Pembroke M2 bump St. Edmund's M1 on the third day of racing in the second divisionOliver Rhodes

May Bumps 2019 concluded on Saturday with Caius M1 and Newnham W1 at the head of the river, repeating their success in the Lent Bumps to displace respective rivals Lady Margaret M1 and Jesus W1.

Over four days of riveting competition on the congested river Cam, 91 men’s crews and 77 women’s crews competed over 11 divisions, involving over 1500 competitors and hundreds more cycling alongside as coaches, marshals and supporters.

Hundreds of students and locals congregated at the Plough Pub and along the riverbank to watch the action unfold, in spite of some light showers and strong breezes.

The top men’s division, dominated for the past three years by St. John’s Lady Margaret Boat Club (LMBC), saw Caius Boat Club M1 (CBC) progress from its 4th-place starting position to the Head of the river, displacing Pembroke, Clare and LMBC over the course of the first three days before ensuring victory with a row-over on Saturday.

Downing, Peterhouse and Magdalene also made gains, the latter advancing from 5th to 2nd position on the river courtesy of an overbump on day one – the highest overbump to take place in Bumps history – and a surprising bump against LMBC on Saturday.

For the women, Thursday was the day to remember in what was otherwise a fairly steady campaign at the top end of the division, with only Downing W1 dropping out of the top 5. That day witnessed Newnham Boat Club W1 (NBC), tipped for success alongside CBC following their victory in Lent, displace Jesus W1, who ended the week in second position after two years at the top. Newnham, Jesus and Emmanuel all nonetheless retained their spots in the top 3.

The lower divisions, characterised by much greater differences in ability, saw some dramatic turns in fortune. St. Edmund’s W2 crew, sitting at the top of the fifth division at the start of the competition, were bumped out by Corpus W2 on Thursday only to return with vengeance on Friday, triple overbumping to advance past 6 other crews and into the next division.

Reflecting a particularly turbulent year for the men’s league, 14 of the 91 competing crews achieved ‘blades’ for bumping ahead each day, and 8 crews were awarded ‘spoons’ for being bumped down each day. In the women’s league, 4 crews were awarded ‘blades’ and 6 were awarded ‘spoons’.

Fitzwilliam's M2 crew crashing into Jesus M3 during the first day of third division racingGeorgio Divitini
Selwyn W2 and Downing W2 in a sticky situation in Friday's second division. Selwyn was fined £50 for rowing into a stationary crewOliver Rhodes

Mismanaged starts and misguided steering resulted in some spectacular collisions between crews and with the riverbank, as has come to be expected of any Bumps season. Homerton’s M1 crew in Friday’s second men’s division were forced to row home without their bow four after damaging their hull in a riverbank crash at First Post Corner. Friday’s women’s second division also saw a sharp collision between a stationary Downing W2 crew and an incoming Selwyn W1 crew on Plough Reach which resulted in a £50 fine for the Selwyn crew.

Cambridge University Combined Boat Clubs (CUCBC), which organises the races, levied 19 fines against crews for dangerous conduct on the river, amounting to £545.


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In all, over 100 fines, amounting to £2890, were levied against crews for violations of CUCBC regulations, including 3 for early celebrations and 8 for public urination. Controversy ensued on the first day of racing when James Cracknell, who rowed for the victorious Light Blues in April’s Boat Race and was competing for Peterhouse M1 over the week, was fined for public urination on a van owned by CUCBC.

Some clubs will leave this year’s races with fonder memories than others. Notable will be Peterhouse M1, star-studded with three Blues crewmembers, having ‘blades’ stolen from them on day three by a stubbornly quick Emmanuel crew; Emmanuel, along with Magdalene, showed positive progress from the vast majority of their crews in multiple divisions.

New victories will however soon be threatened by new ambitions, as the Michaelmas rowing season comes round, disappointed crews lick their wounds, and hundreds of eager rowers return to the ergs once more to pursue inter-collegiate glory on the Cam.

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