The Bumps of May

HTBS was not able to attend the 2019 Cambridge May Bumps and so has resorted to posting a picture 105 years out of date. The St Catharine’s College First Eight had a good week in June 1914, bumping four rivals. Sadly, six weeks later the world was at war and it is impossible not to speculate on the fate of these young men.

18 June 2019

By Tim Koch

Tim Koch looks at some ups and some downs from the Cam.

Readers with good and/or long memories will recall that exactly one year ago, I wrote:

They may not care to admit it, but the old rivals that are the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge have more that unites them than divides them. Notably, on the rowing front, both have two sets of intra-university ‘bumping races’ for eights every year, one in early spring and one in early summer, each lasting four days. At Cambridge, these are called ‘Lents’ and ‘Mays’ respectively, while at Oxford they are known as ‘Torpids’ and ‘Summer Eights’ or ‘Eights Week’. 

Last week, I reported from Oxford’s Eights Week and this week I would have liked to post a piece on a visit to the Cambridge Mays, which ran from 12 to 15 June. Sadly, I was not able to observe Fenland’s finest in person and have had to resort to a virtual visit via the Internet. First, those who are uncertain about how this remarkable form of boat racing works should read my 2018 Mays report on HTBS.

The 2019 Mays: Men’s Division I and part of Division II. The graphic is from the excellent CamFM, a great source for Bumps commentary, results and information.

The Caius Men’s First VIII made an impressive climb from fourth place to the top of the table i.e. Head of the River, displacing Lady Margaret (the boat club of St John’s College). Lady Margaret can take some solace from the fact that they are the only college with two boats in Men’s Division I, with their second boat bumping every day and thus gaining ‘blades’. Trinity Hall I should also be happy, moving up five places and into Division I. Clare M1 and Clare M3 had a disastrous week, suffering bumps and over bumps and dropping six places. The full men’s and women’s results are here.

The 2019 Mays: Women’s Division I and part of Division II. Graphic: CamFM.

The Newnham Women’s First VIII bumped Jesus on the second day are rowed over for the other two, thus taking the Headship. Pembroke bumped every day, rose from 11th to 7th place and gained ‘blades’. Clare W1 and W4 continued the bad week for the club, getting ‘spoons’ for taking a bump every day. Girton joined them in the unwelcome cutlery department. Like their men, the Trinity Hall women made it out of lowly Division II and into glamorous Division I.

A college boatman in action pushing out his crew to race, a nice picture put on Instagram by Cambridge photographers, Pug Media.

The cap is Selwyn, but I’m not sure about the blazer, it looks like Lady Margaret – but with brown trim?

A strong Peterhouse M1 crew bumped every day but one, no doubt helped by the fact that it included double Olympic gold medallist James Cracknell, Olympian Natan Wegrzycki-Szymczyk and world championship oarsman Sam Hookway, all of who were victorious with Cambridge in this year’s Boat Race.
As we implied at the start, HTBS is happier in the past than the present, so here is a Mays chart covering 1901 to 1914. However, its age is irrelevant in illustrating the long term nature of success and failure in bump racing. It is much like a never-ending game of Snakes and Ladders.

One comment

  1. I think the boatman’s pink and brown blazer is Churchill (King’s, Churchill and Selwyn share a boathouse and a boatman).

    In terms of the fates of the Catz 1914 Mays crew, I don’t know if the honours board in their boathouse goes far enough back to have their names- Catz moved into the former Third Trinity boathouse in 1958.

    Finally, as an Emmanuel man, I have to congratulate this year’s crew on being responsible for that “but one” in the Peterhouse caption…

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