Head Of The River: Oxford’s Toughest Test? (Part II)

Oxford’s Boathouse Island, home to most of the college boat clubs and the finish point of the bump racing course.

13 June 2019

By Tim Koch

Following yesterday’s Part I, Tim Koch posts the second part of his picture report on the peculiar form of boat racing practised at Oxford’s Eights Week.

Pre-1914 postcards showing the colours of some of the Oxford college boat clubs.

Going to the start

As the crowds increased in anticipation of the Division 1 races on the final day, it became more difficult to get boats through the throng and onto the river.
The Mansfield First VIII.
Green Templeton push off from the boathouses at Longbridges (hidden behind the trees on the left). They were built in 1996 and house Hertford, Mansfield, St Catherine’s, St Hilda’s and Green Templeton. Boathouse Island can be seen in the distance.
Merton row to the start, passing the Somerville boat that had earlier failed to take the bend known as ‘The Gut’. After much effort, the new Filippi could only be extracted from the bank by cutting the bows off.


The leading crews in Women’s Division II. From right to left: St Anne’s, Somerville, Linacre, Jesus.
Bumped in The Gut. Still in Women’s Division II, Trinity bumps Mansfield and the Mansfield cox raises his arm to acknowledge the bump and to concede.
Near the finish, Jesus bumps St John’s in Women’s Division I.
In the final race in Women’s Division I, Wolfson are first home, followed by Pembroke.
Wolfson I, Women’s Head of the River 2019.
The top two women’s divisions (of six) showing the results of the four days of racing in 2019. An upward line indicates that the crew bumped another, downward that the crew was bumped, horizontal that they ‘rowed over’ without bumping or been bumped. Wolfson started third but bumped Wadam on Wednesday, Pembroke on Thursday, and rowed over on Friday and Saturday, thus taking the Headship.
The final race in Men’s Division I. Oriel is first home, followed by last year’s Head Crew, Keble. The division was earlier ‘klaxoned’ (abandoned) due to an incident producing safety concerns. In such circumstances, the finish order is that which existed at the time of abandonment.
Oriel I, Men’s Head of the River, 2019.
The top two men’s divisions (of seven) showing the results after four days of racing. Keble started Head, rowed over on Wednesday but were bumped by Oriel on Thursday (see here), the latter rowing over for the final two days and thus taking the Headship. The full men’s and women’s results are here.


It’s time for Pimm’s.
The Regent’s Park College Boat Club women bumped on all four days and so won ‘blades’, oars illuminated with a record of the boats that they bumped and with the names of their crew.
By their smiles, I presume that these women are St Anthony’s II – who rose two places over the four days, and not St Antony’s I – who were bumped each day and so were awarded ‘spoons’.
New College cools down.
Brasenose gets wet and sticky.
A group hug for Oriel, Head of the River.
The Oriel boys show their appreciation to the cox.
Having retrieved their cox from the river, the Oriel crew lays her out to dry.
Oriel now ties with Christ Church for the club with the most Men’s Headships, 33. It is Oriel’s custom to carry the cox of a winning Head of the River crew on an old wooden eight along Boathouse Island…
Down Oxford’s main street……
…and into college. The boat was laid out in the quad and was burnt later that evening, after the ‘Bump’s Supper’.
An Oriel alumnus, ready for the Bump’s Supper, looks proudly on.
A picture of a boat burning from another year that Oriel went Head, 2012. Picture: Jonathan Craven.

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