Torpids lanes rearranged — endeavour to end advantage
In the words of the O.U.B.C. rules the Torpids which will be begun at Oxford today "will be overtaking races" following, more or less, the pattern which was successfully introduced last year. Instead of a procession of boats as in bumping races crews will divide into three lanes after passing through the Gut. The only obvious fault last year was that crews rowing in the left or Berkshire lane had such an advantage that they gained places which were not always merited on form.
So, in Division I there will be a variation each day. This, today, St. Edmund Hall, starting head, will race in the middle lane; tomorrow the leading boat will be in the right or Oxfordshire lane, on Friday in the Berkshire lane and on Saturday, the final day, will be once more in the middle lane. It is hoped that some rearrangement of the buoys will have reduced the advantage of the Berkshire lane but during the four days of racing every crew in Division I will have to submit to any handicap in the other lanes.
There will be no sandwich boats, but the crew who, each day, finish at the top of a division will automatically take their place at the bottom of the next higher division for the following day's racing. This means that Division I, which will have six crews today, will be increased to nine by Saturday and Division VII, with a daily reduction, will have only four on the last day. The other divisions will remain constant in their numbers.
Generally the standard of the crews is rather poor this year. The outstanding exception is St. Edmund Hall and, without some complete upset of form, there seems little prospect that they will be displaced at the Head of the River. Most of their training has been done in camera and they made their first appearance on the Isis only two days ago. Even if the crew has not the horse-power of last year there is at least as much if not more pace in the boat.
Best of all they can attain and maintain a high rate of striking. If need be they should be able to row at about 38 all over the course.
St. Edmund Hall not pressed — crew with something in hand
St. Edmund Hall were not pressed at the head of the river on the first day of Torpids at Oxford yesterday and rowed through their full distance ahead of Christ Church. Christ Church were going better than had been expected, but there is no doubt that St. Edmund Hall had something in hand. St. John's, starting third, were disappointing and where striking three or four strokes slower than they ought to have been striking if they hoped to catch Christ Church.
The six crews in the first division rowed over without change of order. Under the new Torpids system there should be few actual bumps, but two were made in the third division. St. Peter's Hall caught Wadham at the bottom of the barges and St. Catherine's bumped Corpus soon after coming out of the Gut.
The penalties for passing buoys on the wrong side are heavy and mercilessly imposed, and Magdalen II, St. Edmund Hall III and Jesus II all incurred the displeasure of the umpire. For St. Edmund Hall and Jesus it was particularly disappointing. Each started at the head of a division, but, according to the rules, they must move back three places in today's starting order.
St. John's move up in Torpids — exciting race with Christ Church
The second day of Torpids at Oxford provided some exciting racing. St. Edmund Hall were not troubled at the head of the river. Along the Green Bank they were striking 25 and were well away from Christ Church.
They may be pressed harder today because they will have St. John's behind them. St. John's, starting third, had a great race to overtake Christ Church, but at the finish they were two feet in front. Along the Green Bank St. John's were rating 31 and Christ Church 33.
There was another close race in division III, and another success by two feet when St. Peter's Hall caught Brasenose, who had previously been passed by Keble. While St. Edmund Hall are holding their place at the head of affairs, their third crew are finding trouble. For the second time they went wrong at a buoy and again the umpires retired them three places.
Two bumps were made during the afternoon. In division V Balliol III caught Brasenose II near the University Boat House, and in division IV University II bumped Oriel II coming out of the Gut.
Encouragement to Torpids crews — St. Edmund Hall given a hard row
The University crew, as such, have not been seen on the isis for more than three years and their appearance at Oxford yesterday brought new and valuable interest to the third day of Torpids. Many of the Torpids crews are more or less novice oarsmen and it was good for them to see what a first-class eight looks like.
Although there was no change in the rowing order there was some exciting racing in the first division. Rowing on the centre station St. John's gave St. Edmund Hall, on the Berkshire station, something to think about. At the University boathouse St. John's, striking 34 against St. Edmund Hall's 35, were only three-quarters of a length behind. Along the barges, however, with a slight bend in their favour, St. Edmund Hall drew away again and there was about half a length of clear water between the boats at the finish. There was little change also in the second division and it looks as though the top boats have found their level.
