The Cambridge Cardboard Boat Race

A MayWeek Sunday race in 2011. From Wikimedia Commons.

19 June 2019

By Louis Petrin

Louis Petrin discovers a different ‘boat race’ on the Cam.

May Week refers to a period at the end of the academic year at University of Cambridge. Originally, May Week took place in the week before year-end exams began in May. Nowadays, May Week takes place in June after exams and is a cause for great celebration amongst the students of the university. Highlights of the week include bumps races, May Balls, June Events and garden parties.

On the Sunday immediately after the end of the spring term (known as Easter Term) all students have finished exams, but most of the results have not been published, so it is traditionally a period of nerves and suspense.

The Cambridge University Cardboard Boat Race is raced on the River Cam and is for current students of University of Cambridge but is frequented by former students that indulge in the student lifestyle.

The Cardboard Boat Race is a main attraction to MayWeek Sunday (earlier called Suicide Sunday), offering an alternative to the many garden parties and more serious boating. The first race was in 2010, with three boats from Magdalene College: The Galleon, The Canoe and Skippy. In 2011, the race was opened to other colleges.

The competition rules are simple. Build something which hopefully floats out of nothing but cardboard, PVA glue and gaffa tape – the same applies for paddles too (although dinner trays from hall are also allowed here) – any other material is allowed as long as it is merely for looks and not structural. The race is from Jesus Green to Magdalene Beach and each crew that entry must hold three persons. There are two winner categories, for a) fastest boat and b) most ‘interesting’ design.

Here is a video which euphemistically calls out some highlights from the race:

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