The start of Michaelmas term, for many athletes at Oxford, means the start of yet another rowing season. Rowing continues to be an intensely popular team sport at Oxford, boasting incredibly high numbers at both a University and college level, as well as earning recognition at multiple international regattas. OUBC is coming off an incredible and historicseason, a streak that the captains are hoping the club will continue. At last year’s Varsity face-off, both the men’s and women’s crew teams led Oxford to a decisive victory in the 161st Boat Race. The day also marked a victory for the Oxford reserve crew team, rounding out the impressive feat of sweeping Cambridge. This is an immense source of pride for the University, as well as an indication of great things for the current season.
The Dark Blue’s 2016 Boat Race campaign began at the Fuller’s Fours Head of the River Race, held on the Tideway course (only the other way) on the Saturday of Fourth Week. It yielded a mixed bag of results for OUBC. Alarmingly the top Cambridge boat, racing as Goldie, were 19 seconds faster than the top Oxford boat. Oxford’s fastest crew finished 17th to Cambridge’s 10th. However the next Goldie boat ranked below the next two Oxford boats. The squad’s thus look pretty well matched with Cambridge perhaps enjoying the racing edge at this stage in the season.
Over with the Oxford University Lightweights and it is all change. Following the departure of their coach of three years, Bodo Schulenburg, OUL have appointed Mike Hill, a New Zealander, as their new coach. Their squad now looks forward to their exhibition Trial VIIIs event on Saturday 12th December.
Moving over to college rowing and the competiton looks set to kick-off on the Sunday of Sixth Week with the Autumn Fours races. With three entries from Keble, two from Oriel and a handful from Merton and Balliol, this side-by- side knock-out regatta will set the tone for the rest of the Michaelmas term on the Isis. Merton particularly impressed at the first Isis Winter League race on the Saturday of Fourth Week, putting in a pacy 4.19 time in an VIII.
Further towards the end of term the top college crews will be heading over to Cambridge to race in the Fairburn’s head race, the oldest race of its kind in the UK. Given this was one last year by Pembroke, Oxford there’s a lot of Dark Blue pride on the line as Oxford seeks to demonstrate its continued dominance of the collegiate rowing scene.
Fifth Week marks the opening of the Gradel erg suite and the beginning of indoor training, which continues throughout the winter and until the spring. Therefore, the beginning of fifth week not only means the opening of the erg suite, but also the arrival of New College indoor regatta. The regatta provides the opportunity for all novices to assess the potential of their pro- spective rowers, as well as one of the most pleasant spectator experiences of the winter crew season, given the delight that is mid-November weather in Oxford.
Of course, the highlight of winter collegiate crew is the Seventh Week Christ Church Regatta, as the annual side-by-side race is one of the only opportunities for all of the colleges’ athletes to compete head to head. The tournament is formulated in a kind of randomized, round robin, winner-takes-all knockout tournament. The course is short – only about 700 meters – but it still remains a challenging one, largely due to potential weather-related problems. For example, in years past, some races of the four-day-long tournament have been cancelled or postponed due to flooding caused by glacial rain, which aids in making sure that the spectators are exerting themselves as much as the rowers as they desperately try to avoid contracting pneumonia.
The competition remains fierce, with the home men’s team Christ Church looking to re- gain its place as champion rowers, while Regent’sPark, the victorious women’s team, also looks to achieve a consecutive victory. However, given that the Regatta is a novice-exclusive event, future results are far more dependent on early-week training and novice recruitment than past victories.
Regardless of the victors, the race is always one of the most exciting sporting events of the term and promises four days of excellent rowing, or at the very least, entertaining mishaps.