College rowing on the Thames/Isis is governed by the Oxford University Rowing Club. It is their job to ensure that proper order is maintained on the river which means that safety is a paramount concern. It would be very embarrassing to have to ring Mrs Cholmondley-Smythe to tell her that eight years of paying for their daughter at Roedean has been wasted as Tabitha’s Third VIII has just been swept over the weir. Well never mind Tabitha and her mates, each boat can be worth up to 20 grand!
The river levels are governed by God and a little help from the Environment Agency who work the locks, sluice gates and weirs. Heavy rain in the Cotswolds usually results in higher water levels downstream in Oxford within a couple of days. In conjunction with the Agency, OURC have worked out a system of safety flags or flagging which even the thickest Number Six can work out.
A Green flag means all is well, go go go, everyone can leap in a boat and splash merrily away (well up to a point Lord Copper – Ed.)
A Blue flag imposes various sensible restrictions, such as no novice coxes, and where or where not you may turn.
An Amber flag reduces boating to senior (experienced) crews only
And a red flag (yes even a Number Six from Newfoundland could guess this one) no boats out at all.
Most Boatie sites, including this one, reports on two flagged sites, Osney and Isis. Osney is the lock and sluice system you can see if you lean over the bridge on Botley road near the station looking south. Whatever the flag status is there, it is likely to be the same on the Isis (our stretch) six hours later. OURC quite rightly take a very dim view of flag flouting, so when someone rings you at 6 am to say “The river’s just gone amber flag,” Smile sweetly, bless the OURC’s dark blue cotton socks, roll over and go…..and do some ergs.