Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Oxford Summer Eights

It's 'Eights Week' this week and if the sun keeps shining like it has done today, it's set to be an absolute ripper! For those of you who are not yet aware, the Oxford 'Summer Eights' is a rowing event comprising four days racing from Wednesday to Saturday of 5th week in Trinity term. This year Summer Eights will take place from the 23rd to 26th May, so head down to the Isis and join thousands of spectators, as they watch and cheer all the lycra-clad boaties battle it out for glory.

What is 'bumps' racing?
A bumps race is a form of rowing race where a number of boats chase each other in single file, with each boat attempting to catch and "bump" the boat in front without being caught by the boat behind. Bumps racing was adopted in Oxford because the Isis is narrow, making side-by-side racing impossible and is said to have been first devised at Eton College. From here, ex-students carried the race to Oxford and Cambridge.

During Summer Eights, thirteen boats compete in each division and begin the race lined up one behind the other. The starting position of each crew is carefully measured, allowing 1.5 boat lengths between each boat. The cox of each boat must hold a rope, anchored to the bank, to ensure that this position is maintained until the race begins. Once the cannon sounds, the rope is dropped and the boats sprint off in a single file, trying to catch the boat ahead. This makes for a very exciting and competitive race as boats move up the field very quickly. 

Oxford University Rowing Clubs: Blade designs 

'Bumping up'
It is not necessary for the boats to physically touch, (although they often do), the front of the chasing boat need only pass the boat infront. Once a bump has taken place, both crews must stop racing and move to the side of the river, allowing the rest of the division to pass them. Crews who successfully bump the boat in front of them (or 'bump up') exchange starting positions the following day.  (Initial starting positions are determined by where each crew finished the year before). 

'Head of the River'
The ultimate aim of a crew is to become 'Head of the River' (top of the first division), but crews who have successfully 'bumped up' each day are also awarded 'Blades.' These are trophy oars, painted in their college colours with all the names and weights of the successful crew emblazoned on them. Less sought after is the possibility of getting 'spoons', where the crew has been ‘bumped’ every single day. 

Race Times 
23 May     11:55am – 6:45pm,  from Iffley Lock to Folly Bridge
24 May     11:55am – 6:45pm, from Iffley Lock to Folly Bridge
25 May     1:00pm – 4:00pm, from Longbridges to Christchurch Meadow
26 May     10:55am – 5:45pm, from Iffley Lock to Folly Bridge

Note: You'll catch the best rowing between 5-7pm each day and Saturday should not be missed! 

Please remember that I too am new to all of this....so if I've confused any of the rules (or left any out), please enlighten us all in the comments section below!

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