather rough, but obviously had a good turn of speed. St. Edmund Hall, with a not dissimilar crew, were rather shorter, and about a length slower. Lincoln, owing much to the stroking of C. M. Davis, were in no danger of losing third place.
St. John's, after a bump on the first night, came to a halt after their spectacular rise of 21 places in 21 nights. These sort of statistics, of course, are more interesting than significant, in the sense that they do not really indicate the prolonged period of excellence which the uninformed might imagine. St. John's, for example, were eighth in 1952, before they dropped 17 places in four years. Queen's, who finised seventh, were head in 1957, having then climbed 22 places since 1952. Keble, who finished fifth this year, were lying twenty-eighth in 1955.
An interesting comparison in Eights Week fortunes was provided by Queen's and Balliol. Queen's, falling to Keble on the opening night, were then able to pick off the victims sent down to them, and, with no obvious qualities except exuberance, finished up with one net gain. Balliol, with one of the strongest and best drilled crews on the river, made a bad error of missing St. John's on Friday. They came close on Saturday, but were themselves caught by Keble, and so also finished with one net gain.
Not surprisingIt is no disparagement to Christ Church to say that Keble were the outstanding crew, as indeed they had to be with such a galaxy of talent. Only one member of their crew was not either a Blue or an Isis man, and he, A. W. Pengelly, was in the junior Trials and won his place in the Keble crew in competition with D. W. Steel, who very nearly stroked this year's University crew. Keble had length and power, and no obvious weaknesses.
New College made their four bumps through being sandwich boat on Friday, but unaccountably failed to catch Trinity who, in turn, could make no impression on Magdalen. Oriel also made four bumps, and St. Catherine's will get another chance to do so today. On Saturday they claimed a bump on University College, which was not conceded, and there is to be a re-row. [in which St. Catherine's gained their bump]
For this to be necessary after the end of Eights Week seems to reflect on the umpiring rather than on the crews. Perhaps it is not surprising, if one can judge by the number of occasions on which the loudspeakers were calling for umpires to report to their posts at the last moment. On Wednesday one young man, apparently unfamiliar with the river, was actually inquiring where the Committee Room — in which he was standing — might be, and who was the chief umpire, to whom he had to report. Perhaps this was a more reasonable inquiry, since no one was present except two members of the press. But it was hardly calculated to create confidence.
|B:||D. Hankey||11st 13lb|
|2:||A. J. Boyce||11st 4lb|
|3:||A. M. Loukes||12st 4lb|
|4:||A. J. Saunders||13st 8lb|
|5:||J. Y. Scarlett||13st 8lb|
|6:||P. Henry||14st 5lb|
|7:||P. J. Arkell||11st 8lb|
|S:||J. F. Gladstone||12st 6lb|
|C:||D. R. Harrod||8st 8lb|
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