The Bumps takes place twice a year, towards the end of the Lent Term (“Lents”) and towards the end of the Easter Term (“Mays”). From the speed and technique of the first division down to the amusement and chaos of the lower divisions, each race has something to offer both the spectator and competitor alike.

Each division has eighteen boats that start a length and a half apart, all at the same time. If a boat makes contact with, or overtakes, the boat ahead of it, a ‘bump’ is made, the two boats draw into the bank and swap starting order the following day. The races take place over four days and starting places on the first day are carried over from the previous year (the Lents and Mays divisions are separate).

The start

The boats start a length and a half apart. There are three guns at the start. Two warning guns are fired at four and one minute before the start, the third gun is the start.

The finish

For nearly all boats the first eight in each division row to Chesterton Bridge and the remainder finish at Morley’s Holt. The ninth boat can finish at either post.

The exception is the two lowest divisions (usually M5 and W4) in Lents, where the first eight crews race to The Railings and the remainder race to the top of the The Reach. Again, the ninth boat can finish at either line.

Bumps Terminology


One boat overtakes or makes contact with the boat in front of it.


This occurs when a crew neither bumps, nor gets bumped. It starts at the same place the following day.


If a crew bumps out (catching the crew in front of it), the boat behind can try and catch the crew that started three places in front of it.

Sandwich Boat

The crew that ends up at the top of a division takes part at the bottom of the next division on the same day. If the sandwich boat bumps in the higher division it stays there – if it rows over, it must row as the top boat in the original division on the following day.


If a crew bumps or over-bumps on all four days they are awarded “blades”. This gives them the right to purchase racing blades painted in college colours with the crew list and race results written on them.

If a crew moves up four or more places over the four days of racing without bumping every day, but without being bumped either, they may be awarded “discretionary blades”, at the discretion of the Captain of Boats.

The most recent Blades were achieved by Sidney Women’s First (left) and Second (right) Boats in Mays 2023.


If a crew is bumped every day, or goes down four or more places, they are awarded “spoons”. This gives them the right to purchase wooden spoons painted in college colours with the crew list and race results written on them.

The most recent Spoons was “achieved” by Sidney Women’s Second Boat May 2017.

Women’s Second Boat with their Spoons.

For even more details, please refer to CUCBC’s Bumps information.