During the afternoon three bumps were made. Coming out of the Gut St. John's III caught St. Catherine's II in the sixth division, and in the fifth Division Worcester II caught Brasenose II. The third bump was in the second division when, after a magnificent race Keble bumped Hertford two lengths from the finish. It was an unlucky day for University II as, at the start, they broke a rudder line and from the steering point of view were impossibly handicapped and duly finished at the bottom of the fourth division. St. Edmund Hall III, hitherto suffering much from penalties, had a luckier day and managed to climb up higher in the sixth division.
Nothing sluggish about St. John's — Torpids system would suit Eights Week
Four days of interesting racing in the Torpids at Oxford ended in a most exciting struggle at the top of the first division when St. John's displaced St. Edmund Hall as head of the river.
St. John's were racing on the Berkshire lane and St. Edmund Hall in the centre. Coming out of the Gut it was clear that St. John's had already made up some of the standard three-quarters of a length which had separated the crews at the start. At the top of the green bank St. John's were just overlapping. St. Edmund Hall, who had been striking 35, tried to raise their rate to shake off the St. John's threat, but they could not pull out anything more and opposite the University Boathouse they faltered.
That was the moment for which St. John's had waited. Without actually raising their rate from a steady 34 St. John's lengthened out and rowed past St. Edmund Hall to be half a length in front at the finish. It was difficult to recognise that this St. John's crew was the same which had been so sluggish on the first two days. There was certainly nothing torpid about their performance on Saturday which took them to the head of the river for the first time since 1946.
The arrangements for the Oxford Torpids were basically the same this year as last, though some of the buoys were differently placed, and the distribution of crews into three lanes above Tim's Boathouse was changed from day to day, in an attempt to equalize the stations. Undoubtedly there is an advantage on the towpath (Berks.) station, at this time of year, writes our Rowing Correspondent. But whether the luck involved in having this station on the right days is any greater than the luck involved — and long accepted as normal — in being placed in the right position to make bumps under the old system, on any particular day, is doubtful.
There was some dissatisfaction last week concerning the penalties imposed on crews which touch or missed marker buoys, which sometimes seemed to be inconsistent. But to an impartial observer this seemed to be no more than an inevitable teething trouble of operating such a system with inexperienced crews, and before there has been time to build up experience of case law. Apart from this the new system worked admirably.
Inevitably the question now arises of changing Summer Eights to the same system of bumping and overtaking. It is worth remembering that the object of those who invented the system was to find an alternative to bumping races. Two years experience in Torpids shows that their solution works, and it should, of course, work better in the summer, with more experienced crews and coxswains, and less stream with which to contend.
The benefits to rowing seem to be indisputable, and were quite evident in the way the Torpid crews raced all the way to the finish, where in the past so many have been unprepared to race farther than the green bank. From the onlookers' point of view the system is more exciting and more spectacular, and this is important remembering that Eights Week is the great annual festival and spectacle of University rowing.
Bumping races are all right in theory. But in practice it is the exception rather than the rule for a majority of crews to reach the boathouses. More often the division disintegrates in the Gut, whereas under the new system nearly the whole division reaches the finish, racing two or three abreast. And, incidentally, the new system is so much more expeditious that there would be ample time to end Eights Week with a ceremonial procession, as used to be the practice many years ago. This might perhaps compensate the lovers of tradition for the loss of daily bumping races.
|B:||A. J. Young (Radley)|
|2:||J. B. Dart (Magdalen Coll.Sch.)|
|3:||M. J. Mulvany (Eastbourne)|
|4:||C. J. Kearton (King Henry VIII, Coventry)|
|5:||M. J. Brown (Univ. of British Columbia)|
|6:||S. R. Henderson (St. Edwards)|
|7:||C. A. Scroggs (Reading)|
|S:||P. N. P. Leach (Shrewsbury)|
|C:||M. J. C. Lowry (Shrewsbury)|
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