Bumps A-Z

Image credit: JGodman

1) Crews who bump up every day are awarded ‘blades’, which have the college colours, crew, names and date painted on for posterity, and end up hanging on the walls of college bars or, more often, in the garages of old rowers.

At Murray Edwards, blades adorn the wall above the pigeonholes.                      Credit: Freya Sanders

2) The way to identify boats on the river.

                                                                                                        Credit: CamFM

A kind of rowing race born on rivers too narrow for side-by-side racing. Boats chase each other in single-file, aiming to ‘bump’ the boat in front before being hit by the boat behind. First rowed at Cambridge in 1827 and 1815 in Oxford, so we can’t claim originality.

Not necessarily the colliding of boats. Bumps are officially awarded when the cox of the bumped boat raises their hand to concede and, depending on the cox’s bravery, this can happen before physical contact is made. More often than not the boats do literally bump, but the cox’s arm waving is the signal to watch for. 

When you have up to 18 boats in one race, a starting gun just won’t cut it. Instead Cambridge uses cannons to start each division with two warning cannons at four minutes and one minute to go. The third cannon signals the start of the race.

After a bump has occurred the crews involved have to clear the river to let boats past. But this takes time and when there are multiple boats chasing each other things can get messy. Collisions and chaos ensues as boats can’t get around each other and everyone has to stop. When carnage has stopped a race technical bumps may be awarded, or the race can be run again. Carnage is often characterised by the words "HOLD IT UP"

Every college enters at least one boat, with Anglia Ruskin and even Addenbrooke’s getting involved as well. Most crews helpfully go by the name of their college, except for St. John’s and Trinity who row as Lady Margaret Boat Club (Maggie) and First and Third (FaTs) respectively. Depending on who you believe, this is either because these were the best of multiple boat clubs at each college, or because when John’s committed homicide during the bumps of 1876 they were banned for life.

Despite boasting an impressive swan and duck population, the Cam has its downfalls. Namely that for the most part it is too narrow for side-by-side rowing. Bumps is rowed from Baits Bite Lock to Chesterton Footbridge, so there are plenty of places to watch the action. The Plough is the go-to place to settle down for the day, but better views can be found on Grassy Corner and Ditton Corner heading into Long Reach.

Theoretically the smallest, loudest member of the crew, who faces the other way to the rowers. Has the dubious virtue of adding weight to the boat without speed, so makes up for it by steering and shouting lots.

When a rower messes up a stroke the blade drags in the water, throwing off the rhythm. More commonly seen in the lower divisions, the force of a crab can throw a rower back in their seat, or even out of the boat. No one is immune. (4:00-4:20)

Bumps is split into divisions to accommodate all the crews, with up to 18 rowing in each. This Mays there are six men’s and four women’s divisions. That's a lot of boats.

When a crew bumps up, they pick up greenery from the bank to wear as they row home, to show their success. Sometimes reaches extreme antler-branch levels.

The boat at the top of each division after the last race become the ‘Head of Division’, in the top divisions, this also means ‘Head of the River’. Caius and Downing M1 boats are the most recent rivals for headship, with Caius holding it for the last two years.

One for the really fast crews. If a bump happens and is cleared in time, the boats behind it can continue racing to catch the crew three places ahead. This moves them up three places (or more – triple over-bumps have happened!) in the division as well as making the results charts look much more interesting.

Fines given to crews and clubs when they misbehave. Fines include urinating on the umpires’ tent, 'dangerous coxing' or 'abuse'.

Row over
If a boat makes it to the end of the course without bumping up or being bumped they row over and start in the same position the next day. Shown by a nice straight line on the results charts.

Sandwich boat
The divisions need to be linked for maximum bumping opportunities and this falls to the sandwich boat. The top boat of one division races as the last boat in the division above. This means that the lucky sandwich crews get to row the course twice in the same day. Hurrah.

If a crew is bumped down at least one position every day they are given the commiseration prize of sports: spoons. Conciliatory trips to Weatherspoon’s can also occur.

Technical bump
Awarded when a bump would have happened were it not for carnage or if a crew overtakes another without the pursued cox conceding. Doesn’t often happen.

Usually the peaceful realm of runners and dog walkers; becomes an obstacle course in bumps. Bank parties for each crew follow the boats at breakneck speed on bikes, with little to no regard for spectators.

To follow bumps, listen live on Cam FM, or stay up to date with the TCS liveblog. 
Or do both.

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