The fair, which took place on Sunday afternoon, has been an annual fixture since its inauguration in 1974. It involved activities such as face-painting, sumo-wrestling and a ceilidh.
The highlight of the event was the tortoise racing, moderated by the College’s President, Professor Richard Cawardine, which included entrants from a number of colleges from across the University.
Corpus’ ‘Custos Testudinum’ (tortoise keeper) and fair organiser Lily Aaronovitch said the College community was “delighted” at the home victory. But she noted that Fox is not about to let the win go to his head and embrace the celebrity lifestyle: “Nearing old age, and being a naturally abstemious reptile, Fox has been returned to the comfort and privacy of his enclosure and given some strawberries.”
However, the victorious tortoise did urinate on one spectator soon after completing the race on the lawn.
The main spectacle began at 3pm, with each of the competitors warmly received by the audience. Racing tortoises included Worcester’s two entries, one of whom was the defending champion Zoom. Jesus’ 2011 winner Tilly was also among the tortoises who had been ‘warming up’ – if such a thing is possible for a cold-blooded animal – on the lawn before the race.
However, there was a smattering of boos for Christ Church’s characteristically large entry, Sampras, although even he was beaten in size by Oscar, Teddy Hall’s ‘human tortoise’ whose race chances were thwarted by the ‘handicap’ of having to eat an entire iceberg lettuce before starting.
St. Peter’s College boasted the youngest entry, one-and-a-half year old Aristurtle, while Regent’s Park entered Emmanuelle, believed to be over 70. Other notable entrants included two debuting tortoises from Wadham; second home entry and 2009 winner Oldham, Percy from Univ; and George, a terrapin from Magdalen College School.
One of the smaller tortoises was particularly quick out of the blocks and reached the halfway point before deciding to take a detour.
This allowed Zoom to live up to his name as he got within millimetres of clinching a second victory in a row. But he then opted not to cross the finish line, instead deciding to walk the perimeter of the race- a ring of lettuce.
As Zoom dithered, Fox held his nerve and marched straight over the line to claim a comfortable victory – his second in four years, and Corpus Christi’s third in five – much to the delight of the home crowd.
However, the remainder of the field continued to come home, one by one. The process took several minutes as many of the competitors seemed largely disinterested in heading for the finish line, or indeed in heading anywhere at all. The ‘human tortoise’, meanwhile, continued to struggle with his lettuce.
The fair was enjoyed by hundreds of spectators in the fine weather, and the event raised thousands of pounds for the Helen and Douglas House hospice charity, which provides palliative care for terminally ill children and young adults, and counselling for their families. Aaronovitch commented: “I’ve not got around to counting the money yet, but I’d say we’ve made around £2700,” a figure which would be a great improvement on last year’s total of around £1000.