Wolfson College Boat Club

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After Michaelmas, there are no novices anymore. Lent and Easter term are very similar, the basic procedure is as follows: At the beginning of term, trials are held. Technique, erg times and the ability to integrate in a crew decide over which boat you end up in. Now this is when the fun really begins! We aim to take part in as many regattas and head races we possibly can - it's a great way to get motivated and train for the biggest event on the rowing calendar: Bumps!

Bumps Racing

Bumps races are really quite simple: All participating boats are split up into several divisions with 17 boats each. Those 17 boats line up along the river according to the ranking of the last race of the last year, one and a half boat lengths apart, and set off at the same time. Their job is to bump - that is, physically contact - the boat in front of them before they get bumped by the boat behind them. Both the bumping and the bumped boat then stop rowing, as they're done with racing for that day; the victorious crew is then decorated with greenery collected from shrubs. Bumping boats move one up in the ranking, bumped ones move go down one. There is, of course, a third possibility: you neither bump nor get bumped, meaning you 'row over'.


It is hard to describe the excitement you feel just before bumps start. There's an actual miniature cannon marking 4 minutes to start, 1 minute to start and the start itself. As you hear the 4 minute cannon, your heart begins to race. Usually, crews do a team huddle, to focus your mind and strengthen the feeling of togetherness. At one minute to race start, you sit in the boat, breathing slowly, ready to go. You get pushed out with a long boat pole, and the cox takes care to align the boat properly. Then the cannon is heard for a last time, and you start racing. At that point, muscle memory takes over. Every stroke counts as you try to inch closer to that boat in front of you - cold hard determination will bring success. Coaches cycle alongside the boat, giving signals with a whistle: one whistle for one boat length distance, two whistles for half a boat length, three whistles for a canvas (the distance between the bow and the first rower), and continuous whistles for overlap. At that point the cox calls for a 'Bump in ten'. The next ten strokes are the most powerful ones you've ever taken. You bear down on the boat in front of you, and the cox steers your bow across their stern, giving you the bump you've been working so hard for.


The adrenaline rush when you you're told to stop rowing, indicating the cox of the other boat has conceded by holding up his hand, is incredible - so much so, in fact, that many crews are late to clear the river to let through the boats behind them, which can result in a fine and is therefore best avoided. It's probably this thing about hunting down the boat in front of you while running away from the one behind you that makes bumps so much more exciting than any timed or even side-by-side race you enter can ever be.


This racing format is repeated for 4 days, with the boats' starting order changed every day according to the bumps ranking. Crews that bump every single day win the coveted blades - a feat sure to be remembered for a long time. The boat is rowed up the river decorated with greenery, while the cox holds the college flag - the crew has achieved the maximum of glory possible for a college crew. It usually takes not only a very strong lineup, but also a bit of luck in terms of the distribution of slower and faster boats in front of you.

But even though Bumps is the culmination of both Lent and Easter term, it is by no means the be-all and end-all of Wolfson rowing. Socials also play a big role, culminating in the Boat Club Dinner after Lents and Mays.


Even inbetween terms and in summer, rowing goes on - with whoever is still in college at that point. One of the more noteworthy events is the Head of the River Race on the 'Championship Course' in London, most famously used for the Oxford / Cambridge Boat Race.