Bumps races are in themselves a reason for you to get involved with rowing at Downing. They’re an exciting combination of racing and aggression. It’s even been said – by someone with experience of both – that sitting waiting for the start cannon in Bumps is more nerve-wracking than an Olympic Final!
To an outsider the Bumps might seem a bit barmy – it’s a kind of competition that you only find at Cambridge. The boats in each race all set off at the same time, spaced a little bit apart, the objective being to catch up and make contact with the boat in front of you – to ‘bump’ them. Add the winding river Cam, furious whistles, coaches cycling alongside and hundreds of spectators into the mix, and you’ve got an exhilarating race experience unlike any other.
Each set of races last four days, giving crews four opportunities to move up the division. Crews that pull off a bump on each day are awarded blades. Meanwhile crews unlucky enough to be bumped four times in a row are said to have ‘spooned’, with some brushing off this misfortune by awarding themselves wooden spoons as prizes.
The ultimate aim is to reach the top of the first division and obtain the coveted Head of the River title. A club’s position in the division is carried over until the next year, meaning that each crew passes on a bumps legacy to future generations of their club. Although not every crew will have the chance to become Head of the River in a given year, the possibility of gaining blades means that particularly fast crews lower down the divisions are rewarded.
In recent years Downing crews have dominated the top of the bumps charts. M1 have held a consistent 2nd place in the Lent Bumps since 2009, also managing to snatch the top spot in 2014. In the Mays M1 climbed to 2nd place in 2011, where they stayed until 2015. M1 is now 2nd in the Lent and 5th in the May Bumps.
W1, meanwhile, continuously held the Lents Headship between 2011-13 and have won 4 of the last 5 Mays Headships. They are 4th in the Lent Bumps and Head of the River in the Mays.