Torpids 2015 was a fantastic one for Wolfson. All three women’s crews earned blades, W1 secured a spot in Division I for the first time in a decade, and M1 fought its way back up to fifth on the river, (tied for) its highest position ever!
Wolfson entered seven boats into Torpids 2015: four men’s crews and three women’s crews. Due to a great novice intake, Herculean efforts of organisation by the captains, and a can-do spirit, M3, W3, and M4 all successfully “rowed on” and competed in the main bumps event!
Men’s First Boat
This was a challenging year for M1. With a lot of new faces in the boat, the men had a lot to prove and a high position on the river to defend. But they rose the occasion. On Wednesday, they were chasing a very speedy Oriel, who bumped out ahead of them on St Catherine’s. Undeterred, the Wolves powered on, gaining the overbump on Catz and moving to 6th on the river. Thursday, Oriel again bumped out in front of them, this time on Balliol. Though the men closed to within two lengths of the overbump, they couldn’t quite complete it.
They would have their revenge on Friday. M1 gained on Balliol from the start gun, and bumped decisively exiting the Gut. Balliol, slow to concede, wound up tangled in the bank and was bumped by three more crews, falling from 4th to 12th on the river in one day. Finally, on Saturday, the men were chasing perennial powerhouse Christ Church and being chased by a very speedy Wadham, who were on for blades. Though the race was exciting for both potential bumps, in the end all three crews rowed over — a canvas between each pair — and the men finished 5th on the river, tied for their highest Torpids position ever.
|bow||Jack Hornsby||Division I|
|5||Gido Van de Ven|
Women’s First Boat
The Wolfson women had a fantastic Torpids campaign! On Wednesday, after a rapid row-over at the top of Division II, they gained a textbook bump on a speedy Worcester crew on the Green Bank to earn their place in Division I. On Thursday, they had a flying start and caught a sluggish St Catherine’s crew by bungline 5 (still in the starting area). Friday’s race wouldn’t be quite so easy: though they gained half a length on Balliol by Donnington Bridge, Balliol were able to bump out on New College. The lady Wolves redoubled their efforts through the Gut, and smashed New College abeam Longbridges Boat House.
Finally, Saturday was W1’s opportunity to catch Balliol, but Balliol refused to go quietly. Off the start, Balliol pulled away from Wolfson and started gaining on Univ ahead of them. By Donnington Bridge, Balliol were two lengths away from the Wolves and only a quarter of a length off Univ. But coming through the Gut, Univ pushed away (and on to Christ Church ahead of them) while Wolfson’s W1 made a strong move. Exiting the Gut, Christ Church was in the lead, followed a quarter of a length behind by Univ, who had Balliol just a canvas off them, and finally Wolfson half a length behind. Steering on to the Green Bank made all the difference. In a matter of a few strokes, Sofia (cox) had shifted Wolfson on top of Balliol, as they didn’t take as sharp a line. Wolfson got the bump on Balliol, and almost simultaneously Univ bumped Christ Church. The women had achieved four bumps in four days, earning blades and a firm finish in Division I.
|bow||Anne Coventry||Division I|
Men’s Second Boat
M2 fought a proud Torpids campaign in the hectic men’s 4th division. On Wednesday, despite a messy first stroke, they quickly bumped St Catz II before Donnington Bridge. Catz went on to bump a (presumably crashed) Worcester II, so M2 moved up two spots. Thursday, M2 had a massive start and nailed a sluggish Magdalen II in under 20 strokes.
Friday was a more exciting race. Though the men were gaining on Trinity II off the start, St John’s II was also gaining on them. Exiting the Gut, there was less than a length between each pair of crews, and Trinity fled to the towpath side. Nicky (cox) stuck to her racing line, and swiped at Trinity as she crossed the river toward the end of the Green Bank. Unsure whether they’d bumped, the men rowed on, and St John’s subsequently bumped them. After the race, video evidence proved that Wolfson had indeed bumped Trinity, so the John’s bump was disallowed (they were awarded a row-over).
On Saturday, M2 had their finest rowing of the race. Unfortunately it was not quite enough to catch St Antony’s first boat. Though M2 gained a few times, they couldn’t quite make the bump, and both crews rowed over. The men finished 2nd in Division IV, their highest ranking since 1996.
|bow||Kevin Schlegel||Division IV|
|6||Luis Valenzuela Rivera|
|7||Morgan Di Rodi|
Women’s Second Boat
The W2 boat also had an epic campaign. On Wednesday, they started at the head of Division IV, being chased by their old rivals: the St Peter’s first boat. Peter’s put up a good fight and kept tight on the Wolves off the start, but W2 began pushing away through the Gut, and rowed over at least five lengths ahead. In their second race, rowing as sandwich boat in Division V, W2 had a flying start and closed to within half a length of St Hilda’s first boat by the stride. Hilda’s responded decisively by catching a crab, and W2 got their bump by bungline 6. St Hilda’s went on to bump New College II, so W2 moved up two places on the day.
