Rules of the River

The rules in this book apply to all University and College oarsmen and women on the Cam. They must be obeyed at all times of the year except where specified, and failure to do so may result in the offending parties being fined and possibly banned from CUCBC races. No-one may row or cox if they are non-swimmers. Everyone must familiarise themselves with these Rules before taking a crew out, particularly during the Michaelmas term with novices on the river. Use the links below to navigate the sections of this chapter.

General Regulations

  1. That the minimum and maximum fine for infringement of any of the Rules in this book (unless otherwise specified and subject to Rule 2) be ten and fifty pounds respectively.
    1. That blatant and/or wilful rule breaking may be penalised by a fine greater than fifty pounds, at the discretion of the Executive Committee.
    2. That in exceptional circumstances and/or for repeated rule breaking individuals and/or the offending crews may be further penalised by being banned from forthcoming CUCBC events.
    3. That the Boat Club concerned may appeal to the Senior Committee against such a penalty, at least three of whose members should convene within three days to decide the appeal (not including the Chief Umpire, if this person is a Committee member, should a conflict of interest arise during CUCBC races) and shall either endorse the penalty or have it lowered to the usual ten to fifty pounds range.
    4. That during events, at least three members of the Senior Committee shall convene as soon as is practically possible and that until such an appeal is heard the decision of the Chief Umpire shall stand.
  2. That reports of any infringement of CUCBC rules must be submitted to the CUCBC Executive Committee within 48 hours of the incident concerned.

