Cold crew in hot waterThe article includes a photograph captioned "Cold as Isis: the Donnington Bridge, Oxford, stretch of the Isis river was typical of rowing conditions yesterday"
By Mike Rosewell
The bitter weather is causing political as well as training problems for crews at Oxford University and Oriel College.
With both the Oxford Torpids and the Cambridge Lents scheduled in the coming three weeks, college crews like Oriel have been struggling to find training water. At Oxford, the university boat club officials banned college rowing on the Isis last weekend and, for fairness, extended this ban to the Godstow reach above the Isis, where many college first crews are the guests of St Edward's School.
In the past, crews ignoring the Godstow ban have been fined £100 per illegal outing. Often the financial loss was absorbed, but this year the Oxford officials are introducing a "four bump" Torpid penalty for offenders.
Oriel College, Head of Torpids for the past 19 years, have become one of the first victims of this rule. Oriel rowed briefly at Godstow last Saturday, as did Wadham, before experiencing ice and coming off the water. But at an Oxford University meeting on Monday evening they had four technical bumps awarded against them.
Whether this penalty will be upheld depends on a college captains' meeting on Friday when a two-thirds majority could reverse the decision.
Oriel argue that they were unaware of the ruling and, in fact, warned off other colleges who were about to boat.
Neil Stevenson, the Oriel captain, said that Oriel were "unaware that a ban was in force, as were all the other college crews we spoke to that day". It was "an inappropriate punishment for a minor crime", he said.
Oriel and Wadham will ask for lenient treatment at an Oxford college captains' meeing this evening. Both colleges were awarded four technical Torpids bumps after rowing at Godstow last weekend, while a safety ban had been imposed by the Oxford University Rowing Club committee.
Oriel and Wadham failed to persuade the Oxford college captains to show leniency at the captains' meeting last Friday and will be penalised by four technical bumps apiece when Torpids starts on Wednesday. The decision ends Oriel's 19 years as Torpids leaders.
Oriel are penalised
Oriel's banishment from the top of Oxford University Torpids was confirmed at a meeting of college boat club captains and they start in fourth place today when the four-day compeition begins on the Isis.
The punishment, handed out after they defied a no-rowing ban because of ice on the river, means that Christ Church start at the top and it sets up a possible confrontation between the two crews on Saturday.
Oriel on course to meet leadersThe article is accompanied by a photograph of the start captioned "Hoping to start with a bump: the men's seventh divsion of the Oxford Torpids gets under way at Donnington Bridge yesterday"
Oriel, relegated four places last week from the top of the men's first division for defying a no-rowing ban, are on course to meet the new leaders, Christ Church, on Satuday.
They have to make a bump each day and New College were the first victims on the opening day of Oxford University Torpids on the Isis yesterday.
They closed to within a canvas at the Gut and made the bump along the Green Bank. Ahead of them, Christ Church comfortably held off Brasenose. The House [Christ Church] were three lengths clear as the two crews rowed past the University Boat House and the second-place crew will be put to the test today to hold off Oriel.
There were only two other bumps in the division. University overhauling St Catherine's and Pembroke making an early bump on Magdalen.
In the women's top division, Somerville made their expected bump on Osler House to go to the top. Osler did not give up easily and Somerville's success came within sight of the finishing post. University dropped down three places in the middle of the division.
Oriel close on leaders
Oriel summarily disposed of Brasenose to move up to second place behind Christ Church on the second day of Oxford University torpids yesterday (a Special Correspondent writes).
They made the bump midway along the Green Bank. Passing the university boathouse, New College closed menacingly on Brasenose. New could not maintain the challenge and Brasenose escaped, but they could be in danger today.
In the women's first division, Somerville comfortably rowed over ahead of Osler House, whom they bumped on Wednesday. St Catherine's caught Lady Margaret Hall near the finish to move up behind Osler.
Christ Church blunt Oriel
Oriel's hope of returning to the top of the men's first division, a position they have occupied for the past 20 years, was effectively blunted by Christ Church on the third day of Oxford University Torpids yesterday (a Special Correspondent writes).
Relegated to fourth place for rowing when the river was closed, Oriel moved to second place after bumping New College and Brasenose and they confidently expected to make further progress.
They closed to within a length of the House [Christ Church] at the Gut but never got any closer. Christ Church pulled away to open up a two-lengths lead at the University boathouse, which they had extended by a further half a length at the finishing post. Oriel have a second chance today but Christ Church will view the clash with greater confidence.
Somerville had no such worries in the women's top division. They finished well clear of Osler House, who were never threatened by St Catherine's, the third crew.
Oriel are bumped down off the top by Christ Church
A record spanning two decades ended on Saturday when Oriel failed to win the Headship of Oxford University torpids on the Isis (a Special Correspondent writes).
A brief excursion onto the river when rowing was banned resulted in their being bumped down four places off the top, to be replaced by Christ Church who proved worthy winners. Bumps over New College and Brasenose on the first two days left Oriel with two opportunities to overhaul Christ Church but twice the challenge was beaten off.
The most spectacular decline, however, was achieved by New College II in the women's Division III. They stopped rowing at the Gut after being caught by Exeter and plummeted ten places.
Torpids title changes handsThe article includes a bumps chart.
Christ Church finised head of the river in the Oxford University Torpids, ending Oriel's 19 years at the top.
University and Pembroke earned their blades in the first division with a bump each day, but Hertford dropped six places after crashing into the bank.
Though without five of their best rowers, Somerville rowed over at the head of the women's divisions.