On Thursday, the women were chasing a strong Univ II crew. W2 gained strongly off the start, closing to within a canvas well before Donnington Bridge. Univ made a big push to hold them off, but the result was inevitable: W2 bumped just downstream of CORC. Friday, they were chasing St Antony’s first boat, but made quick work of them, making contact before Donnington Bridge. Saturday, W2 completed their campaign for blades with another textbook bump, eating into Exeter’s first boat stroke by stroke, bumping before the Gut.
They finished 8th in Division III, the third-highest second torpid on the river.
|bow||Zhe June Sun||Division III|
Men’s Third Boat
The men’s third boat had a mixed campaign. On Wednesday, they were chased by St John’s III, a crew made up of former first boat rowers, at the head of Division VI. Though M3 fought hard, John’s ground them down and achieved the bump before the Gut. Thursday went a bit better: starting second in Division VI, M3 gained steadily on Green Templeton II before bumping them before Donnington Bridge to emerge sandwich boat. M3’s Division V race was klaxoned before they could make progress into the higher division.
On Friday, M3 had a great start as head of Division VI, but weren’t able to escape a rapid Mansfield II, who bumped them in the Gut. The race was klaxoned shortly thereafter, leaving M3 to regroup overnight. Saturday, the men came into their own. Racing 2nd in Division VI, M3 gained steadily on Merton II and gained the bump heading into the Gut. In their second race, they were chasing a speedy St Anne’s crew, who managed to hold them at arm’s length through the Gut and onto the Green Bank. But with a Green Bank push, M3 started to steadily close, and finally earned their bump right outside of the Univ boathouse, in front of the gathered Wolfson crowd. M3 finished at their highest place since 1997, and as they are in the fixed divisions, they won’t have to row on next year.
|bow||Tomas Queseda Alpizar||Division V-VI|
|7||John McManigle & Martin Lohrer|
Women’s Third Boat
The W3 boat had a strong Torpids in Division V. On Wednesday, they had a flying start chasing Keble II. Keble were intimidated into rowing into the bank, and W3 bumped them in under 30 strokes. Thursday, the women gained convincingly on Magdalen II, who conceded before Donnington Bridge. Magdalen would go on to bump Brasenose II, so Wolfson W3 moved up two spaces that day.
Friday, W3 bumped St Anne’s II, who had crashed into the bank. They didn’t realise that they had made the bump, and rowed strongly through the remainder of the course, narrowly holding off Linacre’s approach. Of course, as W3 had already bumped, any bump by Linacre would have been inconsequential. Finally, Saturday, W3 completed its blades campaign by bumping Hertford II in the lower Gut. They finished 4th in Division V.
|bow||Veronica Walker Vadillo||Division V|
|2||Isabel de Berrie|
|4||Mariana Cruz & Mathura Ravishankar|
|6||Stefanie Zekoll & Flannery Cunningham|
|str||Sophia de Wijer|
Men’s Fourth Boat
After narrowly qualifying in the rowing on race, M4 had a valiant bumps campaign. On Wednesday, the men earned a textbook bump on St John’s IV, gaining on them consistently until bumping just after Donnington Bridge. Thursday, M4 gained half a length on Mansfield III off the start. Mansfield recovered and tried to hold Wolfson off, but a few crabs in the Gut allowed the Wolves to pounce.
On Friday, the men were chasing LMH II, a speedy crew. Wolfson and LMH appeared evenly matched, but Balliol III, four boats ahead, was no match for either. First, Balliol was bumped by Jesus III, then by LMH. Unfortunately, the race was klaxoned before M4 could give them their third bump. Saturday was also a tough race. Balliol must have recovered some nerve overnight, as they managed to hold off Wolfson — and Wolfson held off St Johns IV — for the whole race. M4 rowed over 9th in Division VI, up three places from the start order and proud of a strong campaign.
|bow||Ken Ishikawa||Division VI|
|3||Duncan Palmer & Brian Chu|
|4||Phil Gemmell & Stefanie Zekoll|
|5||Philipp Schäfer & Remi Tirfoin|
|6||Riley Quinn & João Sousa Pinto|
|str||James Klatzow & Achim Wolf|
|also||Paul Kocher & John McManigle|
|coach||Matteo Gianella-Borradori & Rebecca Love|
Cliff’s Race Reports
Clifford Sofield, one of Wolfson’s longest-serving members, has offered to regale us with his daily observations of Torpids 2015. This year, as our crews fought their ways upriver, Cliff wasn’t able to be there to chronicle the details himself until Saturday, but he compiled reports based on the observations of a team of intrepid Wolfson reporters. Read on below!