Restrictions on Use of the River

    1. That no boat may be on the water in the dark, save University crews who, when with a coach and using lights in accordance with BR regulations, may row up until half an hour before lighting down and up to half an hour after lighting up.
    2. That the defined "Hours of Darkness" for the CUCBC be as shown on the "Hours of Darkness" page.
    3. That no boat may be on the water without lights during the fifteen minutes AFTER lighting down or BEFORE lighting up.
    1. That, under the penalty of every member of the crew being disqualified from training and all CUCBC races during that term, no college rowing be allowed on the Cam before 11am on a Saturday or Sunday, save for a recognised Cambridge Rowing Association (CRA), BR or CUCBC race.
    2. That University crews shall keep their use of the Cam before 11am on a Saturday or Sunday to a minimum, and inform the CRA prior to all such use.
    1. That no boat be allowed on the water when the CUCBC Flag is Red.
    2. That only University crews with the specific permission of one of their senior coaches and tub pairs may row when the CUCBC Flag is Red/Yellow.
    3. When the flag is yellow, only the following boats are allowed on the water:
      1. University Crews, first boats and tub pairs.
      2. during Lent Term, in addition to the crews allowed by 7.c.i, any other crews in the first and second divisions of the Lent Bumps.
      3. during Easter Term, in addition to the crews allowed by 7.c.i, any other crews in the first and second divisions of the May Bumps.
      In the case of tub pairs Rule 13 applies and, in addition, the person steering must be competent and experienced. Under Yellow Flag conditions, members of crews permitted to boat under these regulations may do so in small boats, provided that they have the express permission of their Club Captain and/or Boatman, and subject to the conditions outlined in Rule 14.
    1. That the CUCBC Executive Committee shall introduce restrictions on the number of boats that may be on the water between Lighting Down and 0830hrs on Mondays to Fridays in Full Michaelmas and Lent Terms as necessary. These restrictions will be enforced by the Early Morning Marshals.
    2. That on the date from which restrictions are introduced until further notice, each College Club will only be permitted to have two boats on the river at any one time in the restricted period.
    3. That this rule will apply to IVs and VIIIs but not to singles, pairs or tub pairs and will only apply during the hours stated above.
    4. That fines for a breach of this rule will accrue to the Club, rather than the crew concerned and that any Club in breach of this rule will be fined £50 for a first offence, £100 for a second offence, a training ban of one week for the whole Club for a third offence and disqualification from all events organised or insured by CUCBC (including the Lent Bumping Races) in that Term for any subsequent offence.
    5. That the normal appeal procedures will apply to penalties incurred as a result of breaching these rules.
  1. In any given term, College rowers may train with a Town club provided that training on the water is done during college hours (for example, whether that be weekend hours, evening hours, flag, etc.). In addition:
    1. College rowers may substitute into up to four outings with a Town club outside of college hours in any given term without rendering themselves ineligible for CUCBC competitions. Each such outing (individual, town club, date and time) must be declared on the entry form of any crew entering a CUCBC competition which comprises one or more rowers who have rowed outside college hours during that term.
    2. Any College rower who rows outside of college hours more than four times, or who has rowed outside of college hours in an outing which has not been declared on the entry form will render themselves ineligible for CUCBC competitions that term.
    3. College coxswains may cox for Town clubs at any time without rendering themselves ineligible for CUCBC competitions.
  2. As to novices:
    1. That no novice crew be unaccompanied.
    2. That the first outing of a novice eight must be with an experienced cox, not a novice.
    3. Senior crews must be below Chesterton by novice boating time.
    4. No novice crew may be on the river before 7.30am or within fifteen minutes of lighting down, which ever is later.
  3. As to evening rowing in the Easter Term:
    1. That there be two periods during these evening hours, the earlier will be from 5.30pm until 6.30pm and the later from 7.00pm until 8.00pm and that crews in the first period should be above Chesterton by 7.00pm and crews in the second period should not be below Chesterton before 6.30pm.
    2. That there shall be a weekly alternation such that on one week only Women's eights will row in the earlier, and only Men's eights in the later period, and the next week the Men shall row in the earlier, and the Women in the later period.
    3. That crews may train beyond Baitsbite Lock during either period, but must be below Baitsbite Lock before 5.30pm or 7.00pm as appropriate, such that no crew may be between Chesterton and Baitsbite Lock during the period allocated to the opposite sex.
    4. That only University eights, College first eights, and any other eights in the first two divisions of the CUCBC May Bumps may train below Chesterton Footbridge during these times.
    5. That the exception to Rule 11.d is that IVs made up of normally eligible crew members may use the river during the changeover period for the purposes of going over Baitsbite lock, provided they are clear of the restricted section of river by 7.00pm and do not return to it until after 8.00pm.
    1. That there be only light-pressure paddling between Chesterton footbridge and Jesus Lock except for the progress of the Fairbairn Cup Races, and for bung starts during the two days prior to the Lent and May Bumps.
    2. That crews pay due care and attention to moored craft and to junior & novice crews in this area.
    3. That crews should avoid unnecessary stopping and spinning above Chesterton.
  4. That no tub pairs be allowed below Chesterton footbridge except for a race recognised by the CUCBC, or in the first four weeks of the Michaelmas term, where tub pairs may be allowed as far as the P&E spinning zone.
    1. That Coxless IVs and quadruple sculls require a banksteerer at all times, inside and outside Full Term.
    2. That pairs and doubles may go out without a banksteerer only if the steerer has at least a year's experience of steering small boats, and the permission of the club captain and/or boatman has been given. In addition, during Full Term, pairs and doubles must have a banksteerer outside the hours of 9am to 4pm, or 30 minutes before lighting up if earlier.
    3. That single sculls may go out without a banksteerer at any time.
    4. That no boat be used for a rowing outing on the Cam without its full crew and a coxswain if appropriate, being present in the boat at the commencement of the outing.
    5. That all coaches of small boats (pairs, double and single sculls, but not tub pairs) should carry a throwbag or line and a 'space blanket.' [NB. Rowers intending to go out in small boats as a beginner (i.e. they have had less than ten outings in a small boat) are strongly advised to undergo a capsize drill and swim test as soon as practicable. Such rowers must have a banksteerer at all times, as required by Rule 14.b, when using pairs and/or doubles. They are also strongly advised to have a banksteerer or coach for their first ten outings if they are using a single scull.]
  5. That in the event of the Cam being unsuitable for the purposes of College rowing, College crews shall not train elsewhere until after an Extraordinary CUCBC Meeting, to be called within 48 hours.

Rights of Way

  1. That below Baitsbite Lock and above Chesterton footbridge each boat keep to its right, the downstream boat giving way to the upstream boat.
    1. That boats going downstream below Chesterton keep to the non-towpath side of the river until after rounding Ditton Corner, when they cross over to the towpath side at the sign.
    2. That after rounding Grassy Corner they cross back to the non-towpath side at the sign, and keep to that side as far as Baitsbite Lock.
    1. That boats going upstream below Chesterton keep to the towpath side until they have reached the middle of the Gut, when they cross over to the non-towpath side, taking the inside of Grassy Corner.
    2. That at the top of the Plough Reach, they cross back to the towpath side (taking the inside of Ditton Corner) and keep to that side all the way up to the Boathouses.
    Note that there are notice boards on the banks to mark the crossing places.
  2. That if there be any danger of collision, the boat going downstream give way to the boat coming upstream.
  3. That all boats (whether going upstream or downstream, and whether rowing or paddling) give way to University crews and Trial Eights, subject to rule 20 and general navigation law.
  4. That no boat has any rights of way when on the wrong side of the river.

