The attraction of bumps racing lies in its unpredictability, and indeed success is often predicated on a hefty amount of luck. A fair argument can be made that this takes away from the sport but having been on the receiving end of some undeserved success, I think it adds to the occasion. For those of you who were eagerly following the bumps charts last summer, you might have noticed some strange behaviour from the Merton M2 crew. The first three days passed normally, if not particularly well.
Row over on the Wednesday, followed by being bumped on Thursday and Friday. On the Saturday we were being chased by the Regents Park M1 boat. By catching us they would have gained blades and a confirmed spot in Division Four for the next year. Safe to say they were eager, and after bump-ing three days in a row were probably fairly confident.
When the cannon fired, it became clear that we were evenly matched. We saw the crews in front of us bump out, and the pair in front of them did the same; with the chances of bumping ourselves basically zero, we just had to hold out until the end.
As Regents closed to half a length but couldn’t reel us in, thoughts of pushes and race plans disappeared from both crews. I had to be 100 per cent the entire way. When we finally collapsed over the finish line, the Merton crew were ecstatic. It was our best row of the week, and we were rather pleased with ourselves.
This was deserved success. What made the day even sweeter however, was the news that we got when we landed. It emerged that Brasenose M2, five boats ahead us, had somehow managed to crash in the gut. As the boats between us had bumped out, the next racing crew to pass them was us, frantically pushing off Regents. We hadn’t noticed them of course; boats sitting stationary by the bank are perfectly normal.
What this meant however was that rather than a row over, what we’d achieved was to bump up five bunglines in one day, quite an achievement! It also meant that our do or die race to the line with Regents was moot: even if they’d caught us, we’d already bumped out when we passed Brasenose.
This is the sort of unpredictable chaos that makes the lower divisions of bumps racing so much fun. Undeserved success may be a sweet surprise, yet I know for a fact that we would have been just as happy with that row -over. Nothing beats the euphoric satisfaction of just escaping defeat through sheer hard graft.
Come down to the river for Torpids in seventh week and you can see similar such carnage unfold for yourself.