Another year, another Torpids…and another set of race reports from me! Since I can’t be at the river for most of the races I thought I would have to retire, but a handful of plucky reporters have agreed to be my eyes-and-ears on the bank, so that I can keep you up to date on Wolfson’s inevitable rise up the bumps charts. Thank you to my correspondents!
Technically speaking, Torpids always starts with a bang — but for Wolfson, it was a really big bang this year! With an (in recent years) unprecedented seven crews qualified, we had two men’s boats in the first division of the day (Men’s Division VI). The Men’s 4th Boat (M4), starting next-to-last on the river, got off to a cracking start with a textbook bump on St John’s IV, gradually reeling them in and catching them just after Donnington Bridge. John’s later bumped Keble III, sending our boys up an extra place in the rankings. The Men’s 3rd Boat (M3) were not so lucky. Chased by a crew of former first-eight rowers (St John’s III), the outcome was never in doubt. Our boys raced well but were caught coming out of the Gut.
Just half an hour later, in Women’s Division V, the Women’s 3rd Boat (W3) executed a swift and furious start and gained rapidly on Keble II—who responded by crashing into the bank. The result was a bump for W3 within 30 strokes of the start. The Women’s 2nd Boat (W2) started at the head of Women’s Division IV, chased by their old rivals, St Peter’s. Our girls held St Peter’s through the Gut, then pulled away, rowing over with at least five boat lengths of clear water. This victory gave W2 a chance to row again at the bottom of Division III, and they seized the opportunity. By the stride they had closed to around half a length on St. Hilda’s, who promptly caught a crab; W2 finished the bump at bungline 6. Hilda’s went on to bump New College II, so W2 moved up two places on the day and is now the fourth highest women’s second boat on the river.
Next up in Men’s Division IV was the Men’s 2nd Boat (M2), who, despite a messy first stroke, quickly bumped St Catz II before Donnington Bridge. Catz subsequently bumped Worcester II, so our boys moved up two places today. The Women’s 1st Boat (W1) rowed over comfortably in front of Queen’s at head of Women’s Division II. After the Gut they were far enough ahead that they could wind down, and they rowed past the boathouse at rate 22. Conserving that energy was important, because an hour later they had a chance to bump up into Division I! Our girls put in a solid start and gained quickly on Worcester, entering the Gut only half a length down. Worcester rallied and held them through the Gut, but with a final push and a perfect line, W1 rapidly closed the distance and gained the bump as they straightened out on to the Green Bank. They’ll start in Division I tomorrow. Finally, the Men’s 1st Boat (M1) executed their race with workman-like efficiency. They were chasing Oriel, who got away by bumping St Catz early on. Unfazed, our boys took aim at Catz. Steadily eating away the distance stroke by stroke, they caught them on the Green Bank for the overbump. That returns M1 to sixth place on the river.
Apparently Wolfson started Torpids as they meant to continue, because today was just as successful as yesterday!
It all started, as it always does, with Men’s Division VI. The Men’s 4th Boat (M4) gained half a length on Mansfield III off the start, and pounced on them in the Gut when Mansfield caught a couple of crabs. Meanwhile, at the head of the division, the Men’s 3rd Boat (M3) had a rapid start and bumped Green Templeton II just before Donnington Bridge. That bump made M3 sandwich boat in Men’s Division V, but that division was klaxoned before our boys reached the Gut. (Apparently there was a major pile-up further upstream.) So it was a rowover for M3, who will be starting at the head of Division VI tomorrow.
In between M3’s races, the Women’s 3rd Boat (W3) snared their second bump of Torpids. They had a good, strong start, and Magdalen II conceded before Donny Bridge. Magdalen II went on to row past Brasenose II, who had managed to get stuck in the bank, so our girls moved up two places on the day. The Men’s 2nd Boat (M2) had a massive flyer off the start in Division IV and demolished Magdalen II in about twenty strokes. In the very next race, the Women’s 2nd Boat (W2) responded in kind, closing to within a canvas of Univ II by about halfway to Donnington Bridge. Univ made a final effort to hold off the bump, but our girls finished it with satisfying bow-on-stern contact just downstream of City of Oxford Rowing Club.
