About the Bumps

The Bumps

Side-by-side racing is not possible over a long distance on the narrow and winding River Cam, so the bumps format was introduced in the early 19th century as an exciting alternative.

At the start of the bumping races, crews line up along the river with one and a half boat lengths of clear water between them. On the start signal (the firing of a cannon) they chase each other up the river. When a bump occurs (when one crew is hit by it's chasing crew), they pull over to allow the other crews to continue racing. The next day, all crews involved in a bump swap places and the race is run again. After the four days of racing, the aim of the top crews is to be at the "head of the river," i.e. they lead the first division. Lower crews cannot expect to achieve this, but can win their "blades" by bumping up every day.

Although the bumps are split into divisions of 17 boats (seven in Lents, ten in Mays), the top boat of each lower division (apart from the top division) races at the bottom of the next division and so a continuous chart can be drawn mapping the progress of all crews.

The Lent Bumps are run over five days with each division taking one day off to allow all the races to run. Whereas the May Bumps races are run over four days with all divisions raced each day. Bumps Programmes are a great way of finding out information about the bumps, and are available to purchase from Porters' Lodges and (during bumps) the Control Desk at Peter's Posts. The programmes detail the course, race times, crew lists and start order.

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