Lent Sport Preview: Cuppers Feels, Varsity Cauldrons and the Folkloric Bumps

Finn Ranson 15 January 2018

Sport Editor Finn Ranson gives the lowdown on the Lent Term sporting calendar. 

Cuppers Returns

From pentathlon to pool, cricket to croquet, basketball to bridge, students will be battling it out once again in this knockout competition in the name of passion, honour and intercollegiate animosity. The rugby and football are always especially hotly contested – the latter already at the business end of things, with Churchill, Gonville, Girton and relative minnows Sidney having booked their places in the last 8. Fitzwilliam’s colours were on the trophy last year, defeating Pembroke 2-0 in March – the college’s fifth final defeat on the bounce. Ouch.

Quarter-finals will be kicking off at 11:00pm 10 February on a raucous playing field near you.


The Lent Bumps – Tuesday 27th February to Saturday 3rd March

If the Cambridge bubble is a place of unrivalled quirkiness, then this is its crowning glory. To the unenlightened fresher, the Bumps are folkloric, a mysterious, allusive sporting concept, like Danny Ings, or Jack Warner’s bank account. So, as a first year who has only digital heresy to go on, allow me to explain:


  1. There are seven Lent divisions (10 in May), each with 17 or 18 boats from across the University. The finishing order of the previous year determines how the field lines up one behind the other, a weird, never-ending limbo of qualification racing.
  2. A new division gets out on the river every 45 minutes, lining up along the bank between Baits Bite Lock and the top of First Post Reach with roughly 90 feet of sparkling, Mediterranean-blue Cam water between each crew. A cannon (of course – fittingly martial for the chaos and contention that ensues) provides warning signals for crews four and one minute before racing.
  3. So, the objective is essentially to catch up and bump into the crew in front of you. The two crews involved in any collision pull into the bank, allowing the rest of the division to cruise, or labour, down river. The boat behind them then has the opportunity to bump a boat three places above it – a so-called ‘overbump’. High-octane stuff.
  4. While all this is going on, bank parties give updates on how far ahead the opponents are, often using elaborate code speak.
  5. The whole thing is repeated each day, with the field reshuffled according to successful bumps. If a crew finishes first, it has the opportunity to race in the next division up the same day as a ‘sandwich boat’, hoping to overcome fatigue and usurp the bottom crew. Boats that manage to jump up four places are awarded their oars, a blade painted with their college colours and the crews’ names and boats they conquered. To pick out these boats on the final day, just look for the coxes burdened with an incongruously large flag.

It’s a beautiful commingling of stamina, skill, karma and luck. Truly unique, and not one to be missed on the Cam. And if this really floats your boat, why not whet your appetite and get down to the tow path a few days before (TBC) for the ‘Getting-On Race’, where the lowest crews take part in an undignified scramble for the final spots.


Varsity Season

Sport is founded on rivalries – from England vs. Australia, to the artiste Borg vs. the precocious McEnroe, to the thriller in Manila and Ali vs. Frazier, to the handbags between Jose Mourinho and Antonio Conte. And then, there is Cambridge vs. Oxford. The Light Blues suffered a 42-33 defeat across the Varsity ties last year, but have enjoyed a flying start to 2017/18, securing doubles in both the rugby and skiing in December. Here are the Blues fixtures to keep an eye on in Lent Term:


Badminton – March (TBC)      Away

Last time out:

            Men                 5-10

            Women           3-12

The men and women have had a tough campaign so far. Both newly-promoted sides have yet to win a game in the Midlands 1A BUCS division, and the women suffered a bitterly disappointing 5-3 defeat away to Oxford 1st at the start of November. The outlook has been similarly bleak on the Oxford side, though, that narrow victory the women’s only win this season, while the men’s Dark Blues are rock bottom in the Premier South after six defeats in six. Cambridge has historically struggled in this one, but with both outfits low on confidence, anything could happen.


Fencing – March 10    Away

Last time out:

            Men                 128-124

            Women           122-130

Along with hockey, fencing currently leads the line for the University in BUCS, contributing an enormous 102 points to Cambridge’s 888 point-haul. The men have been an imperious force in recent years, and currently sit third in the Premier South with three games in hand on second place Bath. At the end of a run of four fixtures in four days towards the back end of last term, the men’s Blues fought off Oxford, snapping at their heels in fourth, in a magnificent 130-129 victory. On the women’s side meanwhile, there’s one heck of a title-race – Oxford, UCL and Cambridge in third separated by just one point after Oxford battled past the Light Blues 106-102 in early December. In the Cambridge Winter Tournament in January, Blues captains Alex Schlindwein and Kirsten Beggs also put in some fine performances, finishing 2nd and 3rd in the Men’s Foil and Sabre respectively. It’s all set to be another right old ding-dong.


