A second day of glorious sunshine, and some of Oxford’s finest (and some not so fine) athletes pounding their way rhythmically up and down the river. In men’s Division 1 Oriel, after their boat-burning exploits last year, have over Wednesday and Thursday successfully defended their headship. They are being pushed hard though, and Pembroke leading the chasing pack in second place have also rowed over both days.
With Christ Church also sticking in third, these three powerhouses of men’s college rowing look set to repeat their usual battle for dominance as we approach Saturday’s denouement. Nearer the bottom of the division Worcester had a day’s glory, moving up into Division 1 for Thursday until they were bumped back down today.
In the women’s races there’s been more drama at the very top, after Pembroke toppled Balliol from the head of the river yesterday. The woes continued for Balliol’s VIII on Thursday as they were bumped again by Wadham who looked like challenging Pembroke. Keble’s women bumped up into the first division on Wednesday and stayed in by rowing over on Thursday. Further down the ranks Lincoln’s women were imperious, with all four boats bumping, though as one Lincoln rower pointed out their W2 qualified for eights with a time that qualified them for the men’s divisions.
Down the more enthusiastic ends of the divisions things were a bit more lighthearted than during the iron-back, granite-quad races towards the end of the days. Fewer genuine beer boats this year than last, but there were plenty of lighthearted crews in for the fun of it. One VIII on Wednesday were bumped within three seconds after a oarsman’s seat fell off, and there was plenty more where this came from.
So after two days Eights looks set to be another sterling feather in the cap of this Oxford summer. Oriel have dominated in the male races, but onlookers have doubted whether they’re up to the calibre of previous years’ eights. It’s far from unthinkable that Pembroke might do the double.
So plenty to think about, and hopefully things will crescendo in time for Saturday, when the waterside will be completely rammed with people desperate to get their Oxford experience. After the early term we’ve had they deserve it.