Easying and Overtaking

  1. That when a boat easies it must draw close into the bank to allow others to go by.
    1. That no boat may easy on any corner if it is possible to go on, unless preparatory to rowing from the bottom of the Long Reach at Ditton.
    2. That no boat may overtake on a corner or when it cannot see that it is safe to do so.
  2. That a slower boat being overtaken must give way (pulling in if stationary, or if moving, pulling closer to the bank if possible) to allow a faster boat to pass.


  1. Unless otherwise required for safety reasons, or acting on the instructions of an umpire during a race, boats may only spin at Jesus Lock, the Penny Ferry, between the two posts at the bottom of the Long Reach, and by the sign in Baitsbite Reach.
  2. When necessary, boats must queue to spin, and no boat may spin without ascertaining that there is no other boat coming which might be impeded. At the Baitsbite Spinning area and in green flag conditions only, two crews may spin in tandem, providing they do not impede other crews and move off promptly.
  3. That during the ten days preceding the Lent and May Bumps and the week preceding the University Fours Races, no boat may spin between the Little Bridge and Peters Posts except at its own risk.
  4. Once spun, boats must move off immediately or, if pulling on on the Long Reach or Baitsbite, may only do so above the spinning area.
  5. As a trial, for Michaelmas term 2022 only, novice boats travelling downstream only (i.e. from Jesus lock) may spin between Caius and Christ's boathouses, with priority given to boathouses between the spinning zone. This is to be reassessed at the next available captain's meeting following the trial. 

Rowing Below Baitsbite Lock

  1. That rowing below Baitsbite Lock be restricted to University crews, first boats, and any other boats in the top two divisions of the CUCBC May Bumps only.
  2. Crews or individuals shall not boat or row with their College club between the Fish and Duck marina and the Adelaide, except with the express permission of the relevant University President(s).
  3. That in the Michaelmas and Lent terms no boat may paddle below Baitsbite Lock between 8.30am and 1.00pm or after 4.30pm on any week day.
  4. That there be no racing between boats below Baitsbite, and that any training at race pace be kept between the last downstream Horningsea mooring and the Clayhithe Bridge.

Noise and Early Mornings

  1. All crews must ensure that they do not create unnecessary noise anywhere on the river before 7.30am.
  2. In particular, loud hailers may not be used anywhere on the towpath, and the use of cox-boxes, and coaching from the bank should be kept to a minimum before 7.30am. Coaching from the bank above the railway bridge is not permitted at all before this time. CUCBC may stop coaches from accompanying crews from the boathouses to the Penny Ferry for breaching this rule.
    1. That the rules of the river, and especially Rules 32 and 33 will be enforced by a system of early morning marshals. The system shall operated by the Executive Committee and the College Boat Clubs will be required to provide marshals according to a rota. Crews violating Rules 32 and 33 will be fined and may be banned from the river. Guidelines for early morning marshals can be found here.
    2. That the marshals shall also enforce the early morning traffic restrictions described in Rule 8.


Under the terms of the CUCBC Constitution, the CUCBC has no regulatory powers over College Clubs when they are using the Ouse at Ely. However, clubs are reminded of the following: The CUWBC Constitution expressly forbids the College womens' Boat Clubs from rowing between the Fish and Duck PH (South of Ely) and the Adelaide Course (North of Ely) without the express permission of the CUWBC President. A CUBC Rule which was re-affirmed in 2001, bans rowing by College crews on the Adelaide course and on the River between Ely and the Fish and Duck PH without the express permission of the CUBC President. Any clubs who do receive permission to row at Ely are reminded:

  • The river is not regulated by the Cam Conservators and other licences may be required.
  • Permission to boat is required from the landowner whose land you are boating from.
  • If using a launch, the BR Safety Code provisions regarding launches must be followed.


