the ‘BUMPS’ – Rowing races

There are two University Bumps: The ‘Lent’ Bumps in late February/early March. The  ‘May’ Bumps usually mid-June.   In addition, the local rowing clubs have a ‘Town’ Bumps in July.   Side-by-side racing is not possible over what is sometimes a narrow and winding River Cam, so the ‘bumping’ races were introduced in the early 19th century as an exciting alternative.  The objective is to catch and ‘bump’ the boat in front.

Bumps Spectators - Plough Reach
Bumps Spectators - Plough Reach

At the start of the bumping races, crews line up, in their finishing order of the previous year, along the river with one and a half boat lengths of clear water between them. On the start signal (the firing of a cannon) they chase each other up the river. On a calm day the sound of the cannon can be heard at The Plough, giving spectators a few minutes warning a race is on the way. When a bump occurs (when one crew is touched by its chasing crew), they pull over to allow the other crews to continue racing. The next day, all crews involved in a bump swap places and the race is run again. After the days of racing, the aim of the top crews is to be at the “head of the river,” i.e. to lead the first division. Lower crews cannot expect to achieve this, however crews can win their “blades” by bumping up every day.

Although the bumps are split into divisions of boats, the top boat of each lower division also races as the bottom boat of the next division (“sandwich boat”) giving them the opportunity to jump up into the next division. Thus a continuous chart can be drawn mapping the progress of all of crews.

The Lent (late February/early March) bumping races are run over five days but not all divisions race each day. The May bumps (June) are run over four days. The ‘Town’ bu,mps run in July are run during weekday evenings to allow participants to work during the dayand then race in the evenings.  Bumps Programmes are a great way of finding out about the races, and are available to purchase (during bumps) from us aboard the boats at The Plough  Fen Ditton. The programmes describe the course, race times, crew lists and starting order as at the beginning of the week.

Camboats offer two types of trips 

on ‘bumps’ race days.

Exclusive private tour from Jesus Lock near the city centre downstream to The Plough, an ideal spot to join locals and rowing teams as they watch the races go past. This is timed to get you confortably to The Plough at Fen Ditton to ensure the river is then empty before the first race. After the last race take the return leg cruise back upstream to the city centre – avoiding the queues of traffic.  Contact us for details of this unique river trip package.

During the races we also provide a river crossing ferry service to allow spectators to hop across from The Plough to the towpath.  Thus you can then walk along the towpath to catch the race starts near the A14 road bridge, then back across the river to the facilities at the pub. The profits from this ferry service are donated by Camboats to the East Anglian Children’s Hospices (based in Cambridge) and The Royal National Lifeboat Association (R.N.L.I.).  

Check the public trip timetable for exact dates and times.

Lots of action can be seen by spectators from The Plough

Bumps Clare having bumped at Plough
Bumps Clare having bumped at Plough
Bumps - Wolfson doing practice start Plough
Bumps - Wolfson doing practice start Plough
Bumps - Corpus Christi doing practice start Plough
Bumps - Corpus Christi doing practice start Plough
Bumps river ferry
Bumps river ferry

Simply the best unique river boat trips on the River Cam, Cambridge and beyond !