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Introduction to Summer Eights

Summer Eights 101Summer Eights takes place every year in the 5th week of Trinity term, running from Wednesday through to Saturday. Bumps racing is run in divisions of 14 boats with one every 30 minutes alternating between men and women divisions.

At the start of a bumps race a division lines up with just over 20 meters between the boats. On the start signal all the crews begin racing at once, chasing each other up the river.  When a boat makes any physical contact with the boat in front of them, overtakes them or the cox raises their hand a bump is awarded to the boat chasing.  In Summer Eights when a bump occurs both crews are out of the race and stop at the side of the river. If a crew neither bumps nor is bumped then they continue racing to the finish line just past the boathouses, this is called a row over.

Once racing is over for the day the start order is announced for the next day.  This is the same as the finish order of the previous day. For example, if a crew bumps then they will start ahead of the crew they bumped the next day.  The finish order on the Saturday is then the start order of the Wednesday the following year.

This year, Summer Eights begins on Wednesday 29 May with Univ W1 starting 5th in Division 1 and M1 starting 8th in Division 1. On Saturday 1 June, the Master is hosting a reception in Univ’s boathouse where there will also be an exhibition of photographs celebrating Univ’s sportswomen across the past forty years.

Glossary of common Summer Eights terms

Headship: The boat which is at the very top of Division 1 holds the headship and this is the aim of every college’s first boat.  At the moment Keble have headship for the men and Pembroke have headship for the women.

Crabs: A rower can get their blade stuck in the water which has a similar effect to dropping an anchor and commonly allows the chasing crew to get the bump. If a crab is especially bad the blade can knock the rower out of the boat into the river, which is called an ejector crab.

Crashes: The competitive close fought races that bumps involves causes steersman to take a very competitive race line which can result in some brutal crashes.

Cannon: As all the boats are spread over a long distance for everyone to hear the signal to go it needs to be pretty loud so a cannon is used to start the race.

Appeals: If it is not clear whether a bump occurred or a race rule was broken an appeal is launched to overturn the original finish results. These involve a series of discussions with the organisers and the submission of video evidence.

Beer/Pimms Boat: The crews spend a lot of time training, especially the first boats, but if people just want to take part in summer eights with their friends the can enter as a beer (men) or Pimms (women) boat.

Blades: If you bump up every day then your crew wins “Blades” and the crew can buy blades with the names of their crew painted on.

Spoons: If a crew is bumped everyday (every college rower’s nightmare) then they get “Spoons”.

Eights Dinner: Once the racing
 is finished on the Saturday the boat clubs have a celebratory dinner in their colleges.


Our thanks to Angus Menzies (2016, Biochemistry), Vice-President of UCBC  for providing this feature.

Published: 5 May 2019

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