Oxford era endsThe Times Thu 7 March
From Mr C E A Cheeseman
Sir, Last week aw the end of one of the most extraordinary runs of success in university rowing. In being deprived of the headship of Oxford Torpids for infringement of a safety regulation before the event started, and in then narrowly failing to win it back, Oriel have reached the end of 19 years of victory. The college can still claim not to have been bumped for 20 years, but the messy end of the winning streak is none the less to be deplored.
Though small, Oriel has made a remarkable contribution to British rowing in recent years, mainly by providing Blues for Oxford's Boat Race effort who then go on to row internationally. Torpids, however, is a surer test of the college's keenness for the sport, since it takes place when blues are still committed to the University boat. Like the Taphians and Phaeacians in the Odyssey, Orielenses have shown themselves to be truly phileretmoi, lovers of the oar. At times, other college crews (to use an old joke) have borne more resemblance to Noah's Ark — they moved slowly over the face of the waters and were filled with strange creatures.
From Mr Oliver Caralho (Brasenose)
Sir, Mr Cheeseman writes (February 27) that Oriel "can still claim not to have been bumped for 20 years." While this may be true, at least of Torpids, it should be pointed out that they were only head of the river for so long because the chasing crew is required to be at least a length and a half quicker over the mile-long course in order to make the bump.
Under such conditions, it is indeed probable that Christ Church would not have gone head this year without the technical bumps awarded against Oriel, despite the fact that, on both of the last two days, the former were a full length faster. Orielenses may claim that they were robbed of their position at the top, but they should face the fact that, at long last, the best crew is head of the river. Christ Church are indeed deserving of their current position, and their achievement should not be devalued by those grouches who also saw it as fair that Oriel should illegally attempt to gain extra training time over the majority of crews, who stayed off the Isis when it was closed.
It is true that Oriel men are phileretmoi (as opposed to their women, who are yet to achieve great success on the river, not being recruited by size like the men), and commendably so, but it is good to see an all-round sporting college at head, rather than one which devotes itself almost entirely to rowing.
From Mr Patrick Macdonald
Sir, The stripping of Oriel's Torpids headship — for making a genuine mistake two weeks before the competition — was a deplorable triumph of sporting politics over sporting prowess. The action was unprecedented in the regatta's long history: technical bumps have only been given for offences committed during the event itself.
Torpids is a cumulative league event, with a crew's position at the end being determined both by its own efforts and by those of all its predecessors. Positions on the river are thus assets built up over generations of students, not commodities to be adjusted between events by a politicised committee. If Mr Caralho (March 7) finds the rules to his distaste, he should lobby to have them changed, not rejoice in their manipulation. Although chasing crews do have to make up a length and a half on the boat above, the system cuts both ways: in many of the past 20 years Oriel have produced boats several lengths faster than anybody else's, but could not improve their successors' chances of victory.
It is not too late for the Oxford University Boat Club to reverse its decision and return the four positions. If the decision is not reversed, Christ Church will have achieved a hollow victory; we shall see whether they can retain first place (they cannot honestly claim it to be the headship) until 2009.
From Ms Beth Harrison Oriel)
Sir, Mr Caralho writes that Oriel "were only head of the river for so long because the chasing crew is required to be at least a length and a half quicker". This is indeed the case, and Mr Caralho clearly did not see, nor were the crowds at the boathouses informed of it, the single foot of clear water between Christ Church and Oriel in the first half of the race on Saturday of Torpids.
In Oxford, arguments about the rights of the case will doubtless run and run, but Mr Caralho has widened the debate to include criticism of Oriel's peformance in all sports and of the performance of Oriel women. When he says that the women "are yet to achieve great success on the river" I am drawn to give him some statistics. In the six years since women were first accepted by Oriel, the women's first Torpid has gone up two divisions, from the bottom of the lowest division, where all new crews are required to start. With four bumps the best that can reasonably be expected of a crew in four days of racing, and with 12 boats in a division, I leave him to do the sums.
The depth of enthusiasm for rowing in Oriel is reflected in the ten boats from the college competing in Torpids this year. Of these, the four women's boats — more than any other college — made 18 starts and achieved 17 bumps.
It is unfortunate that in years to come Torpids 1991 will undoubtedly be remembered not so much for its racing but for controversy before the event had even begun. Individual interpretations will vary in the apportionment of blame but, surely, it will be generally agreed that it was a great shame for Torpids that the Headship had to be decided in the way that it was.
The series of events leading up to the demotion of Oriel from Head of the River began when Oriel and Oriel II, albeit unwittingly, flouted a rowing ban on the frozen river during a bitterly cold spell shortly before the bumps. A penalty of four technical bumps was seen to be in order for Oriel and the two Wadham first boats who had behaved in a similar manner. When Wednesday of Torpids arrived, therefore, it was Christ Church who prepared to race from the head station.
The result of the above drama was to treat spectators to some fascinating racing between Christ Church and Oriel — the latter having comfortably bumped New College and Brasenose on the first two days. Although Oriel started strongly and even closed to within inches on Saturday the lighter House crew rowed very well under extreme pressure to repulse the challenges and finish clear on both days. Further down the division blades were won in fine style by University and Pembroke to leave them fifth and seventh respectively. It was a sad week for Hertford who, having made no impression on Oriel II, dropped out of the division after a collision with the bank on Saturday.
In the women's races the Headship was also to change hands. Despite rowing neatly and aggressively Osler House were unable to hold off the impressive Somerville who had started in second place. The college now holds the Headships of Torpids and Eights. Wadham were unable to regain the ground they had lost through technical bumps despite having been widely tipped to do so.
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