An unusually dry winter meant that Torpids, for once, faced little likelihood of cancellation, and resulted in a somewhat higher standard of racing across the divisions than has sometimes proved the case. In any event, racing went well for the House once again, with the Men’s 1st Boat retaining the Headship and the Women’s 2nds both winning their blades and entering the Fixed Divisions for the very first time, thirty years on from ChCh first boating ladies’ crews.
The men’s 1st Torpid trained hard throughout the autumn and winter, under the eye of new Head Coach Laurence Birdsey, and was showing strong potential some time before the bumps, having raced well (albeit not at full strength) at the Bedford Head and demonstrated times comparable with our likely rivals. In the end, Magdalen failed to capitalize on early speed and did not bump Pembroke, while Oriel contrived to be bumped by St. John’s in what might best be described as a “popular victory”. The House rowed over fairly comfortably ahead of Pembroke with margins of between three and two lengths at the Finish each day, and with a particularly convincing row on the last day. Pembroke are, however, to be congratulated on their good spirit and sportsmanship throughout the competition.
Although the Women’s 1st Torpid had also trained hard, it struggled to turn this into consistent speed over four days of racing, and – this being Torpids - a dreadful day on Thursday cost them three places. However, the position was redeemed by the results of their 2nd crew who, coached by retiring BC President Tom Montgomery, bumped up six places to win blades and also to make some history in entering the Fixed Divisions for the very first time. The Men’s 2nds Torpid, an admixture of last year’s all-conquering 3rd VIII and of last term’s fresher novices, performed well against some stiff opposition (all its opponents are first crews) to row over all four days, with an especially stubborn and prolonged defence against Mansfield on the Thursday, which surely must prove the best of training for both next term and year. The 3rd (Schools) Torpid rose three places, but any hope of blades was dashed by the regular sounding of klaxons owing to some bizarre and occasionally suicidal coxing in the lower divisions.
Overall, then, an excellent Torpids for the House once again, and the third successive Headship was celebrated again in fitting style, with the boat borne in procession up to college, the applauding of the crew into Hall, toasts drunk from the Trophy and, to culminate, the fifth successive bumps-term burning of a boat in the Meadows. Now to defend that title also in Eights.
Photographs: Ralph Williamson and Joseph Caruana
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