No change at top in Summer VIIIs’ 200th year

As the ashes settle and the wash dies down, Cherwell looks back at Summer VIIIs 2015. In some respects, VIIIs 2015 was much like any other year – a few surprises here and there, not much change at the top and comedy at the bottom, but unknown to many spectators until the final day, this year marked the 200th anniversary of bumps racing in Oxford.

That’s right, young men from Brasenose and Jesus have been chopping along the Isis ever since Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo. I feel this anniversary could have been far better publicised and celebrated in greater detail. The commemorative rowpast in authentic boats by alumni from Brasenose and Jesus was a nice touch and certainly along the right lines but apart from this individual spectacle there was nothing commemorative in the schedule or build up to the event.

Sadly 200 years on, we were unable to witness a real bumps race between Brasenose and Jesus, who started five places apart in division two. Happily both crews made progress up the river which was supplemented with the gratuitous use of #200years on twitter.

Not all crews were able to progress. Spoons were, somewhat predictably, awarded to St Catz and Worcester in men’s division one along with St John’s, St Anne’s, St Peter’s, Somerville and Magdalen 2 in the rest of the senior divisions. St Peter’s in particular must be gutted to have lost the gains they made last year with blades.

On the women’s side, the racing was somewhat closer with only two crews – Teddy Hall and Merton – receiving spoons.
Given that Teddy Hall had only entered one crew, the results suggest a clear lack of any depth within the squad. Hopefully this can be turned around next year.
In happier results, Pembroke made strong progress moving up from 4th to 2nd on the river, narrowly missing out on bumping the incumbent headship crew Wadham.

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Speaking of Wadham, this crew was fairly dominant all week and responded to the challenge from Pembroke on Friday well with a more comfortable row-over to cement their title on Saturday.

The most impressive climb came from Univ who bumped every day moving up from 8th to 4th on the river – a staggering climb for VIIIs. Elsewhere New College seemed to have learned how to steer and turned that raw potential into success bumping up from 2nd in division two to 11th in division one.
New also had a good run of form on the men’s side, bumping up from 2nd in division two to 12th in division one and narrowly missed out on blades as they were unable to catch Wadham before Wadham caught Worcester on Thursday.

At the top of the river, Christ Church M1 delivered a powerful bump on Pembroke just after boathouse island on Wednesday to secure their position as 2nd on the river and from this point onwards did not face any pressure from below.

However despite this speed they were unable to catch the head of the river crew, Oriel, which consistently moved away by couple of lengths, and retained the headship comfortably. OURCs refused to confirm whether the Tortoises had set a course record but given they surpassed the time of last year’s Oriel M1, it seemed probable.

Unsurprisingly, Keble dominated at the bottom end of men’s division one racking up bumps on St Catz, Balliol, Univ and Trinity. Many had speculated whether the late return of man-machine Constantine Louloudis on Saturday could save Trinity from a bump but it was not to be.

Looking at the minor headships, Oriel retained the men’s second boat headship although Pembroke drew one step closer to trying to win it back. Next year they will start one after the other in what is sure to be a heated contest.

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Despite nearly getting spoons, Wadham W2 remained head of the women’s second boats, six places ahead of Worcester W2. This is testament to Wadham’s strength in depth over the years.

Elsewhere Jesus, lost the men’s third boat headship to a commanding Wolfson M3 who also achieved blades, marking a very strong season for the graduate college. The women’s third boat headship was, somewhat comically, retained by the spoons winning St Johns W3 crew. They were only able to hold on to this title thanks to their close rivals Worcester W3 falling three places as well.

Overall, it was a Summer VIIIs which largely confirmed rather than upset expectations. 200 years after its inception, the sheer ferocity of the competition doesn’t seem to have abated.