This weekend, the most important rowing event in Oxford, “Summer Eights”, took place. From Wednesday to Saturday, 171 boats and around 1500 participants are racing against each other.
Our boat closing in at Somerville II
To allow for such a high number of crews to race every day for four days and due to the narrowness of the river, a special mode of competition is used: the “bumping race”. Instead of crews racing each other one on one (that is, next to each) other, boats are lined up in a chain. In order to “win”, a crew has to bump the crew in front of them without being bumped by the crew behind them at the same time.
If a bump occurs, the bumped as well as the bumping boat stop racing. While the latter will rise in their division the following day, the former will descend a starting place.
Our boat bumping Oriel III (note their coxswain conceding)
By bumping four days in a row (and consequently rising 4 places in Summer Eights), a crew can win “blades”. This means that they get to take away a (fake) blade with their names, bumps etc. on it. (FYI: we even bumped five times and won blades)
The whole tournament is a massive spectacle. Around 20.000 viewers are expected in total. Their cheering pushes boats to their limits. To be honest, a boat race is one of the most intense experiences you can have. An entire day boils down to the maximum of two-three minutes your races takes.