Bumps race

From Academic Kids

A bumps race is a form of rowing race in which a number of boats are started a set distance apart and attempt to catch the boat in front.

The form is mainly used at the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford (known as Torpids and Eights Week). It is particularly suited to rowing races where a narrow but long stretch of water is available, precluding side-by-side racing. Bumps racing gives a better feel of immediate competition than a head race, where boats are simply timed over a fixed course.

Bumps races are raced over a number of days. Each day a number of boats are started, usually from the bank of a river, such that there is a fixed spacing between each boat and the one in front. At the start signal each attempts to catch the boat in front, while simultaneously avoiding being caught by the one behind. If a crew overtakes or makes physical contact with the crew ahead, a bump is awarded. As a result damage to boats and equipment is common during bumps racing. In Cambridge Lent and May bumps races, once a bump has occurred both crews pull to the side of the bank and take no further part in that race. In Oxford during Torpids, the crew must continue racing over the entire course and can be bumped by more than one crew per day.

The next day of competition the boat that was bumped (the one caught) and the boat that got the bump (the one doing the catching) exchange places in the start order. If you cross the finish line without either bumping or being bumped (called 'rowing over') you stay in the same position. The objective is to progress up the start order by bumping boats in front of you.

Since all boats row at the same time, it is possible that the boat in front of yours may catch the boat ahead of it before you catch them. As those boats both then drop out, your boat must attempt to catch the boat that started three places ahead of you. If you succeed this is referred to as an overbump. You exchange places with the bumped boat, resulting in you moving three places up the start order. Bumping the boat five places ahead is a double overbump.

The competitions are for eights, i.e. eight rowers with a cox steering. The ultimate achievement in these competitions is to bump up four places over the four days, in which case the crew is said to have won its blades. Traditionally members of the crew purchase a rowing oar in the crew colours and inscribed with the crew names to hang on their wall. For reasons of practicality some purchase a miniature replica. Crews that go down four places are awarded the wooden spoon. 'Blades' are also awarded to a crew that bumps up to become first in the start order, called 'Head of the River'.

In both Oxford and Cambridge Universities the bumps races take place twice a year, with four days of racing each time. In Cambridge these races are called the Lent Bumps (taking place before Easter) and the May Bumps (in June) (in the week proceeding May Week). As an additional perk, the boat club that is Head of the River may burn one of its older boats. In Oxford these races are called Torpids and Summer Eights. In both cities there are also separate Town Bumps races in which local clubs compete.

The University of London college boat clubs hold a bumps race each year on the River Thames.

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