The fining system recognises the failure of crews or individuals to assist in the safe and smooth running of rowing activities and applies "without fear or favour" to all clubs, including University crews on the Cam, and to all crews within any club. Part of the reason for variable fines, and increasing scales for repeat offences, is to recognise that no club or crew, however junior or senior, should expect to commit a serious offence without the knowledge that the penalty will be painful either in financial or training terms. Captains of senior clubs must recognise and accept that they have a responsibility to set an example in terms of behaviour, and cannot expect to be immune to penalties. Captains must also make sure their coaches are aware of the importance of obeying the rules. University (including trials) crews using the Jesus Lock to Bottisham section of river must recognise that although allowances are given in the rules to assist their training, they are subject to the same rules and penalties (particularly in relation to safety matters) as anyone else. Policing infringements is difficult. The system relies on emailed and written report forms being sent to the Executive Committee naming two witnesses (in all cases confidentiality is maintained), or individual reports of the Executive Committee members, or other recognised experienced users of the Cam (where reports can be investigated). The following list is designed to be a summary of the penalties which are applied for offences during normal use of the river, and during bumping races. This list does not necessarily cover all instances. Where it does not, discretion lies with the Senior Treasurer and Chairman of CUCBC. All fines are open to appeal, as defined in Rule 2.

Normal Training Periods

The prime object of these penalties is to ensure that individuals and clubs adopt behaviour that will lead to the safe use of the River Cam and consideration for other river users.

Set Fines

  • Boating at an illegal time (i.e. in darkness (Rule 5), wrong hour in summer (Rule 10), illegal crew to Clayhithe (Rule 28), training away from Cam before permission given (Rule 14)). £25 initially, doubling on second offence for that crew (in the term), training ban for third offence, race ban for any further offences. Boating at an illegal time at the weekend (Rule 6): £50 initially, doubling on second offence for that crew (in the term), training ban for third offence, race ban for any further offences.
  • Novice crew failure to go with coach (or experienced cox as required by Rule 9). £50 (safety offence), one week ban (repeat offence).
  • Leaving boathouse without bowball or lifejacket/buoyancy aid. £50 (safety offence).
  • Obstructing river (e.g. obstructing crews when spinning between Little Bridge and Peter's Posts, failing to pull into the bank for crew chats, slower crew - including power water work - not giving way to faster if safe and possible to do so. £25.
  • No current insurance policy. No club crews or individuals allowed to boat until situation rectified and evidence presented to the CUCBC.
  • Firm pressure above Chesterton (except when allowed as defined by Rule 12.a). Crews attempting starts, half- or proper full pressure receive a £25 fine for the first offence, £50 for a second time in one term, and a one week training ban (including any races) for third offence.
  • Failure to provide an Early Morning Marshal (EMM) £25 for first offence, £50 for subsequent offence; Late arrival of EMM £10; Incompetent EMM £20; Failure of EMM to return report, bib and/or clipboard £10.

Variable Penalty Fines

  • Steering incorrectly, in particular taking the wrong side on blind corners even if no accident caused, £25 - £50.
  • Obstructing crews dangerously, or causing an accident (e.g. on a corner, or by being on the wrong side of the river elsewhere). £50 minimum, with up to a variable length training ban or complete ban of the offending crew from river, depending on the seriousness of the offence. (Also remember that there are possible legal and insurance implications if anyone is damaged or hurt by a crew "in the wrong", especially if victim is not in a College/University club. There is nothing to stop any individual hurt, or club with equipment damaged, from taking legal action against the club/person concerned, or placing the matter with the police).
  • Over-zealous "cutting up" of other crews. Notwithstanding a slower crew's obligation to give way, failure to take sufficient avoiding action by the overtaking crew can lead to a dangerous situation (will generally take the form of rowing through other crews' blades by crews trying to do pieces) £25 - £50.
  • Failure to take account of prevailing weather (e.g. fog/wind) in the type of training done. In particular this will apply to "yellow flag" days and to crews who have boated before flags are raised. Only applicable in case of accident, but then £25 upwards to training ban. Deliberately boating after flags raised, £50/one week ban.
  • Abusive or threatening behaviour by anyone in a crew or coaches on the bank, whatever circumstance (i.e. who is in the wrong may influence the penalty, but will not negate it). £25 upwards, and may include temporary or permanent bans on individuals (including coaches) and/or crews.
  • Excessive noise before 07:30. £20 - £50 initially, doubling on second offence for that crew (in the term), training ban for third offence, race ban for any further offences.