Cuppers is an intercollegiate knockout competition that runs throughout the first two terms and means that, unlike normal, all eleven players are obliged to turn up before the start of the match. There are Cuppers competitions in most sports played in Oxford, including croquet Cuppers, but football competition attracts the most participants and is keenly contested. The mens’ competition can be traced back to 1882 and, by the time of the final at Iffley Road sports ground, you can see why the competition is held in such high regard. The chance to experience a cheering crowd and hold a trophy aloft means that success in Cuppers is rightly considered the pinnacle of achievement in college football. Last season Lincoln won the mens’ title and Somerville the womens’ – both teams winning despite not playing in the highest league. The competition won’t be starting for another few weeks, but you can be sure that when it does there will be a flurry of extra training sessions (or the beginning of some training sessions), an insistence that people actually show up on time for games and a general sense of the importance of this tournament (until you get knocked out of course).
Varsity rugby is the showpiece event of the rugby calender and a chance for the blues to earn their status as gods among men. It takes place at the beginning of the Christmas holidays and, despite a series of highly competitive games during the term, anyone with a vague grasp of what sport is all about in Oxford will tell you that Varsity is pretty much the only game that really matters. Anyone without such sporting knowledge will tell you that what’s really important about the varsity match is the opportunity it provides for a post-term, pre-Christmas catch up with friends and copious amounts of alcohol. The first varsity match betwen Oxford and Cambridge was played in 1872, and fans have been flocking to the pubs around the Twickenham ground ever since. Some even watch the match. Last year the dark blues were beaten 31-27 in a pulsating encounter, so some revenge will definitely be sought in this season’s event. The blues rugby season has already begun: the gruelling schedule and hours of work in the gym may seem unappealing at the moment, but if it leads to a Varsity victory at Twickenham – and the spoils of victory afterwards – then all will surely agree that it was well worth it.
Christchurch regatta has been cancelled twice in the last ten years as a result of appauling weather conditions. Dealing with high winds, driving rain and freezing temperatures will quickly dispel any idea that rowing is a glamourous sport: the Boat Race is hard work and high profile, but Christchurch regatta is just hard work. Fortunately, though, it’s also challenging, rewarding, addictive and even satisfying, and hundreds of freshers every year find out that it’s possible to make it to an early morning outing whilst still drunk and still fancy-dressed. Who cares if it’s dark and raining? Kukui’s dark and damp, too, so just close your eyes and imagine. There are mens’ and womens’ competitons and the standard is impressively varied, so you can indulge your sporting dreams even if you’ve never seen a boat before. And it’s not difficult to sign up: should thoughts of ‘perhaps’, ‘possibly’, ‘maybe one day’ trying rowing even cross your mind, you’ll find that an eager boatclub captain will materialise by your side, with a winning smile and a promise that donning lycra in the early morning really is what floats your boat. They’re like guardian angels, but more masochistic.