The 2016 Eights Week at Oxford, Part II: Aquatics and Ecstatics
6 June 2016
Tim Koch has sent himself down from Oxford:
There was very little racing mentioned in the first part of my report, which was published yesterday, on this year’s Eights Week finale at Oxford, a not uncommon thing for HTBS but one that should perhaps be corrected in this, the second part.
In Part I, I said that ‘bump racing’ between crews from most of the 43 colleges and halls that make up the university originated because the river at Oxford is too narrow for side by side racing. In the four-day event, divisions of 14 crews of similar ability chase each other in single file, each trying to catch the boat in front without being caught by the boat behind. Once there is physical contact or overlap, both boats withdraw from the race and pull into the side. For the next day’s (or next year’s) race they will then swap places in the starting order. For the best crews the ultimate aim is to climb to the top of Division 1 and to be ‘Head of the River’. As a rise of four places in a year (i.e. making a bump every day) would be exceptionally good, the journey is a long one and, frustratingly, can resemble a game of ‘Snakes and Ladders’ when some good years of bumping other crews and rising through the rankings is negated by being bumped and dropping back down the said rankings. A look at part of this year’s final ‘bumps chart’ may clarify things.
The names in the chart above are in the order in which they finished in 2015. For each day of the 2016 races, a horizontal line means that the crew ‘rowed over’ (i.e. they did not bump and were not bumped), a line going up indicates that they bumped another crew, a line going down marks the fact they were bumped. Thus, looking at the Oriel Men, they ‘rowed over’ every day and remained ‘Head of the River’. Christ Church also rowed over and failed to bump Oriel and so finished second again. Third placed Pembroke rowed over on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday but on Saturday they were bumped by Keble. Thus Keble finished the week (and will start next year) as the third placed crew and Pembroke went down to fourth. Keble had started the week going off sixth but had rowed over on Wednesday, bumped Wolfson on Thursday (and so took their fifth place), bumped Magdalen on Friday (and so took their fourth place). Thus, by Saturday, Keble went off fourth, bumped the Pembroke crew in front of them and took their third place.
There is a lot of video of bump races on the Internet, here are a few of the most instructive and entertaining:
The ‘cox cam’ video above shows a brilliant cox, Matt Collins, in action over the Oxford bumps course in 2013. There are no bumps for his Hertford First Boat but get onboard and enjoy the row.
A very different view of Eights Week is from the air. In 2015, Silkstone Photography did a great job with a drone, it is just unfortunate that they did not include any bumping action. At 70 seconds, there is a shot of the race between replicas of the boats used in the first Oxford-Cambridge race in 1829. This event was to mark 200 years of bump racing at Oxford.
I hesitate to link to the most popular type of video, one showing what can happen when the bumps go wrong, as it may give the impression that the event is badly run or especially dangerous – in fact neither is true.
Of course, we at HTBS are not too sure about this modern stuff and prefer what the newsreel cameras were producing in 1933. These days, few people run after boats as the film shows crew supporters doing. Hopefully, this is because of the information provided by the public address system and by social media, not because today’s students are any the less energetic.
Bumps: The Beginning
Bumps: The Middle
Bumps: The End
As I had covered the celebrations of the winners of the Men’s Headship in 2014, my intention this year was to concentrate of the Women who went (or stayed) Head. However, Wadham, who remained at the top of Women’s Division I for the third year, have different customs to Oriel and do their boat burning later in the year, so there was not a lot for me to report on. Bow of the winning boat, Eliza Mauhs-Pugh, has written a very nice piece on Wadham Boat Club website on their path to victory and in it she calls bump racing ‘a 96-hour game of psychological chicken. And nowhere is it worse than at the Head, where you cannot chase but only run, run away’.