The 2016 Eights Week at Oxford, Part I: People and Places
5 June 2016
Tim Koch went up to Oxford (for a day):
Existing in some form since 1096, Oxford University is the oldest such institution in the English-speaking world. Thus, it is little surprise that it is home to many strange, archaic and, to the outsider, impenetrable customs and events. On Saturday, 28 May, I attended one such curious occasion – albeit, at only 200 years old, one of the newer ones. This was the final day of ‘bumps’ at Oxford University’s ‘Eights Week’.
Anyone unfamiliar with ‘bump racing’ may wish to first read my explanation of it in my report on the 2014 Eights Week (also known as ‘Summer Eights’). Briefly, this strange form of contest between crews from most of the 43 colleges and halls that make up the university originated because the River Isis in Oxford is too narrow for side by side racing. In the four-day event, divisions of 14 crews of similar ability chase each other in single file, each trying to catch the boat in front without being caught by the boat behind.
This is the first part of a two-part report. It is a ‘picture diary’ of some of the history, places and people of Eights Week. Part Two, which will be published tomorrow, will look at some of the actual racing, the results and the post-race celebrations.
Apart from Boathouse Island, there are two other places that house Oxford college boat clubs:
Eights Week provides a great opportunity for ‘people watching’. Reviewing my pictures, I am not sure they all truly reflect the ‘typical’ competitor or spectator but I hope that they still give an idea of the spirit of the occasion.
Stella was on duty just a couple of hours before her crew was due to chase Pembroke and Wadham at the top of Women’s Division One. She learned to row at Oxford and she told me that rowing is one of the sports that can be taken up for the first time at university and be done well ‘…unlike, say tennis, which if you have not done it since the age of eight, you are not going to be any good at it’.
Shock horror — how did you manage to reverse the flow of the Isis. Races are rowed upstream, as any fule kno.
And Mario, a notable Venetian member of The City Barge (club in Oxford,qv) is the POPIER of his boat.
Thank you Robin, the text has been changed to reflect your comments.
As to things that any fule kno, Albert Einstein held that ‘Any fool can know. The point is to understand.’
Plans were announced last year for a footbridge crossing the Isis at the downstream end of Boathouse Island connecting the towpath to Iffley Rd. (about where the tree is seen to the right of the boathouses in the 2016 image above). As it was the other side of the Cherwell new cut entrance it would not have even connected to boathouse island! This is also about the widest point of the Isis in Oxford. It would have to have been a single span so as not to be a hazard to navigation and high enough for the Salters steamers to safely navigate. I pointed out that it would have to be very substantial to safely support all the students who would congregate on it for the two bumps races. Looking at the crowds in the 2016 photos it would have to be of motorway quality. Not surprisingly nothing more has been heard of this impractical idea!