Summer Eights 2014 went well for Wolfson. Both men’s and women’s first boats proved themselves in strong Division I finishes, M3 achieved blades, W2 earned its highest finish in decades, and great fun was had by all!
Wolfson entered six crews into Eights 2014, including three men’s crews, two women’s crews, and one mixed fun crew (designated M4). Both M3 and M4 successfully rowed on and competed in the main bumps event!
Men’s First Boat
The men’s first boat had a difficult position to defend in Eights 2014, staring 5th on the river. The first half of racing was difficult for them. On Wednesday, despite getting within half a length of the Univ crew in front of them, the men were bumped by a very fast Magdalen crew on the green bank. Thursday, they were bumped by Trinity after a very fast start. The men rallied for the second half of the race, rowing over on Friday ahead of Catz while Trinity went on to bump Univ. Saturday, the men still couldn’t quite catch Univ, but pushed solidly away from a cheeky Balliol crew that had gained on them through the gut. Overall the men have finished 7th on the river, a respectable Division I position.
|bow||John McManigle||Division I|
|2||Gido Van de Ven|
|coach||Paul Kelly, Nanda Pirie, Cliff Sofield|
Women’s First Boat
The Wolfson women had a fantastic Eights campaign! On Wednesday, they achieved a resounding bump on Oriel in the middle of the gut. Thursday, they continued by bumping Merton just off the CORC rafts in a high-rate race. Friday, the ladies bumped Hertford by Donnington Bridge. The toughest race was Saturday, against Keble, who had also spent the week moving up through the top division. Despite a very strong performance, the ladies rowed over behind Keble, cementing their finish at 10th on the river and solidly in Division I.
|bow||Heather Harrington||Division I|
Men’s Second Boat
M2 fought an honourable but gruelling Eights campaign. On Wednesday, they rowed over behind a very speedy Keble II, which also rowed over. Thursday, although they gained on Keble off the start, they were bumped by Jesus II in the gut. Friday, after a good start, they were bumped by a very speedy Brasenose II in the gut. Finally, in Saturday’s race, the men were bumped by Green Templeton, a first boat which is still working its way up the bumps chart after formation a few years ago.
|bow||Thomas Quartermain||Division IV|
|2||Luis Valenzuela Rivera|
|7||Morgan Di Rodi|
Women’s Second Boat
The women’s second boat had a proud Eights campaign. Wednesday, W2 bumped St. John’s II under Donnington Bridge after a flying start. Thursday would be a longer test of mettle, as LMH bumped out ahead of them and W2 had to row over. Friday, the ladies earned a strong bump on St. Hilda’s in the gut. Saturday was another tough race, and W2 had to row over after LMH bumped out on Queen’s ahead of them. The ladies finished fifth in Division III, their highest position since (at least) 1980!
|bow||Sabine Parrish||Division III|
Men’s Third Boat
Eights 2014 was a roaring success for the men’s third boat. Their campaign began with a bump on St. Benet’s off the start on Wednesday, followed by a quick bump on Queen’s on Thursday. On Friday, the men bumped Wadham III while still amongst the bunglines. Saturday, they earned their blades with a final bump on Pembroke III. In addition to Blades, the crew earned a secure spot in the fixed divisions.
|bow||Matthew Chang||Division V|
|2||Joao de Sousa Pinto|
|coach||Matteo Gianella-Borradori, Mark Nixon|
Mixed (Fourth) Boat
The fourth boat was a mixed eight made of a hodgepodge of rowers: some coxes without quite enough time to row, some previous rowers who weren’t able or interested in a term of training, some committed W3 rowers who couldn’t find enough others to get a crew together. The mixed boat — surely with the best bankrider on the river — had a very successful campaign. On Wednesday, they bumped St. Hilda’s II at the entrance to the gut. Thursday, they bumped New College II just before Donnington Bridge. Friday, they bumped St. Hugh’s II in the top of the gut. Saturday, sadly the bump was not meant to be. After Oriel III bumped out on Trinity III ahead of them, Wolfson IV went on to row over.
|bow||Olena Seminog||Division VI|
|str||Casper Gregers Bangert|
Cliff’s Race Reports
Clifford Sofield, one of Wolfson’s longest-serving members, has offered to regale us with his daily observations of Summer Eights 2014. This year, as our crews fought their ways upriver, Cliff was was there to chronicle the details. Read on below!
