Torpids trophies inequality

Women have been able to enter Torpids since 1969, although the winners have never received a trophy

Photo: Lorin Samija

Oxford University Rowing Clubs (OURC) has voted to launch an investigation after it emerged on Tuesday that the women’s teams who win Torpids do not receive a trophy, unlike their male counterparts.

Women have been able to enter Torpids since 1969, although the winners have never received a trophy.

Women’s teams who win Summer VIIIs do receive trophies. A captain of one of the men’s college boats told Cherwell: “We voted unanimously in favour of the committee investigating [getting] trophies which would record all winners of women’s Torpids back to its inception.”

He continued: “[It’s] really important that they are recognised along with the men seeing as they do exactly the same race, and it’s just very unfair that they wouldn’t be rewarded the same. Hopefully we will see this rectified by the OURCs.

“Whilst it will probably be quite expensive to put in place, for me, and I’m sure the majority of the other captains, it’s a point of principle that we uphold a commitment to equal opportunity.”

The co-captain of the Balliol women’s team, Nermeen Hilton, who also attended the meeting, said: “We absolutely want there to be a trophy for the women at Torpids.

“It’s a great inequality, and knowing people who have won the headship for other colleges we think it’s a real shame that there isn’t a trophy.

“In fact, there’s only a women’s trophy for [Summer] Eights because gracious Balliol donors Andrew and Peggoty Graham bought one when Balliol women won the headship in 2010.” Other students voiced their concern over the discrepancy.

Second year student Violet Smart, who rows for Mansfield, told Cherwell: “To hear of such blatant injustice within the collegiate rowing system is a massive shame.

“Both men’s and women’s teams put in enormous amounts of effort for Torpids and Summer VIIIs and for many college rowers these competitions form the apex of their university rowing careers.

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“It’s easy to trivialise matters like these, but I think it’s important that we stop perpetuating the image that gender limits the potential of sportspeople.

“To win Torpids as a a male or a female is just as much of an achievement, and that should be recognised in the same manner for both teams.”

Tom Coles, Sabbatical Officer for OURCs, told Cherwell: “OURCs was only made aware of the absence of a trophy shortly before the meeting where this was raised.

“The current trophies (the two trophies for Eights and the men’s trophy for Torpids) long pre-date the existence of OURCs as an organisation and are handled directly by the headship clubs without the involvement of OURCs.”

Coles added: “The current ownership of the trophies is unclear, but can be traced back to Oxford University Boat Club and is apparently lent out on a year-by-year basis.

“As resolved at the meeting—with the unanimous support of both the committee and the captains—we will be investigating ways to fix this inequality as a matter of priority.”

Women’s crews first rowed for the University in 1927, but it was only in 1974 when more colleges started admitting female undergraduates that female college level rowing took off.