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    Bumps, Blades, Boating: Summer Eights explained

    Oli Hall previews the biggest rowing event of the summer.

    As anyone with rowing friends will know, Wednesday will see the start of one of the biggest events on the University’s Summer sporting calender: Summer Eights.  Celebrated by the rowing community, many of its rules and traditions can be confusing to outsiders. Here is our rundown of everything you need to know ahead of Summer Eights 2022.

    The Basics

    Summer Eights is held in 5th Week of Trinity Term every year and takes place from Wednesday through Saturday. Competition is done following the Bump-racing format. Boats line up in a predetermined start order with just over twenty metres between them. A cannon shot announces the start of the race, the goal of which is to ‘bump’ the boat in front, whilst avoiding getting ‘bumped’ by the boat behind.  A ‘bump’ is awarded when a chasing boat either overtakes or makes contact with the boat in front. Often, if a bump is imminent, the cox of the boat being chased will choose to concede to the crew behind before actual contact takes place; they do this by raising their arms. Once a bump has taken place, both boats involved exit the race by moving to the side of the river.  On the next day, the two will switch places in the running order and if a team ‘bumps’ every day they are awarded ‘blades’.  Similarly, getting bumped every day will see a boat get ‘spoons’.  A boat which bumps to the top of the division also races with the division in front. There are 14 divisions and each is made up of 13 boats. Races take place every half hour, alternating between men’s and women’s crews.  Colleges aim to be the top boat in the first division, after which they are crowned ‘Head of the River’.

    The Contenders

    The race hasn’t been run since 2019 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and its return has been hotly anticipated.  As a result though, rarely has the event been so hard to predict. Back then, it was Oriel who finished as the Head of the River for the men and Wolfson for the women.  That means that in division one, they will lead out Keble, Pembroke and Christ Church in the men’s race. Keble, a college which has made a rapid rise in the rowing ranks over the past years, will be looking to regain the top spot it held in 2018.  In the women’s first division, Pembroke, Wadham, Univ, and Christ Church will follow Oriel.  As ever, results will be hard to predict but Pembroke are will be looking to rise up division one in both categories.


    Rowing-On is the timed qualifying event for crews outside of the fixed divisions who are assured a spot. It was held on the Saturday before Summer Eights.  This year saw Trinity’s third boat lead the way in the men’s and Keble’s second boat in the women’s.  The full results can be seen below:


    Racing will take place every day between Wednesday and Saturday with racing taking place between 12:15 and 19:15 (and starting an hour earlier on Sunday).  The course stretches from Iffley Lock to Folly Bridge and there is sure to be a party atmosphere at every boathouse every day, especially on Saturday. Spectators are of course welcomed throughout the event; traditionally the final day sees the boathouses host events throughout the afternoon.

    So, big tests await all crews. For the spectators, with over 1500 rowers set to participate across the divisions, get ready for a huge amount of fun and partying come the weekend!

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