The steady drizzle had progressed to proper rain by the time Wolfson M4 sat at the start, wearing watermelon-print tights, orange-print halter tops, and stylish peach-coloured plastic visors. But the water collecting in the upside-down brims of those visors did not faze MFoursome. Despite an unorthodox start (in which they made an unexpected visit to the opposite side of the river and allowed Brasenose III behind them to close to a quarter length behind them), our crew of four boys and four girls came together and bumped St Hilda’s II heading into the Gut. (The Hilda’s boys were dressed as sailors, in blue-and-white horizontally striped jerseys. One of them had a white hat, with a ribbon. Adorable.)
Wolfson M3 were more business-like. With a rapid start they bumped St Benet’s in about thirty strokes. It was a good job they didn’t wait longer because they had just bumped when the division was klaxoned. Apparently Pembroke III, having bumped out, had decided to clear the racing line by rowing straight in front of Regent’s Park, and the race was stopped to avoid a calamity. A short race was not in the cards for Wolfson M2, who had a brilliant start but then quickly lost ground to an impressive Keble II. It looked as if Keble might bump Worcester II, but Worcester escaped by bumping St Catherine’s II. Keble were left to row over, and Wolfson rowed over behind them. Our boys will be starting behind Keble again tomorrow, hoping to wear them down.
No doubt the memory of St John’s II bumping Wolfson W2 on Saturday of Eights last year still haunts you. It no longer haunts Wolfson W2. They exacted swift revenge today, bumping St John’s under Donnington Bridge. With that bump, Wolfson W2 are now the second-highest ranked women’s boat on the river. Wolfson W1 followed with a resounding victory over the Oriel ladies. Having gained rapidly in the first minute of the race, Wolfson had overlap as they entered the Gut. They hit Oriel about twenty strokes later, in the middle of the Gut.
But the final race of the day left a bitter taste in the mouths of Wolfson supporters. Chased hard by Magdalen, Wolfson M1 were only three-quarters of a length up by the time they entered the Gut. Wolfson responded well and held them there, at the same time gaining rapidly on University College. By the time they passed me near the top of the Gut only half a length separated Wolfson from Univ, and Magdalen from Wolfson. Then Magdalen found another gear, and despite Wolfson’s great effort they bumped us on the Green Bank.
Oxford was treated to some summery weather today, and Wolfson M4 (aka ‘MFoursome Turbo’) boated at 12.45pm in warm and glorious sunshine. Every peach-coloured visor was right-side up—that’s how seriously our boys and girls were taking their second race of Summer Eights. Their focus paid off: M4 gained on New II off the start; they continued to gain each stroke until they had massive overlap; and then they bumped just before Donnington Bridge. Visors were doffed to their defeated foes, donned again upside-down, and MFoursome Turbo rowed home in fruitful glory.
Splendid weather and sunny results continued for Wolfson M3. Despite catching a crab early in the race, our boys recovered and quickly put pressure on Queen’s II, who, panicking, caught a crab themselves. The Queen’s cox just managed to concede before a solid collision confirmed the bump, Wolfson M3’s second of Summer Eights, about a minute into the race. Unfortunately the summer sun did not treat Wolfson M2 so kindly. A solid start saw them gain on Keble II, but then Jesus II started to close quickly behind them. Our boys responded but couldn’t escape getting bumped at the top of the Gut. They’ll be looking to take revenge on Jesus tomorrow.
It was also a tough race for Wolfson W2. Our ladies were chasing Lady Margaret Hall, who were in turn chasing an unimpressive St Hilda’s crew. As expected, LMH bumped St Hilda’s easily, and Wolfson W2 were left to row over, which they did with untouchable dignity. Two hours later, in Women’s Division I, it was Wolfson W1’s chance for glory, and they seized it admirably. Aiming for a swift, sharp race, our ladies went off hard and kept the rate high despite the choppy water, bumping Merton just before City of Oxford Rowing Club to rise to 11th place on the river. It was their second bump of Summer Eights.
