Oriel favourites for Summer EightsBy a Correspondent
It has been a difficult year for Oxford rowing: flood, the tragic death of a rower in Spain, restrictions on competition because of the foot-and-mouth epidemic, and mixed fortunes in the Boat Races. Undeterred, the rowers are raring to go as the four-day Oxford University Summer Eights starts on the Isis today.
After reclaiming the Torpids headship, Oriel also look ready to hold on to the Eights title. With three lightweights and one heavyweight to Oriel's four heavyweights, Pembroke, in second, are unlikely to pose a serious threat. Exeter, with one Isis rower, seem likely to maintain third position, but the addition of the Oxford University lightweight stroke to Magdalen may increase their chances.
St Catherine's women are also going for the double headship, hoping to rise from fourth. However, Pembroke, with four heavyweights, are unlikely to be knocked from pole position. New and Wadham, in second and third, face tough competition.
Oriel and Pembroke comfortably rowed over at the head of the men's and women's top divisions on the first day of Oxford University Summer Eights on the Isis yesterday. Pembroke's women had the easier passage after New College, their nearest challengers, were bumped by Wadham at the start of the Green Bank.
St Benet's Hall are emerging as the most successful crew in the lower divisions of the Oxford University summer eights, which continued on the Isis yesterday.
Not renowned as a rowing force, they followed their bump on Balliol III on Wednesday by catching Wolfson II at the top of men's division VI and rowing as sandwich boat at the bottom of division V made the only overbump of the day on New College III to move up five places over the two days. There were no changes at the top of the men's and women's first divisions, Oriel finishing well clear of Pembroke and Pembroke holding off Wadham.
St Edmund Hall III celebrate after bumping Exeter II in division VI on the third day of the Oxford University Summer Eights on the Isis yesterday. St Antony's have taken over from St Benet's Hall as the most successful crew. Starting in women's division IV, they made an overbump on St Edmund Hall II on Wednesday, bumped Somerville [II] and Wadham [II] on Thursday to move into division III and caught St Hugh's yesterday to move up six places over the three days. St Benet's Hall lost ground when they were bumped by St Anne's II in men's division V.
Oriel and Pembroke retained the headships of the Oxford University summer eights, which ended on the Isis on Saturday. In the men's first division, the top three crews — Oriel, Pembroke and Exeter — were never challenged, but there was much movement in the women's first division. New College, Wadham and St Catherine's all started behind Pembroke, but none could get within two lengths of them at the finish.
Christ Church and Hertford [sic] gained their blades in the men's first division, for moving up each day, but no crew of either sex could match the achievements of St Antony's. Starting in the women's fourth division, they made an overbump on Wednesday, bumped Wadham II and Somerville II on Thursday and caught St Hugh's and St Catherine's II on the other two days to move up seven places overall — more than half a division.
Following the loss of the Torpids' Men's Headship Pembroke were anxious to perform on the Eights stage and were ready to lock horns with Oriel, Exeter and Christ Church. In the women's competition Pembroke women also had a point to prove, having bumped to head last year in Summer Eights, and wanted to show that they could remain there. However, St Catz, the new Torpids champions, and Merton, who had also performed well in Torpids, were hoping to destroy the ambitions of the Pembroke crew who had been strengthened by a large returning contingent of OUWBC rowers.
The Pre-Eights regattas gave some indication of what was to come. At Bedford in the Men's College Eights event Oriel beat Christ Church by two and a half lengths in the Final, who had despatched with Pembroke in the semi-finals by a length. Pembroke women had also set out their stall by winning College Eights, and a strong performance from Merton to finish runners-up in the Women's Senior 2, showed that they meant business.
As the beginning of Eights approached, the towpath hype intensified, and crews were ready to do their talking on the river.
In the first division of the women's competition, Osler-Green continued their descent, falling another 4 places to finish ninth and receiving their second successive set of spoons. Merton, as predicted, moved in the opposite direction, with 3 bumps over the 4 days, missing out on blades when Somerville managed to bump Wadham before Merton could go in for the kill. Joining Osler-Green on their nosedive were New, who fell 5 places in 4 days. As predicted St Catz made an assault on Pembroke's headship, and bumped New and Wadham on Thursday and Friday which gave them a chance to attack Pembroke on the final day. Sadly, despite a valiant effort, St Catz's dream of achieving the headship was scuppered by a strong Pembroke crew who had rowed over at head for all 4 days. Other big movers in the Women's divisions were Brasenose, Hertford and Keble, who each got blades, and Lincoln, St Anne's and St John's who replaced them but tumbling in the opposition direction.
On Wednesday, the Men's first division saw the top three comfortably row over and this was the pattern that was to continue throughout the competition. A technically sound Oriel rarely looked troubled by Pembroke, who in turn managed to keep Exeter at bay. However, a courageous attempt by the again well built Exeter crew on 2 of the 4 days did almost pay dividends. Head of the River Oriel even managed to "buzz the tower" in a Top Gun-esque fly by of the rafts that would've made Maverick and Goose proud. Further down the division, there was more action for the fans that were out to see bumps. Christ Church continued their form from earlier in the term, by getting blades to reach 5th on the river. Brasenose's men moved in the opposite direction to their women, falling four places into the second division, being replaced at the foot of the first by Hertford. One of the highlights of the last day was a very close battle between Teddy Hall, St Catz and Hertford; it was a race to see if St Catz could bump Teddy Hall before being bumped by Hertford. It was however the St Catz crew who were the eventual victors, winning their 2nd bump of the week, to deny the Hertford crew blades. The pick of the rest included the biggest movers Keble II who plummeted by 6 in the fifth division, and Wadham, who became the second division sandwich boat and will be challenging for a place in the first division this year.
Special mention must go to the Oriel III boat, who on the Saturday spun on the bungline to see Ian Weighell, fresh from the Blue Boat, sat in their division five pursuers, Hertford II. Sadly, after the first two strokes from the gun, Oriel III knew their fate and were caught before Donnington Bridge, to allow them a rest by Falcon, before the afternoon heavy drinking session.
Good luck to all the crews for Eights, and apologies to any crews who then they deserved a mention; you'll have to try harder this year.
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F. Lepetit || Dulwich College
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L. Finch || KCS Wimbledon
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C. Reeve || Winchester
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T. Senior || St Catharine's, Cambridge
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M. Vickers || St Paul's
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M. Bonham || Radley
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N. O'Grady || Hampton
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R. Todd || KCS Wimbledon
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P. Hackworth || St Pauls'
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A. Nelder || CCAT, Cambridge
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