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Published on:
Monday 29 April 2024

Boat Crew and Blades Reunited

Above L-R: Simon Harrison receiving blades from Sir Tim Hitchens, President of the College, and Anna Jones and David Geldbach, current captains of Wolfson College Boat Club.

Wolfson recently played host to a double reunion, bringing together the legendary Boat Club crew of 1972, and reuniting their captain with his long-lost blade.

In late July, the College welcomed back members of the victorious Boat Club crew of 1972 to celebrate their achievements and continued support, fifty-one years on from their triumph on the Thames. Captain Simon Harrison (GS 1969-72) and Hubert Zawadzki were joined over video call by crewmates Janet Berg (cox), Alan Bamford, Samuel Guttenplan, Guy Parkhurst, Brendan Buckley, and Michael Casey in Berlin Quad for the occasion, which brought Wolfson College Boat Club’s first winning crew together with the 2022-23 captains, Anna Jones and David Geldbach, and reunited Dr Harrison with his trophy blade (pictured above).

The Boat Club crew of 1972 hold a special place in College history. Crews at Oxford train intensively throughout the year in anticipation of the Trinity Term boat races, known as ‘Summer Eights’. A cannon is fired to signal the beginning of the race, and each crew then aims to overtake (or even make physical contact with) the boat in front of them in the starting order, at which point they have ‘bumped’. The greatest possible achievement for a crew is to bump in all four of their races on four consecutive days, and those who manage to do so are entitled to ‘blades’ – ceremonial wooden oars painted in their college colours, and inscribed with the names of the crew to mark the occasion. In the summer of 1972, Wolfson College Boat Club won blades for the first time in its history, bumping rivals from Hertford, Linacre, Wadham, and Christ Church colleges on four consecutive days.

L-R: Samuel Guttenplan, Guy Parkhurst, Hubert Zawadzki, Brendan Buckley, Michael Casey, Simon Harrison, Paul­­ Callaghan, Alan Bamford and Janet Berg. Photo: Wolfson College Archives.

The members of the crew had their achievement memorialised on blades that same year, but Dr Harrison’s original went missing, and was much lamented, after his relocation to California. Now an Honorary Fellow of the College, Dr Harrison has been a generous supporter of the boat club and other college activities for many years, and Wolfson was therefore delighted to surprise him with a replica blade commissioned to commemorate his success on the river and his continuing provision for students following in his footsteps.

“It was excellent to have so many of the 1972 crew join us remotely and in person for the presentation,” said Anna Jones and David Geldbach, outgoing Club captains. “Blades are a coveted achievement awarded to the most successful rowing teams in the intercollegiate Bumps competitions, and winning them takes a precise mixture of speed, skill, and good fortune. Since its early days Wolfson Boat Club has grown from strength to strength, including winning a further 61 sets of blades, but as Simon commented at the presentation, the spirit of hard work and inclusivity remains the cornerstone of the Club. It was an honour to present him with a new trophy blade celebrating the victory of his 1972 crew.”

The College is immensely grateful to Dr Harrison and to all the members of the successful crew for their sporting triumphs, continued support, and for making the reunion such a memorable occasion. Recent blades won by Wolfson College Boat Club can be seen on the walls of the College bar.