Football – March (TBC)

Last time out:

            Men                 2-3

            Women           1-3

Another great narrative behind this one. The men’s sides currently sit top of Midlands 1A – Cambridge, unbeaten in the league, on 14 points, Oxford with 15. The teams are set to face each other in their final league fixture of the season at Jackdaw Lane on March 7, in what could decide the title, and what will certainly be their final competitive game before the Varsity match. The women’s Blues look to be in good shape to avenge their shock defeat last March, having put together a magnificent run to the semi-final of the Cambridgeshire Women’s Cup while comfortably in ensconced in third in Midlands 1A after winning 10 from 10 to clinch promotion last year. Cambridge’s third 2017/18 Varsity double could be in the offing here…


 Hockey – March 4      Neutral, Southgate HC

Last time out

            Men                 2-2 (Oxford won on shuffles)

            Women           0-4

With only one point on the board and six goals in eight, the women are struggling to back up last year’s promising fourth place finish in the South A division. The Blues suffered a 2-0 defeat away at unbeaten Oxford last October, but will have the chance to make amends on January 24 with league survival on the line. By contrast, the men’s sides are in the midst of a close title race at the top of South B. Oxford top the table after six wins in six, but Cambridge have kept pace, eight points ahead of third-placed Cardiff, and could steal the lead when the two meet at Wilberforce Road in February. There was nothing to separate the two sides in the Varsity last March, and it looks all set for another nail-biting encounter. The tie will once again be held on a water-based pitch at Southgate HC, a slight disadvantage for CUHC, you would imagine, used to Wilberforce’s sand-filled surface. And with spirits so high in the OUHC camp, it’s going to take something special to prevent the Dark Blues securing a back-to-back double for the first time since 2009/10.


Lacrosse – February 24           Away, University Parks

Last time out

            Men                 6-6

            Women           10-10

Cambridge’s women trail Oxford by three points with a game in hand in the BUCS Premier South. The two met in the final fixture of Michaelmas, but there was little sign of fatigue – a thrilling 10-10 draw in a repeat of last year’s Varsity. The return leg at Oxford kicks off 2018 on January 24 in what will surely decide the title, and provide the psychological edge come February. It will certainly be one of the closest-fought Varsity fixtures. On the men’s side, Cambridge go in as underdogs. It’s been a frustrating last couple of years for the CULC since returning to Midlands 1A in 2015, defeated in the playoffs to go up in 2016 and then narrowly pipped to the title last year by Birmingham, who are keeping them at arm’s length this season with a 100% win record and staggering +80 goal difference. After a shock draw to Warwick at the end of November, promotion once again looks beyond them. Finalists in the BUCS Championships last year, though, the Light Blues do have proven big game pedigree. Oxford, by contrast, have consistently looked way off the pace in the heavyweight fixtures of the Premier South. A shock double on the cards, perhaps?


Swimming – February (TBC)  Away, Rosenblatt Pool

Last time out

            Men                 45-45

            Women           34-56

One of the great spectacles of the Varsity calendar, but it has not been a happy hunting ground for the Light Blues in recent years. Cambridge were downed 67-110 in 2008 after seven titles on the spin, and have since lifted the joint trophy just twice. CUSWPC’s woes have not been for a lack of ability, the mixed swim team staking their claim as one of the most talented crop of swimmers in the country back in 2014 when they reached the BUCS National Finals. The Championships last March saw an astonishing seven new short course club records. No doubt the squad – on top of some, er, healthy team-bonding – will have gone over technique with a fine-tooth comb during their warm weather training camp in Spain in lieu of a hectic Lent Term. Yet, to be guilty of a sporting cliché, you would suspect that nothing can quite prepare you for the wait before the starting gun, for the heat of a relay, for the cauldron of Varsity competition.


And the rest…

Event                                                                         2017 Result

Aussie Rules – March                                                28-80


Basketball – February                         Men                74-72

                                                            Women           52-57


Boxing – March                                   Men                4-5

                                                            Women           2-1


Cheerleading – February                                           110.73-91.30


Eton Fives – March                             Men                0-3

                                                            Women           1-2


Golf – March                                       Men                 4.5-10.5

                                                            Women           6-3


Gymnastics – March                           Men                 311-302.8

                                                            Women           201.4-196.05


Handball – March                                 Men               28-26

                                                             Women          21-27


Ice Hockey – March                              Men               8-3

                                                             Women          1-7


Judo – March                                       Men                0-7

                                                             Women          1-4


Karate – March                                    Men                66-36

                                                             Women          69-33


Kickboxing – March                                                     2-5



Korfball – February                                                     15-9



Lightweight Rowing – March              Men                 Loss

                                                           Women            Loss


Modern Pentathlon – March                Men                Loss

                                                            Women           Loss


Motorsport – February                                                39-62


Netball – February                                                      47-41


Orienteering – March                          Men                8:07:55 – 5:28:37

                                                            Women           4:12:45 – 2:55:45       


Pistol – March                                     Men                Win

                                                            Women           Loss


Powerlifting – February                                              Win


Rackets – February                             Men                Win

                                                            Women           Loss


Real Tennis – February                       Men                6-0

                                                            Women           0-6


Rugby Fives – February                      Men                293-94

                                                            Women           180-6


Rugby League – March                                              10-48


Squash – February                              Men                 0-5

                                                            Women            3-2


Table Tennis – February                     Men                 6-4

                                                           Women            9-1


Taekwondo – February                       Men                 1-4

                                                           Women            2-3


Trampolining – March                                                 424.7 – 431


Ultimate Frisbee – February              Men                 6-9

                                                           Women           2-11


Waterpolo – February                        Men                 11-8

                                                           Women           10-3


Windsurfing – February                                              26-19


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