It’s that time of year again: we’re well and truly on the road to Summer VIIIs. With everyone back from training camps and capitalising on relatively clement weather at the start of Trinity, the Isis looks set to host another thrilling set of bumps races.
Starting at head of the river and looking to continue their winning ways this term is Oriel in the men’s league. Strengthened by the arrival of three Blues rowers, they are certain to be confident in holding off Pembroke on the
Wednesday. However victory is far from guaranteed. Rumours are circulating of a Christ Church gunship stacked to high heaven with OUBC oarsmen who have learned from past mistakes and started training as a crew from the start of term. Should they be able to become more than the sum of their parts this crew has the potential to be very quick – definitely one to watch.
Noteworthy too are Keble who look set for another year of tearing up the charts with a ridiculous number of University oarsmen. Sadly, without a serious increase in fi repower, I fear Magdalen will be left rowing over every day. Similarly Trinity without Stan Louloudis and Mike Di Santo will struggle to replicate their strong performance from last year. Prize for the biggest grudge on day one has to go to Balliol who will be wanting to bump Wolfson into the bank after dropping half a division thanks to an unfortunately timed bump in the Gut on Friday of Torpids.
Whilst Torpids was a fairly open and shut case with predictable bumps, the bottom end of division one and the top of division two of VIIIs has some genuinely interesting line-ups taking form. The top end of division two sees New College chasing Hertford chasing Wadham. All three crews did very well in Torpids across division one and the top of division two – it will be interesting to see who comes out on top this time in a direct comparison.
The bottom of division one sees Wadham and Hertford chasing Teddy Hall as sandwich boat. I’m sure either of these crews will be faster than Teddy Hall but can they catch them before Teddy Hall catch Worcester? A correct prediction in this region means guaranteed fantasy bumps success.
Elsewhere Jesus and Mansfield will be looking to build on their strong performance at Torpids. LMH, filled with Blues, will be looking to make up for a weaker start to the season and get revenge on Brasenose.
On the women’s side, Wadham was untouchable at Torpids and I expect more of the same dominant form come 5th Week. Their crew is strengthened with the addition of Madeline Badcott from the dominant OUWBC crew and will be looking to claim a double headship. I expect Pembroke to take at least third place and maybe even snatch second on the river from St John’s with their smattering of Blues. The field further down the division looks set to be filled with very exciting racing; expect very few bumps before Boathouse Island.
Keble, Wolfson and Hertford – all stormed their way to blades in Torpids and now start ninth, tenth and eleventh respectively in division one. Balliol will be boosted by Caryn ‘Superwoman’ Davies so expect them to perform respectably after an average Torpids campaign. Infused with ‘Bostrom magic’, Lincoln will be looking to continue their Torpids success (up three) into VIIIs.
I’ll conclude with a few picks and tips from elsewhere. Teams to look out for include Regent’s Park, who despite being low down the field put in a strong performance at Torpids, and Pembroke W2 and Balliol W2 which both seem to have good depth and strength in their squads.
With well over 10,000 spectators in attendance Summer VIIIs stands out as one of the most popular rowing events in the UK. It’s not to be missed.