That brings us to Division I! The Women’s 1st Boat (W1) had another great race and caught St Catz by bungline 5. ’Nuff said. The Men’s 1st Boat (M1) also had strong race, even though the result was a row-over. The crew ahead, Oriel, bumped Balliol quickly, but our boys kept their heads high and gained convincingly on Balliol, passing the boathouse about two lengths behind. (I’m no mathematician, but even I know that means our boys had gained about two lengths on Balliol…and of course they start one-and-a-half lengths behind Balliol tomorrow…)
The day three blues are a well known phenomenon in bumps racing. After the adrenaline rush of the first two days, the energy starts to flag and the attention starts to wander on the third day for most colleges. Wolfson isn’t most colleges.
The day kicked off once again with Men’s Division VI. The Men’s 4th Boat (M4) were chasing LMH II, and the two boats proved to be evenly matched—but Balliol III, who started a couple of places ahead of LMH, were slower. First Balliol was bumped by Jesus III, then they were bumped by LMH. Before our boys could give them a third bump, the division was klaxoned due to a pile-up in the Gut. Meanwhile, the Men’s 3rd Boat (M3) had a great start but were unable to avoid getting bumped by a speedy Mansfield II in the Gut. M3 recovered and were on their way up the Green Bank when the klaxon sounded.
The Women’s 3rd Boat (W3) was chasing Hertford III today, until Hertford bumped out on St Anne’s II, who had crashed into the bank. Moments later our girls also rowed past St Anne’s for the bump…but didn’t realize it, and kept racing. Their oars clipped the bank a couple of times in the Gut, allowing Linacre (who had also unwittingly bumped) to close to within half a length at Boathouse Island! But our girls held Linacre off and completed what would have been a row-over, had they not already bumped St Anne’s! That was W3’s third bump in three days.
The Men’s 2nd Boat (M2) had an even more dramatic race. They gained on Trinity II off the start, but meanwhile St John’s II was gaining on them, until there was less than a length between each crew going through the Gut. Exiting the Gut Trinity fled to the towpath bank, but the M2 cox stuck to the racing line. When M2 eventually crossed further up the Green Bank they bumped Trinity. Trinity did not acknowledge the bump, however, and St John’s took advantage of the moment of confusion to close in and bump Wolfson. Our boys, not sure the bump had been recorded, continued to chase Trinity and nearly bumped them again before the finish—but it was moot, since video evidence later proved M2 had got Trinity the first time. (St John’s, whose bump was of course disallowed, was awarded a row-over.) It was M2’s third bump in three days.
The Women’s 2nd Boat (W2), in contrast, executed yet another quick victory, making solid contact with St Antony’s before Donnington Bridge. Yes, it was W2’s third bump in three days as well. The Women’s 1st Boat (W1), racing in Division I, did not have it so easy. Although they had gained half a length on Balliol before Donnington Bridge, Balliol was gaining faster on New College and in fact bumped them shortly after the Bridge. W1 didn’t hesitate but set out after New College, steadily reeled them in, and got the overbump opposite Timms Boathouse. That was—you guessed it—W1’s third bump in three days! In the final race of the day, the Men’s 1st Boat (M1) emerged from under Donnington Bridge hot in the wake of Balliol. By the time they reached the Gut there was substantial overlap; another five strokes and the Wolfson bowball was within arm’s reach of the Balliol cox, who finally conceded. That bump restored M1 to fifth place on the river, its highest position ever in Torpids.
The day began, of course, with Men’s Division VI. The Men’s 4th Boat (M4) were chasing Balliol III and being chased by St John’s IV. St John’s, whose cox box died at the five minute gun, nevertheless had a good start and put M4 under pressure early, closing to within half a length by the Gut. But M4 responded courageously: first they held St John’s, and then they broke them, pulling away and leaving them in the proverbial riverine dust. They went on to row over, getting as near as a length off of Balliol. M4 finished Torpids at 9th in Division VI, having moved up three places on two bumps—a pretty good result in Wolfson M4’s first ever* Torpids!
While that was happening, the Men’s 3rd Boat (M3) was busy chasing Merton II at the top of the division. Our boys gained right from the start, pushed through the rough water, and bumped them bow-on-stern heading into the Gut. That made them sandwich boat in Division V, so an hour later they raced again, this time chasing St Anne’s II. St Anne’s held them at arm’s length through the Gut, but on the Green Bank M3 started to close, foot by foot, and gloriously bumped right outside our boathouse! Over Torpids M3 bumped three times and got bumped twice, moving up one net place to 12th in Division V. That’s in the fixed divisions!…and it is M3’s highest ranking in Torpids since 1997!
