St. John's could keep Headship
By Douglas Calder
This afternoon St. John's begin a four-day defence of their place at the head of the river in the Oxford University Torpids. Last year St. Edmund Hall lost the headship and since this year's Hall crew is weak, at least by their standards, they are unlikely to present a serious threat.
St. John's have been coached by Mike Davis, the former Oxford and Olympic stroke, and given good fortune, should be strong enough to withhold the best of whatever weak challenges can be thrown at them. Their most serious rivals will be Balliol, Christ Church, and Worcester, who start third, fourth and sixth respectively. However, Torpids being what they are, a good deal of luck is involved, which should ensure some exciting racing, even if the rowing is not of a particularly high standard.
Once again the races will be run on the "lanes system". This ostensibly gives a better opportunity for the fastest crew on the river to finish head than does the usual straightforward bumping race, when only one of the first five starters can ever finish head. This system is peculiar to the Torpids and is the result of a cross-fertilization of the traditional former bumping race with the more familiar side-by-side race.
Although it overcomes some of the drawbacks of bumping races the system is not absolutely satisfactory. Crews race two abreast until the Gut, up to which point no bumping is permitted. Although unlikely, it is conceivably possible that a crew which is outstandingly faster than its neighbours might be balked by this rule.
After the Gut, when the river widens, the crews peel off by numbers into a line of three abreast and race like that to the finish. Bumping is now permitted, but only the crew which scores a bump can stop. Since overtaking is also permitted the bumped crew must race on to the finish and its final finishing position determines also the new position of the crew which bumps it. A moment's thought will confirm that such a system calls for a good deal of gamesmanship.
Whether all the spectators or even all the competitors will entirely understand what is going on is a moot point. At least it ensures that most of the crews have to cover the whole course which does them good and can provide some thrilling finishes.
It had been hoped that Giles Chichester, son of the intrepid Sir Francis, would make the Torpids his swansong as an oarsman. Sadly his Christ Church "scholars" eight failed to qualify in the preliminary races, so like the swans he will have to be content as a spectator.
St. John's hold lead
By Douglas Calder
St. John's survived unscathed at the head of the river in the Oxford Torpids yesterday, but it is by no means certain that they will do so today. There were no changes of order in the first division, but the crews will be on different stations today, which could make all the difference.
St. John's started at 44 and then dropped to 38, which rate of striking they maintained until the Gut. At this stage it looked as though no one would get near them for neither Oriel, Balliol nor Christ Church could manage more than 34.
But as the crews parted into three lanes at the bottom of the Green Bank, St. John's, now in the centre lane, began to look tired and their rate of striking declined. Oriel, on the far side, were still ploddng along at 34 and began to close up. So too did Balliol on the towpath station, and a race which had looked all over became alive again.
St. John's hung on to their lead past the boathouses and got home safely, but Oriel were only half a length behind them.
St. Edmund Hall were never in the picture, but at least kept Worcester at bay which must have pleased and perhaps surprised them. Magdalen had a bad afternoon with their two crews descending a total of eight places. Worcester II, on the other hand, having risen 11 places last year, made a good start, gaining another four yesterday.
St John's survive
By Douglas Calder
On the strength of yesterday's racing in the Oxford Torpids St. John's again survived at the head of the river but only with the skin of their teeth. Moreover they may face the agony of an extra race today if an objection by Oriel, lodged after racing had finished, is upheld.
The argument arose because the marker buoy opposite the Long Bridges had drifted downstream. This is a crucial point in the race, for as the crews take this corner they diverge into three lanes and are permitted to bump or overtake. Oriel maintain that they were physically obstructed at this crossing.
However, no umpire saw the Oriel cox raise his hand and it seems likely that Peter Miller, the O.U.B.C. Secretary, will overrule the objection [he did]. If he does not, St. John's, Oriel and Balliol will have to rerow soon after lunch today.
At any event Oriel were yesterday determined to knock St. John's off their perch. They started at 44 and continued at a high rate of striking. St. John's for some reason could only manage 41 and Oriel closed on them. Indirectly it proved to be Oriel's undoing, for Balliol, who started third, were forging along at 38 and suddenly closed fast on the other two halfway up the Green Bank.
At the University Boat House, Balliol, on the far station, made contact with Oriel on the centre station. Clearly Oriel had shot their bolt and it only remained to be seen if Balliol could bump St. John's, who were also on the far station. St. John's scrambled over the line like scalded cats with about 10ft. of daylight to spare.
St. John's put on spurt
By Douglas Calder
For the first time this week St. John's showed what they were really worth yesterday when the came home safely in front at the head in the Oxford Torpids. But even though there was clear water between them and Balliol at the finish, it did not tell the whole story, for Balliol had been dangerously near to overtaking past the University Boathouse.
Oriel's objection of the previous day had not been upheld and consequently Balliol started second. St. John's went off at 43 to Balliol's 44, and as they passed Donnington Bridge the crews were down to 38 and 36 respectively. Along the Green Bank St. John's, on the towpath station, kept safely away from Balliol on the far station, and all seemed calm.
However, Balliol were at all times striking two strokes a minute fewer than St. John's who, even so, could not draw away. Suddenly, at the top of the Green Bank, Balliol, now striking 34, began to gain fast.
To everyone's surprise St. John's found they had a finishing spurt up their sleeves. They pulled themselves together, held Balliol and then began to draw away.
It was left to Corpus to provide most of the fireworks in the tail of the second division. After only four strokes they caught a huge crab and stopped dead. Trinity, behind them, could not get past properly and everything was reduced to chaos. The umpire's verdict, after much discussion, was to penalize Corpus three places, which meant relegation to the third division.
Benefits of towpath station
By Douglas Calder
After four days' racing in the Oxford Torpids last week, a clear pattern emerged. Crews on the centre station after the Long Bridges were at a big disadvantage; those on the towpath station had the softest option of all, with much less stream flowing against them. Balliol's process of gaining two places during the racing to go ahead [sic] of the river on Saturday proved this point nicely.
On Thursday Oriel found themselves on the centre station and went down to Balliol. On Saturday St. John's not only had the centre station themselves, but were challenged by Balliol whose turn it now was to enjoy the benefit of the towpath station.
As on Friday, the two crews were level at the University Boathouse, but this time St. John's, with the odds all against them, could not hold off Balliol, who made their big effort at the Pink Post, found themselves level with St. John's at the O.U.B.C., and won by three quarters of a length.
As a postscript to the Oxford Torpids of last week, a meeting is begin held today to decide whether or not penalties meted out to errant crews should be modified.
|B:||G. J. Russell (St. Paul's)|
|2:||P. Burns (Hyers College)|
|3:||J. E. Gledhill (Bradford G.S.)|
|4:||G. R. Arthur (R.G.S. Worcester)|
|5:||D. M. Higgs (Camberwell H.S., Victoria)|
|6:||N. C. Campbell-Crawford (St. Andrews Univ.)|
|7:||G. P. Wright (Briston Univ.)|
|S:||C. Wood (Imperial Coll., London)|
|C:||D. W. F. Baden Fuller (Uppingham)|
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