The day the Torpids became torpidThe article is accompanied by a photograph of the 'No Rowing' sign displayed at the OUBC Boathouse.
More than 250 rowing crews, male and female, received disappointing news yesterday when it was announced that the Oxford Torpids had been cancelled (a Special Correspondent writes). Only 24 crews in the men's first and second divisions might find that they have competition this week if the National Rivers Authority and the Oxford University officials consider the river to be safe enough for racing.
The Thames, the Tideway excepted, has been closed to college crews for the past fortnight because of flooding and after three eights had become entangled at Iffley and had to be rescued from above the weir. The University Boat Club authorities threatened fines and exclusion from Torpids for any crews ignoring the ban. Most of the men's first division crews have managed to keep active by practising on nearby lakes and on the Tideway, and ergometers and gymnasiums have been fully booked. Steve Eyles, the organized of the event, will reassess the situation at 9am today.
It seems that not even the two top men's divisions will be in action before Friday, although the river level has been dropping since the weekend. John Powell, the local navigation officer, said yesterday that 48 hours more might be needed, assuming that the Oxford area "gets lucky in terms of rainfall". There are no plans to reschedule the event for a later date.
Torpids start but only for leading crews
The "no rowing" signs came down on the Isis yesterday for the 24 crews in the men's first and second divisions (a Special Correspondent writes).
The flood-affected Torpids begin today but only for these leading crews and for two days rather than the planned four. Oriel will lead off the first division and try to stretch their record of wins to 19. Oriel, like many other high starting crews, have managed to keep active on the Tideway but, inevitably, many contestants will be less prepared for action than usual.
Oriel find the going easy as New slump
Oriel comfortably rowed over at the top of the men's first division when Oxford University Torpids started on the Isis yesterday.
The event, reduced from 11 to two men's divisions because of the swollen state of the river earlier in the week, still produced plenty of bumps.
Oriel's closest challengers, New, were caught near the finish by Christ Church and lower down the division Keble went down five places.
Christ Church kept at bay
Oriel successfully held of Christ Church to retain the headship of Oxford University Torpids on the Isis on Saturday (a Special Correspondent writes). The House [Christ Church], who bumped New on Friday, never threatened Oriel. Oriel finished two lengths clear of Christ Church.
Oriel lift their 19th headship in the torpids
Oriel stretched their record of headships to 19 after the two days of a reduced Oxford University Torpids on Saturday, while Christ Church and Brasenose moved above New College. The men's divisions were reduced from 11 to two because of the swollen state of the Isis, the women's events were cancelled.
Whatever one might have expected of this year's competition, it was a turn-up for the book. New College had prophetically adorned Donnington Bridge with their colours over Christmas, confident of taking the headship from its place in the hands of Oriel; although their eventual lot was not a happy one. If the term's floods were not so remarkable considering 1976 [sic, presumably 1977] had seen the competition cancelled due to a swollen Isis, the eventual format Torpids took was still unprecedented. Torrential rain saw the Isis closed for much of the term, forcing the more stalwart crews to train elsewhere and definitely not anywhere on the Thames above Teddington Lokc. O.U.R.C. passed a rule that, when the Thames water put the river on red alert, the penalty for rowing would be four technical bumps against that college's first boat; incentive enough for the rule to be obeyed!
In the event, the state of the Isis was such that we lost the first two days racing and in terms of the divisions, all but the men's first and second divisions and an informal women's race. In the men's first division, Friday saw Oriel row over head some five lengths clear of New College who had succumbed to Christ Church in front of the boathouses. In fact, Brasenose had closed to within 1/4 of a length of Christ Church in the gut but their challenge faded allowing the house time to bump. No one doubted the speed of Brasenose off the start but this showing raised again questions as to their staying power over the second half of the course. Lower down in the division, Oriel II, tipped by many to be destined to an ever downward plunge, caught Hertford easily to go fifth. Meanwhile Keble, tragically unlucky, lost a blade and dropped out of the division.
In the second division, Pembroke and Lincoln initiated their productive two days by bumping Trinity and Wadham respectively.
On Saturday Oriel rowed over ahead of Christ Church without difficulty to retain the Headship for the 19th consecutive year. Brasenose caught New College at the top of the Greenbank. Oriel II rowed over in fifth place and Balliol bumped St Catherine's to go seventh.
In the second division Lincoln built on Friday's efforts by bumping Trinity but Pembroke, by rowing as sandwich boat, bumped twice to return to the first division.
The informal women's races sufficed to demonstrate that Osler House were still the rightful head crew — Somerville having made little impression on either day.
It only remains to be hoped that less hostile weather in 1991 will allow a full programme of racing and that this year's dearth of Torpids rowing will not affect the standard of this Summer's rowing to any great extent.
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