Once again a very good year for the Club; the men retained the Headship won last year and, while the ladies’ 1st Boat lost a couple of places, other crews rose, gaining valuable experience. Just how valuable this experience can prove to be was amply demonstrated by the performance of the men’s 1st Torpid. In 2009 there were four members of the 2008 2nd Summer Eight aboard when the Headship was won with bumps on Oriel and Pembroke; this year only one man from last year’s 1st Summer Eight was available. Thus the Torpid was made up once again largely of men who had come through the novice programme at Christ Church and who had learned their bumps racing in Lower Boats.
It was always going to be difficult to hold this prize in the face of a strong Pembroke Torpid; not one of their crew had learned his rowing in Oxford and on paper this was truly David and Goliath. Coach Ben Reed began with a small squad and the hope that we might gain some returners from OUBC and OULRC. This did happen in the end but not until the eleventh hour when injury and illness had depleted the tiny squad to the extent that long and gruelling outings at Wallingford were conducted with only six men. Hard and unremitting land training from October onwards turned these young men into fighters; the knowledge of the strength of the enemy kept them to task throughout. Augmented by one Norse newcomer and by two returners from OULRC this fairly inexperienced crew raced as underdogs and held public sympathy throughout the four days. Not only that, but they raced hard and well under pressure; Pembroke closed each day in the Gut – and each day the House drew away to finish clear, culminating on the Saturday in a prolonged and bitter fight in which the enemy were seen off only at the end of the boathouses. Great celebrations resulted, with a boat carried back to the House, dinner in Hall with the Trophy and the boat then burned and leapt in traditional style – our third burning in a year. Given that the men’s 2nd Torpid gained a great deal from racing and rose one place, then the example lies before them; it is in their hands to follow where others have led. Congratulations are due to Coach Ben Reed, borrowed cox Zoe de Toledo and to David Brock, James Fifield, Tom Montgomery, Magnus Proesch, Ian Maconnachie, Thomas Hine, Tom Smith and Captain Guy Arnold.
The ladies also raced valiantly but were rather outpowered by their opponents – Magdalen went on to take the Headship from St Catz - and a strong SEH crew. Coach Karl Offord is determined, as are the girls themselves, to put this slip right come Summer Eights. The Ladies 2nd Torpid, coached by old member Lenny Martin, were only allowed two days of racing owing to the prevailing water conditions - but nevertheless gained a bump and also have plenty to look forward to in Eights.
With six men set to return from OUBC (three Blues, three Isis) the outlook for Trinity Term is excellent at all levels. It was splendid to see so many old members present to cheer on our Torpids (despite the bitter cold) and we hope that May 26 – 29 will bring both the sun and many more former ChCh oarsmen and women: we hope to be able to put on a show well warranting your journey!
Jon Carley (1980)
For pictures of the last day of torpids click here:
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