Caius M1 were dominant last yearTimur Rakhimov for Varsity

At a loss with what to do with yourself before May Week starts? Fancy a sunny walk down by the river but bemused as to the presence of antiquated forms of transport everywhere? Don’t fear, Varsity’s guide to May Bumps is here.

What is rowing?

Eight people get in a bit of plastic and heave their hardest for half an hour. Apparently, it’s good fun.

What is a bump?

A bump does not, contrary to the usual definition of this term, occur only when one boat crashes into another one. Instead, a boat bumps another one by catching up on the one in front of them. Each boat in the race is staggered all the way from Baits Bite Lock back towards the centre of town, and the boats race towards the city centre until they are caught, or they row-over by escaping the boat behind them and crossing the finish line.

When is Bumps?

May Bumps (not to be confused with its spring equivalent Lent Bumps) takes place this year from the 14th to the 17th of June. The imaginatively named getting-on race, for lower crews hoping to make the bottom divisions, takes place on the 9th June.

What do you win?

Technically, you can’t win Bumps. There’s no trophy or medal for finishing as the fastest boat, just the pride associated with “headship”. For those of you sniggering in the back, being at the head of the river is a coveted status for college first boats across Cambridge, and is highly contested. For crews lower down the river, successfully “bumping” another boat on each day of competition leads to you being awarded blades – a rowing oar blade. I told you these rowers were literal. For those crews unlucky enough to be bumped everyday, there are spoons, like wooden spoons. This is a fate worse than death for many rowers, but spoons recipients can take comfort in the fact that at least they have a life off the river.


Mountain View

May Bumps 2022: The Full Round-up

Who will win?

In the women’s event, Newnham are currently at the head of the river, ahead of Caius, Emma, Pembroke and Jesus. Newnham had headship at the start of the Lent campaign, but were bumped by both Jesus and Emma to slip into third place. Emma look best positioned to challenge for Head of the River this time round, with their already strong boat likely to be boosted by the return of Annabel Cardno and Gemma Swan from the Lightweight Blues Boat

On the men’s side, Mays are shaping up to be a battle between Caius and Lady Margaret (St John’s boat club). Lady Margaret held Caius off on all four days of racing in Lent Bumps, and this term the roles are reversed, as John’s seek double headship. Magdalene, Pembroke and Peterhouse round out the top five, but with Peterhouse weakened by the loss of last year’s Olympians Ollie Wynne-Griffith and Tom George, its unlikely they’ll be challenging Caius and John’s this year.

How can I watch?

You can watch Bumps along the river from the Bumps Control Desk in Chesterton to Baits Bite Lock (where racing begins). Popular spots include First Post Reach, Grassy Corner, Ditton Meadows, and the Plough pub at Fen Ditton. If you watch from the towpath you must stay still, as running or cycling alongside racing crews is prohibited unless you have a bank pass.

If you’d prefer not to trek out to north Cambridge, Cam FM are providing their usual live commentary,and there will also be frequent updates from Varsity.