The boat burning last week "might be one of the last"Romilly Norfolk for Varsity

Jesus College Boat Club burnt a boat last Friday (3/11) in celebration of the Women’s First Boat (W1) achieving headship in May Bumps last academic year.

The tradition of burning a boat dates back to the beginning of Bumps races in the 19th Century, but the event has not been held by Jesus since 2017. St Johns and Gonville & Caius Colleges have also been known to partake in this tradition when winning headship.

The boat itself was an old pair boat (which holds two rowers with two oars) which had been unused for several years and had been in storage for more than seven years. The boat club assured Varsity that it was irreparable and had no financial value, with last year’s W1 captain describing it as “destined for scrap”.

Normally, the crew who wins headship have the opportunity to jump over the boat whilst it is ablaze, but this was not allowed this year due to health and safety concerns. The audience of the boat burning were kept at least a few metres away with a rope cordon this year, to ensure their safety.

JCBC President Rachel Gould said: “Continuing the tradition of boat burning was a perfect way to commemorate such a brilliant year for JCBC, and we are so excited for the coming year of success.”

The Captain of W1 during last year’s headship told Varsity: “It was a really nice event to finish off the best year in history for women’s rowing at Jesus.”

“I was so lucky to captain a side of such strong and inspiring women and am frankly amazed by how much we improved over the year,” she said.


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She revealed that this year’s event “might be one of the last boat burnings to happen ever though because there’s not many more scrap wooden boats left to find. So we’re very lucky to have had the opportunity to experience it.”

She continued: “The boat burning is one of those objectively really weird Cambridge traditions.”

Some students described the event as “a bit cultish”. One boat club member said: “It was the most boat club [that] the boat club have ever boat clubbed.”

Jesus College and JCBC said that they look forward to finding more environmentally friendly ways to celebrate similar successes in the future.