What’s it all about?

The river in Cambridge presents a unique challenge for hosting traditional rowing competitions. Its meandering course and limited width render standard side-by-side racing impractical. To accommodate the constraints of the river and to enable numerous crews to participate, the Bumps races emerged. This format, different from conventional regattas, was developed to allow a large number of boats to compete in a dynamic and exciting manner, turning the river’s limitations into a unique aspect of the race.

Multiple boats chasing each other

Men and women race separately. Boats are split into multiple divisions. Each division has 17-18 boats and crews start 90 feet apart.

The aim of the race is to catch and ‘bump’ the crew in front of you. A bump is awarded if the crew in front concedes. And yes, this can require you to actually hit the boat in front! Crews that bump one another must pull over to the side to allow the crews behind to continue.

Crew about to bump another crew

Racing takes place over four days with the finishing order at the end of a day determining the starting order for the following day. This means that a crew which bumps the crew in front will gain their starting position for the next day.

A crew which ends up at the top of their division gets to race again at the bottom of the next division on the same day. This crew is known as the sandwich boat due to the fact that they are sandwiched between two divisions. The honour is double-edged because while you get the opportunity to go up a division you also must race twice in one day!

The crew which ends the week at the top of the first division is awarded the headship, or head of the river. Due to the nature of Bumps this might not necessarily be the fastest crew, but it is always a mighty achievement and well deserved.

Crews which achieve a bump are given willow branches to ‘wear’ as they row back to their boathouses.

Crew who have bumped