In between M3’s races, the Women’s 3rd Boat (W3) was racing with a chance to win blades, having bumped every day so far. They started moving on Hertford III immediately and had cut Hertford’s lead to half a length by Donnington Bridge. With the help of some neat steering our girls started to close fast, while a bunch of Wolfson supporters and ‘all of Hertford College’ ran along the bank to watch. After a few strokes of overlap W2 bumped Hertford in the lower Gut to win blades!! Having gone up five places on four bumps, W3 finished at 4th in Division V.
The Men’s 2nd Boat (M2) had also bumped each of the first three days, but they saved their best rowing of the week for their last race. Unfortunately it was not enough to catch a speedy St Anthony’s, and despite gaining on St Antony’s a few times, both crews rowed over. Naturally the boys were disappointed not to win blades, but they rowed great and had a fantastic Torpids, moving up four places on three bumps to finish at 2nd in Division IV—M2’s highest ranking since 1996!
Half an hour later, the Women’s 2nd Boat (W2), who were also ‘on’ for blades, lined up behind Exeter, who were on for spoons. The race was textbook. W2 picked up half a length on the start and just kept gaining. With half a length to go as they hit the rough water under Donnington Bridge, our girls never wavered. Stroke by stroke they ate big chunks out of Exeter and bumped them before the Gut, winning blades!! A fabulous result for W2, who finished 8th in Division III, up five places on four bumps. It’s the highest ranking W2 has ever*† gained in Torpids, and they are now the third highest women’s 2nd boat on the river.
In Women’s Division I, the Women’s 1st Boat (W1) were also on for blades, but they were chasing a good crew in Balliol. From the start, Balliol pulled away and started gaining on Univ; by Donnington Bridge, Balliol were just a quarter length down on Univ, and Wolfson were at least two lengths back. But Univ held strong and pushed off of Balliol and onto Christ Church as they rowed through the Gut. Meanwhile, our girls started to gain on Balliol. Coming out of the Gut, Univ were about a quarter of a length down on Christ Church, Balliol were just a canvas off of Univ, and Wolfson was still half a length off of Balliol. The coxes’ steering around the bend onto the Green Bank proved critical: with a great line and a strong push, Wolfson was suddenly on top of Balliol, and moments later our girls bumped across from Timms Boathouse, winning blades!! (Univ bumped Christ Church almost simultaneously.) W1 finished Torpids up four places on four bumps, at 9th on the river! It is their highest ranking in Torpids since 2005.
Finally, the Men’s 1st Boat (M1) had thriller in Men’s Division I. Chasing perennial rowing powerhouse Christ Church, M1 was under threat from Wadham, who had already bumped up five places and were racing for blades. There wasn’t much in it for the first half of the race; by the time they reached the Green Bank, Christ Church had pulled away slightly from Wolfson, and Wadham had gained maybe half a length. But our boys moved well on the Green Bank and the cross-over, pulling away from Wadham and gaining substantially on Christ Church. In front of our boathouse our boys had Christ Church down to under a length—but Wadham was starting to gain again! The gaps between the three crews narrowed rapidly as they raced past Boathouse Island; they continued to narrow along Christ Church Meadow…but they never closed completely. All three crews rowed over, Wolfson just a canvas off of Christ Church, and Wadham a canvas off of Wolfson. It was an outstanding Torpids for M1, who went up two places on two bumps to regain their highest ever ranking, 5th on the river!
Congratulations to all crews, especially the three women’s crews, who all won blades! Wolfson has won three sets of blades in the same bumps campaign just twice before,* in Eights 1986 and in Torpids 2009. Gaining a combined 22 bumps, and conceding just two, the seven crews went up a combined 24 places, the most of any college this Torpids! That ties us with Hertford (1987) for the second most bumps in a single Torpids since ‘records began’ in 1980, after Balliol, who went up 27 places in 2008. We went up an average of 3.43 places per crew, the second highest this Torpids.
Thank you to my trusty band of correspondents, who made these reports possible: Sofia Hauck, John McManigle, Sabine Parrish, Tom Aarholt, Claudia Vadeboncoeur, Gregers Bangert, Iana Alexeeva, and Zoe Goodwin. Next up: Summer Eights!
* Since ‘records began’ in 1980.
† Wolfson W2 started fifth in Division III in Torpids 2001 after many crews scratched on safety grounds.