Running the Bumps

4 March 2010

Derek O’Brien, Honorary Secretary of CUCBC, talks to TCS about running Bumps

The simple reality is that Bumps is a very dangerous sport, but we set out to make it as safe and fun as possible. You have 18 crews all lined up to try and, quite literally, hit the boat in front of them! This would be ridiculously unsafe if it was not for our well organised committees. We have over 25 umpires/volunteers at any given time for each division to make sure things run smoothly and safely. All umpires are given radios to maintain constant communication, and we have a control desk beside Women’s top finish, which records results and fines for inappropriate crews. Umpires help to judge bumps, clear crews who have bumped out, get crews marshalled and ready to start, and record results and fines. Two people who have done a lot of work behind the scenes are Dr. Holly Hedgeland (CUCBC Senior Treasurer), and Dan Wilkins (CUCBC Web Team). Dr. Hedgeland has organised van rentals, insurance, the safekeeping of equipment, ensuring radios get charged up each night, and more! Dan has had the stressful task of recruiting umpires, and then organising exactly where and when each one needs to be during the bumps races. There are so many people who have helped in the running of these races; it really would not be possible without so many people volunteering their free time.


Houseboats can be a particular problem for race organisers. This has not been a problem this year so far. This tends to be more of a problem with lower profile events such as Small Boats Regatta next term, or for University Fours Regatta last term. CUCBC have been taking every measure recently to ensure that houseboats do not disrupt our events, so that if they do, they will be hearing from higher authorities!


On the first day of racing, the women’s W3 division was set off as usual, with the men’s M4 division having run smoothly just 40 minutes earlier. Wolfson W1 must have had a very quick start, because it did not take them long to bump St. Edmund’s W1. After the bump, both boats failed to clear the river quickly enough, meaning they were sitting in the middle of the river with 15 crews racing at full pressure towards them! This is an extremely dangerous situation, and so the emergency signal was given, and all crews were told to stop racing. Chief Umpire Peter Convey decided that a restart was in order to ensure fairness for all remaining racing crews. So all crews in positions 5 through 18 were told to turn around, go back to the start, and try again! This caused a major time delay, but the priority was fairness to racing crews.

Major Fines

Fitzwilliam W1 were given a massive shock on Tuesday when, with only one minute to go before racing began, they were told they would not be allowed to race because their cox did not have a life jacket! So Fitzwilliam had to stay tucked into the bank as their division was set off. This means LMBC II had an easy bump, since all they had to do to bump Fitzwilliam was to row past them, then immediately pull in. To make things worse, there is a 50 pound automatic fine to any cox on the river not wearing a life jacket!

Apart from that, there were eight ‘dropped bung’ fines for those who dropped the bung before the start cannon but were deemed to have no advantage in position. We’ve had 9 crews fail to hold it up and clear the river after bumping, which is a serious safety concern. If you do not hold it up after bumping a crew, your boats and crews can very easily suffer major damage.

Men’s Results

First and Third M1 retained the headship with the top three crews in the First Men’s Division keeping their positions. Pembroke bumped up one to take fourth whilst Caius M1 took fifth bumping up three. The big stories of the first division was a very quick Queens M1 who won blades with an overbump on the first day and a Peterhouse VIII that bumped up five places with another overbump on the first day. To have two first division overbumps is really surprising, since the last time a crew overbumped in the first division of Lent Bumps was in 2006.

The following crews took blades: First and Third (headship blades), Queens, Sidney Sussex, Downing II, Peterhouse II, Emmanuel III

Women’s Results

Derek O’Brien, Honorary Secretary of CUCBC, talks to TCS about running Bumps

First and Third W1 bumped Emmanuel W1 to take the headship position on their first day of racing, and they held this position to keep the headship for the rest of the bumps.  Downing W1 went up to and took second place. Christ’s W1 achieved blades to take third place whilst Emmanuel had to settle for fourth. The notable overbump came from Downing II on the first day to go up five.

The following crews took blades: First and Third (headship blades), Christ’s, Murray Edwards, Magdalene, Corpus Christi,


A lot of people say that rowing is not a spectator sport, but I strongly disagree. Rowing requires a huge amount of commitment from each individual, and so the stakes are high in each race. Getting bumped is no easy thing. There’s no easy way for someone to say to you that you were not good enough. Watching the races, one can easily see the emotional and physical stress they are putting themselves under. If you can get down to the bumping races next term, I would highly recommend it. Bank passes (which allow you to cycle alongside the crews while they race) should be available from your boat club captains. Alternatively, come down to the race course and watch all the crews go by and cheer on your college!