Oriel could surprise leaders
By Douglas Calder
My dictionary defines "torpid" as "dull, inactive, or sluggish", and I am sorry to say that so far as today's Oxford University Torpid races are concerned it is not far wide of the mark.
Ever since Oxford rowing became more and more centralized around the activities of the University squad of oarsmen, the Torpid races, once quite a landmark in the early season, have suffered accordingly. By now they have hardly any relevance at all in rowing though they remain a colourful and entertaining event in the University calendar.
All the same, when the curtain is rung up this afternoon for the first of four performances we shall see a new departure. Having begun life as traditional bumping races in the mists of the last century, the Torpids have in recent years been run on the lanes system with three crews racing abreast after reaching the Green Bank.
It was an ingenious system and gave Torpids the added attraction of considerable excitement for the spectators and a longer race for the oarsmen since the sudden death of a bump was made far less likely. Now instead of three lanes we are to have only two.
Boats will start from bung lines below Haystacks Corner at three-quarter-length intervals, and will immediately peel off alternately into two lanes. Thus the clear disadvantage to the crew facing the worst of the stream on the centre station is avoided. The spectators will see a spectacular procession of boats racing both alongside each other and in line ahead and, provided no cox gets his number wrong, the oarsmen should benefit from a longer row.
Balliol start head of the river today, but since they have been training alone at Wallingford no one knows for sure how fast they are. St. John's, in second place, are usually fit and with one Isis cap in their crew they could well depose Balliol. Christ Church, starting fourth, are easily the most polished crew and if they are fit enough to stay the course they could find themselves at the top of the chart when racing finishes on Saturday. However, in spite of their untidiness, I have a hunch that Oriel, after intensive practice at Godstow, will achieve the number one place instead.
One boat sure to gain plenty of places will be Christ Church IV who start today at the bottom of the ladder. With two Isis oarsmen, Von Harrach and Wakefield, they ought to slice their way through the crews in front.
Oriel unlikely to catch Balliol
By Douglas Calder
It was Balliol all the way in the first division of the Oxford University Torpids yesterday. Starting at 41, they led out from St. John's and Oriel at once. Steadying to 33, they continued to gain all the way over and finished a good four lengths clear.
St. John's, Oriel, and Christ Church all finished in a gaggle, with Oriel a mere 3ft. in front of St. John's as they crossed the line. Oriel therefore start second today; but although they will have the more favourable towpath station again I cannot see them catching Balliol.
In the second division, the Pembroke four lost his oar as he passed O.U.B.C.. He made one attempt to put it back in its swivel, but it jumped out again, so he gave up. His seven comrades just got him home safely in front of Keble.
There was much palaver in the third division. Corpus, having found the allotted time for reaching the start insufficient, failed to get off at all when the gun went. They were fined £1 and penalized two places in the re-row which was necessary. They offered to pay an increased fine if they were not penalized, but virtue triumphed.
Oriel held firmly at bay
By Douglas Calder
For the second day Balliol made it clear that they intend to stay at the head of the river in the Oxford University Torpids, yesterday. This time on the less favourable barges station, they still held Oriel firmly at bay.
At the bottom of the Green Bank, Balliol had already gained a length and a quarter on Oriel. Striking 34 to Oriel's 35, they cruised safely home, if anything gaining a little more in the process.
Behind, there was considerable excitement. New College, after looking out of the hunt altogether, gained rapidly on St. John's approaching the university boat house. They made their bump only a few feet from their own club house.
Since St. John's, who had to continue racing to the finish, did not quite overhaul Christ Church, New College in fact only gained one place, but there was only half a length in it.
Thanks to the presence of mind of their number four, Andrew Ingram, New College made a spectacular recovery. At the Stone, he came off his seat altogether, but after half a minute's industrious effort in the middle of the race he had put things right. "He's had plenty of practice at it. He does it about once a week", remarked their coach, Ashton Calvert, laconically.
New College have a chance to excel
By Douglas Calder
New College had their day in the Oxford Torpids yesterday. Improving with every stroke, they bumped the fancied Oriel crew resoundingly at the Pink Post. At the bottom of the Green Bank, New College were nearly three-quarters of a length away from Oriel, but sniffing victory, they were up to 38 halfway down the Green Bank, and gaining fast.
The pity was that New College bumped Oriel too hard for their own interests. Their boat made contact with Oriel's boat, the Oriel cox acknowledged the bump, but still New College ploughed on. At the time, Oriel were almost level with Christ Church, lying number two but in the other lane, and they looked to have every chance of finishing ahead of them.
If Oriel had done this, New College would have started second today. However, they put Oriel off so much at the moment of contact that they lost three-quarters of a length in a flash, leaving Christ Church to scramble home in second place.
Balliol came home safely enough in first place. Even so, they did not look nearly as secure as on previous days. Striking 36 instead of their usual 34, they had over a length of clear water behind them at the bottom of the Green Bank.
New College's success obviously spurred Christ Church to greater effort, and they gained over Balliol towards the finish. Only three-quarters of a length came between the boats as they crossed the line.
If New College excel today, they may bump Balliol, and finish at the top of the tree. That would really confound the form book.
Balliol retain their place
By Douglas Calder
New College never quite rose to the heights expected of them on the final day of the Oxford Torpids on Saturday, and so Balliol retained their place at the head of the river. At the finish Balliol led by about three lengths, a safe enough margin, but they had clealy pulled out all the stops to do so.
All the way up the Green Bank, Balliol were striking 36, and going much harder than on the previous days. At the university boat house they led Christ Church, on the towpath station, by one and a half lengths with New College well behind them. Putting on the pressure towards the finish Balliol drew steadily away to set the seal on a convincing victory. All the same I should not like to say that they were decisively faster than New College or even Christ Church, but only a side by side race could have proved that.
With two members of last summer's Cherwell crew which won the Henley Ladies' Plate, Nigel Campbell-Crawford and Chris Wood, Balliol certainly looked mature by comparison with the majority of the crews. Perhaps the fact that six out of their eight oarsmen were post-graduate students from universities in Canada, the United States and United Kingdom had some part in this.
Several crews made spectacular progress during the four days of racing. Christ Church IV having started right at the bottom gained eight places and so, too, did Osler House (the Radcliffe Infirmiary in disguise). Jesus I and Wadham II also gained seven places apiece.
However, I find it difficult to raise much enthusiam for Torpids. With a very few exceptions the standard is dismally low. After Wednesday's chaos in Division III when Corpus Christi failed to start at all, a fairly senior Oxford oarsman quelled the potential dispute with his opinion "It's only a game."
|B:||G. P. Wright (Bristol Univ.)|
|2:||R. D. McKirahan (California Univ.)|
|3:||R. R. Fowler (Dalhousie Univ.)|
|4:||A. Pineau (Univ. of Montreal)|
|5:||J. E. Gledhill (Bradford G.S.)|
|6:||N. C. Campbell-Crawford (St. Anrew's Univ.)|
|7:||J. B. Lister (Abingdon Sch.)|
|S:||C. Wood (Imperiall Coll., London)|
|C:||S. H. Pordes (St. Paul's).|
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