Three crews above average
The Oxford University Torpids will be begun this afternoon. Instead of the usual bumping races there will be a reversion to the 1961 plan, when crews raced in three lanes and progress was by overtaking.
From the start to Tim's Boathouse crews will be in two lanes, even numbers being on the towpath side. From Tim's to the finish the crews will split into three lanes, with the second, sixth and eighth crews on the Green Bank side, first, fourth and ninth in the centre, and the third, fifth and seventh on the towpath side. [For Div I the stations changed each day]
In a year of rather low standard, three crews which are above average are St. Edmund Hall, at the head of the river, Keble, starting ninth, and University twelfth. St. Edmund Hall are almost certainly the fastest.
Order unchanged in Torpids
The first day of the Torpids at Oxford must have dispelled any doubts about St. Edmund Hall holding their place at the head of the river. The six crews in the first division rowed through in unchanged order and there is no reason that there should be any variation in that form.
St. Edmund Hall, striking 29, were nearly two lengths ahead of Christ Church, whose rate was 33 at the University Boathouse. St. John's, as expected, were going well and had gained on Balliol. Keble's lack of racing power has ruined any hope they had of getting in a position to challenge St. Edmund Hall. They caught Queen's as also did New College, but were never within striking distance of Lincoln.
On yesterday's racing New College are probably faster than Keble. University had a disappointing row and, surprisingly, made little impression on Worcester. Corpus Christi, starting yesterday at the head of Division IV and last of the first boats, are obviously fast and, now going into Division III, should have a happy thee days ahead of them.
With the racing in lanes and some distance between the crews actual bumps are not much expected, but there were three. In Division III, Trinity bumped St. Catherine's; in Division IV, Keble II bumped Lincoln II and in Division V Exeter II bumped Queen's II.
Easy passage for St. Edmund Hall — higher striking rate in Torpids
The second day of Torpids at Oxford again brought no change in the first division and, as all crews were rowing on different stations from those on which they had raced on the first day, this should refute any ideas that any station has an advantage over another.
St. Edmund Hall had an easy passage at the head of the river. At a higher rate of striking than on Wednesday they had gained at least a length and a half on Christ Church and, barring accidents, there is not a chance that they will be displaced. Oriel chased St. John's hard and Magdalen had to fight to keep away from Lincoln.
This gave plenty of excitement, but for the realy value of these races one must take a long term, or perhaps it would be truer to say a next term, view. For these crews to race for four consecutive days over the full-distance must be a benefit when it comes to Eights Week.
The racing at the top of Division II was most interesting. New College confirmed that they are faster than Keble. Keble started with the advantage of a length of clear water, but it was only by a quarter of a length that they kept their place, which meant that New College gained a length and three-quarters. For Queen's it has been an unfortunate two days. Their first boat was actually bumped by University and has now lost five places. Queen's II in Division V have fared even worse and have gone down six places.
The biggest change of places came in Division IV in which the only crew to be unaffected was Christ Church II at the top. Four bumps were made. In Division III Corpus bumped St. Catherine's; in Division IV St. John's II bumped St. Peter's II; and in Division V Worcester II bumped Exeter II, and Pembroke II bumped Queen's II.
Wadham revival in Torpids
The Torpid crews at Oxford are beginning to find their level and only in the fourth division did yesterday's racing bring any sweeping changes.
St. Edmund Hall again had an easy journey at the head of the river and though their rate at the top of the Green Bank was only 29 they were comfortably ahead of Christ Church. Oriel were victims of misfortune which allowed Lincoln to bump them at the lower end of the Green Bank. At the start Oriel became entangled with their bung line, so they were towing several yards of rope behind them. With this handicap it was not surprising that Lincoln caught them.
A happy feature of this year's racing is the revival in the fortunes of Wadham. For so long descent has been their lot in both Eights and Torpids but now the process is reversed. By passing Pembroke yesterday they have taken themselves out of division three and today will be able to chanse and have a fair chance of catching St. Peter's at the bottom of division two. The two Queen's boats slid further down the ladder.
First four crews row over — new system reflects true merit
From our Rowing Correspondent
As expected, St. Edmund Hall finished head of the river in the Oxford Torpids with no trouble at all. In fact, the first four crews rowed over every day, and the first 14 crews rowed over on Saturday. This, of course, led some disappointed supporters to complain that it was too difficult to make bumps — the old phrase sticks, although, under the new system, there is more passing than bumping.
Memories are short. In 1961, when this system of racing was introduced, there were, during the four days' racing, 18 bumps in the first 18 places, that is, the top two divisions as at the end of the races. In 1962, when Torpids reverted to straightforward bumping because of the bridge building at Donnington, there were only 12 bumps in the same divisions, and this year there were 13. Anyway, a glance at the chart as a whole conclusively indicates that there was no danger of stagnation.
What was probably true among the leading crews was that whereas, under the old system, there might have been a number of quick bumps in the Gut, under the new system the final order came much nearer to reflecting true merit. The obvious advantages of the new system are that no crew can make a bump before Tim's Boathouse; practically all have to row the full distance; they get experience of side by side racing, and the spectators see nearly all the crews.
It is too early yet to judge whether there will be any serious disadvantages, particularly in a year when the stream runs faster. But it is quite evidently worth persevering. St. Edmund Hall were certainly the best crew last week, and the general standard seemed to be a little higher than usual, which might have been due to the exceptionally favourable weather. Apart from St. Edmund Hall, Wadham were the only first crew to gain their oars.
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