In the final race of the day, Men’s Division I, Wolfson M1 were looking to row over, in order to put themselves into a good position to catch Univ tomorrow. Unfortunately Trinity disagreed with our plans. With a deceptively fast start, Trinity closed to within three-quarters of a length on Wolfson by Donnington Bridge; and in the rough water they were able to close out the bump in the middle of the Gut. So it will be Trinity, not Wolfson, chasing Univ tomorrow. Disappointing, but the boys are ready to come back tomorrow and defend their standing of 7th on the river.
In other Summer Eights news, both the Women’s and the Men’s Headships changed hands today. Wadham ladies bumped St John’s on the Green Bank, and Oriel men bumped Pembroke, also on the Green Bank, in two exciting races.
The third day of Summer Eights can be a turning point. Crews that have enjoyed success on the first two days can meet with disappointment, and crews that have struggled so far can suddenly find success. Neither was the case the for Wolfson M4. An excellent start brought them a canvas off of St Hugh’s II by Donnington Bridge. St Hugh’s responded with a heroic push, pulling away slightly, but after another twenty strokes or so MFoursome Turbo found their eponymous gear and bumped in the top of the Gut. That was their third bump in three days.
Wolfson M3 also overcame the perils of the third day, and in even more dramatic fashion. Our boys executed their best start of the year…and that was all they had time to do before they bumped Wadham III between bunglines 5 and 4 (having raced for a mere fifteen boat lengths). A fantastic effort for their third bump in three days! Sadly Wolfson M2 were not able to make Friday their turning point. Despite putting in a good start in which they gained on Jesus II, they soon found themselves under pressure from a swift Brasenose II. With traffic on the river impeding their racing line, our boys were forced to concede the bump in the lower Gut.
The third day represented a critical race for Wolfson W2. Our girls were chasing St Hilda’s, a crew that had been bumped the previous two days; but we were being chased by St Peter’s, a very respectable crew. On the start St Peter’s gained slightly, but W2 were unfazed. In business-like fashion they reeled in St Hilda’s and bumped them in the lower Gut, for their second bump of Summer Eights.
Wolfson W1, who had two bumps coming into today, did not allow the third day to change their momentum! Following a clean, powerful start they soon found themselves a canvas off Hertford. The rough water kicked in as they hit Hertford’s wash, and everything seemed to pause for a moment — and then Hertford cracked and we bumped them at Donnington Bridge. Another dominant performance for our ladies in Division I!
Out of all the Wolfson crews, Friday was most critical for M1. Having been bumped on Wednesday and Thursday, our boys were determined to turn their Summer Eights around today. With a good clean first minute they pulled away from St Catz, who were then bumped by Balliol after Donnington Bridge; meanwhile ahead of us Trinity caught Univ at the top of the Gut. With no racing crews left around them, our boys laid down a solid piece of rowing to the finish line, and rowed over. They’ll be chasing Univ tomorrow.
An expectant stillness spread over the Isis, as the fourteen boats in Men’s Division V stretched their bunglines across the sun-dappled water. The coaches counting down, a cox’s last-minute instruction, a collectively in-drawn breath—BOOM! The river erupted into fury. Peering through the clearing cannon smoke we could see Wolfson M3, steering a tight corner off of tricky bungline 9, hot on the stern of Pembroke III. Our boys already had three bumps in three days, and they were only a length off of the glorious fourth. Coxswain Oscar straightened up after the bend, the crew buried their finishes, and Wolfson M3 cut through the roiling water and, on the twenty-sixth stroke, surged for their blades-winning bump!
Congratulations to Wolfson M3 on a tremendous Summer Eights. With a bump on each day, they are the third Wolfson M3 to have won Blades in Summer Eights since 1980 (which is as far back as our records go), and the first since 1991. Their finish position of eighth in Division V (60th on the river) is Wolfson M3’s highest position ever in Summer Eights (they reached their previous best of 66th in 1998 and 2013), and they are now solidly within the fixed divisions.
