For most of Wolfson College Boat Club, racing is why we do what we do. Our long-serving top men’s coach, Paul Kelly, may have put it best:
I don’t know who decided to take nine people from each college, put them in a boat, and see who can go backwards down the river fastest. But we might as well be the best at it.
Wolfson enters racing events throughout the year. The biggest events on the racing calendar are:
Christ Church Regatta
Late each November, novice rowers from every college boat club in Oxford compete in Christ Church Regatta. The culmination of the novice training season, this regatta is organised by Christ Church Boat Club, and provides a level playing field for rowers who have never before competed. Boats of eight rowers and a cox race in a side-by-side tournament format over 500 to 750m down the Isis stretch of the river Thames.
For past Christ Church race reports, click here.
February or March each year brings Torpids, the first bumps race of the year. Because much of the Isis is too narrow for side-by-side racing, the bumps format was developed. At the beginning of each division, thirteen crews line up front-to-back down the river, with one and a half boat-lengths of clear water between them. When a cannon is fired, the crews start rowing, and each tries to bump the boat in front before being bumped by the boat behind.
In Torpids, a boat that bumps successfully stops rowing, and is safe from itself being bumped. However, the same is not true for a boat that is bumped, and so occasionally crews can be bumped multiple times over the course of a single race. The start order for subsequent races is adjusted to move successful boats up, while unsuccessful boats move down. Over the years, boats aspire to reach “head of the river”, first place in the first division. Trophy oars termed “blades” are awarded to boats which successfully bump up on each of the four days of racing without themselves being bumped.
For past Torpids race reports, click here.
The premiere event on Oxford’s collegiate rowing calendar, Summer Eights takes place each May or June. Eights Week traditionally falls under sunny skies, and Blues rowers — that is, those who compete against Cambridge in the Varsity boats — are eligible to row for their colleges.
Because much of the Isis is too narrow for side-by-side racing, the bumps format was developed. At the beginning of each division, thirteen crews line up front-to-back down the river, with one and a half boat-lengths of clear water between them. When a cannon is fired, the crews start rowing, and each tries to bump the boat in front before being bumped by the boat behind. The start order for subsequent races is adjusted to move successful boats up, while unsuccessful boats move down. Over the years, boats aspire to reach “head of the river”, first place in the first division. Trophy oars termed “blades” are awarded to boats which successfully bump up on each of the four days of racing without themselves being bumped. Boats may only be bumped once each race in Summer Eights, leading to more stability in the bumps charts. Sunny weather and strong crews attracts tens of thousands of spectators to the river for Summer Eights; it truly is a sight to behold.
For past Summer Eights race reports, click here.
For the rowing neophyte, the variety of acronyms in Blues rowing — OUBC, OUWBC, OULRC, and OUWLRC — can seem overwhelming. But the reality is simple: these are the men and women who do battle against Cambridge in The Boat Race, The Women’s Boat Race, and The Henley Boat Races.
There are various ways of getting involved with the Blues squads. Many college rowers — whether they have Blues aspirations or not — participate in the development squads run by each University club. Development squad training is designed to build upon college rowing foundations and prepare athletes for the grueling trialing experience. While the particulars of the development squads vary by club and by year, most are more intense later in the year and over holiday periods.
Athletes who want to push themselves to the highest level in order to join a Blue boat will go on to trial. Trialing is a months-long process of intense training and testing that the squads use to select their varsity boats. Finally, the Blues squads compete in their respective Boat Races against Cambridge in the spring. Many squads stay together and pull in others to continue racing in the off-season.
For athletes who are students at Wolfson College, High Profile Achievement Awards are available to help defray the costs associated with Blues training and competition. While these are considered on a case-by-case basis by Wolfson’s Social & Cultural Committee, our Blues members have had near-universal success. (further particulars)
For older Blues rowing reports, click here.
Other Oxford Regattas
A number of minor regattas take place on the Isis stretch of the river Thames each year:
- The Isis Winter League (IWL) series – These head races (ie time trials) are held over Michaelmas and early Hilary term. They serve as a benchmark and training goal for senior crews during the primarily novice-oriented Michaelmas term, and serve to get newer rowers a bit of additional race experience before they tackle Torpids.
- Nephtys Regatta – Organised by OULRC, this side-by-side regatta takes place the week before Christ Church Regatta each year. With categories for novices and seniors, many novice crews use the race as a warm-up for Christ Church.
- City Bumps – Hosted by the City of Oxford Rowing Club, this mini bumps regatta is held each year during the short vacation between Hilary and Trinity terms. A non-contact bumps race in coxed fours, this is a fast-paced little sibling to the Torpids and Summer Eights races.
- Oriel Regatta – Organised by Oriel College Boat Club, this side-by-side race takes place just after Summer Eights each year.
- Oxford City Regatta – Also hosted by the City of Oxford Rowing Club, this regatta falls during the summer vacation each year and is a weekend-long, side-by-side tournament-style race held under British Rowing rules. It attracts local amateur clubs from across the region.
For older Oxford regatta reports, click here.
Wolfson often travels to British Rowing regattas outside of Oxford, especially during Michaelmas term and over the summer vacation. While the captains decide each year where to send their crews, some of the popular destinations include the Head of the River Regatta in London, Henley Town and Visitor’s Regatta in Henley, Maidenhead Regatta in Nottingham, Cambridge Autumn Regatta in Cambridge, and Kingston Regatta in southwest London.
For older external regatta reports, click here.
You can find a listing of all available race reports here.