Although Wednesday morning’s calm weather had allowed the crews to begin racing at midday, twenty minutes later conditions had deteriorated to such an extent that racing was cancelled.
The Somerville Novices Crew A got the bow of their boat wedged between a moored Salters Steamer and a mooring post while turning their boat around on wednesday morning. John Harfield, a rower from St John’s, saw the Somerville Women’s crew in difficulty and stopped to help them.
He told Cherwell “I could see Somerville were in trouble with the bow wedged, I got them to get a marshall to get the safety launch. OURC wanted to get the girls onto the boat and asked if I could get there, so I stepped into the river then climbed up the steamer. From then it was just a case of getting the 8 girls and their cox up onto the steamer so they could be taken by launch back to dry land. They were clearly all cold and in shock so I tried to get them clothes from the bank.”
All the rowers were checked by Epione Medical Services and no one was injured. Rumours that a boat had capsized were found to be false.
Saibh Finlayson, rowing for a Balliol crew, told the Cherwell that they had sat in the “pouring rain” for half an hour waiting to race before the regatta was cancelled. She also reported that “some people were saying the river should never have been green-flagged at all” and that the “current was really strong.”
Alex Chajecki, the Regatta Captain for the 2012 competition, told the Cherwell that “At 12pm the crews were ready to start, and the conditions were fairly calm, so it was deemed entirely safe. Over the next twenty minutes things changed rapidly, with increasing winds and significant increase in stream. The decision was made to hold the next division immediately. We then confirmed with the lock and the Environment Agency that conditions were looking to continue to deteriorate, so the rest of the day was cancelled.”
The Regatta was also cancelled on Thursday, with the environment agency issuing warnings of either ‘Caution strong stream’ or ‘Caution stream increasing’ on most of the locks around Oxford.
Somerville College Boat Club weren’t the only club to experience a collision. Balliol Women’s Captain Kateryna Frolova told Cherwell that, there was a “huge hole in the stern of the boat” from a collision with a Jesus College crew whilst waiting on the river.
Despite the accidents, Ian Maconnachie, the Sabbatical Officer for Rowing, defended the decision to continue with racing. He claimed, “The situation was closely monitored this term as to whether crews were experienced enough to race in Christ Church Regatta. Many of the novice crews had raced in the Nephthys Regatta last weekend and in the Isis Winter League in the weekend before that, without any accidents.”
Maconnachie further commented, “There is obviously a marginally higher level of risk due to less experience, but when marshalled and organised safely, there is no reason for an event like Christ Church Regatta to be unsafe.” Both the Somerville accident and the Balliol collision happened after the races had been suspended.
This is not the first time that the Christ Church Regatta has been suspended. Rob Wadsworth, a rower at Balliol College, commented that indivdual days of the Regatta were “quite often” suspended but also agreed with the safety officials’ decision as ‘if it’s really wet and there’s a strong steam, it’s not safe to row.”