Turn the clocks back 70 minutes to Men’s Division VI. Wolfson M4 had also bumped each of the first three days, but they were facing their most challenging race so far. The crew ahead, Oriel III, were chasing Trinity III, who had been bumped the previous two days. MFoursome Turbo committed to racing as hard as they could into the Gut—and then even harder after that, in order to catch Oriel before they bumped Trinity. Alas it was not to be: Oriel bumped Trinity in the Gut, and MFoursome rowed over. They finished sixth in Division VI, with three bumps to their credit in Summer Eights.
The same sort of challenge, but amplified, faced Wolfson W2. Having bumped St Peter’s on Friday, our girls were chasing Lady Margaret Hall, who were strong but catchable…but LMH were chasing Queen’s, who had started Eights in Division II and were now rapidly plummeting through Division III. Determined to put LMH under pressure before they reached Queen’s, Wolfson W2 put everything into the first half of the race. But LMH had the same idea, and they had closed to a canvas on Queen’s by Donnington Bridge. Queen’s made a gutsy effort to hold them there, but they were overmatched and LMH finished the bump in the Gut. St Peter’s were bumped as well, and Wolfson W2 rowed over at fifth in Women’s Division III, their highest rank since 1980. With two bumps and two row-overs, they had a successful Summer Eights.
The cards were surely stacked against Wolfson M2. Chasing Brasenose II, who had bumped them yesterday, our boys were themselves being chased by Green Templeton, an M1 boat working its way up through the divisions since the college’s introduction in Division VII five years ago. Despite the unfavourable odds, Wolfson M2 executed an excellent start and kept pace with Brasenose. When Green Templeton started to gain, our boys gritted their teeth and made GTC fight for every inch. The bump eventually happened in the Gut, but our boys came off the water with their heads high after an excellent race. They finished Summer Eights ranked ninth in Men’s Division IV, having been bumped three times and rowed over once.
Having bumped each of the previous three days, Wolfson W1 boated Saturday in pursuit of their Blades-winning fourth bump, knowing it would not be easy. They were chasing a good crew in Keble, who had bumped twice and then rowed over behind University College. If Univ could hold off Keble again, it would give our ladies the whole length of the river to catch them—and they might need it. Wolfson W1 rowed a long, hard, determined race, but Keble, alert to the danger, were just as sharp. There was nothing gained or lost the whole way, and when they passed the boathouses a length and a half of clear water still separated Univ from Keble and Keble from Wolfson. All three crews rowed over. So no blades, but Wolfson W1 can be extremely proud of their three bumps, and of finishing 10th on the river, their highest ranking since 1997!
In the final race of Summer Eights 2014, Wolfson M1 were pumped up and ready to finish the bump on Univ that they had been within a few feet of on Wednesday. But our boys were being chased by Balliol, who had caught St Catherine’s early in the Gut on Friday. It was going to be a race to the Green Bank, and Wolfson M1 were ready for it. They had a flying start and put Univ under pressure early, closing to about three-quarters of a length by Donnington Bridge. Univ responded and pulled away to a little over a length as they rounded the first bend. Meanwhile Balliol had closed to about three-quarters of a length, and as the crews raced through the Gut Balliol closed that gap to about half a length, while Univ held Wolfson at just over a length. On the Green Bank Balliol surged and came as close as a canvas; but our boys found the courage and commitment, first to push them away, and then to drop them. In front of the boathouses Balliol were a length behind, and they fell back even further as Wolfson again gained on Univ in the last fifty strokes. They might have closed to as little as half a length by the finish, but in the end all three crews rowed over. A great race from Wolfson M1, who finished Summer Eights at 7th on the river, their fourth-highest finishing position ever, having been bumped twice and rowed over twice.
So ends Summer Eights 2014. Congratulations to all Wolfson crews! Your effort and determination in Summer Eights and all year long has been admirable, and you’ve raced like champions. Well done.