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28th February – 3rd March. 7th week

 (“Rowing On” [qualifying races] 23rd February)

Bumping races evolved in Oxford as the river is too narrow for normal side by side racing.

Competing crews start the race lined up in order, one behind another, with their coxes (the person who steers) holding ropes attached to the bank, with gaps of about 1.5 boat lengths between the bow (front) of one boat and the stern (back) of the one in front.

Racing is started by the firing of a cannon.

Crews attempt to progress up their division by hitting (‘bumping’) the boat in front without being hit by the boat behind, with the ultimate aim of becoming “Head Of The River” i.e. top of the first division. The Head of the River is awarded the Torpids Challenge Cup.

Once a bump has taken place, the crew whose boat was hit has to continue racing (and is liable to be bumped again) whilst the bumping crew moves to the side. This can lead to a crew moving down several places during a day’s racing. This is the principal difference in the rules between Torpids and Summer Eights, where both crews stop racing.

The name ‘Torpids’ derives from the event’s origins as a race for the second boats of the colleges, which were of course slower than the first boats. The status of the event – still adjudged below that of Summer Eights on account of the absence of varsity oarsmen and women – only began to rise at the very end of the nineteenth century, when colleges began to form first boats to compete. Nowadays there is no limit on the number of boats a college may enter, although crews in the last two divisions and crews without a position have to qualify to race by competing in a timed race the preceding Friday (24/2/17), known as ‘rowing on’.

courtesy Wikipedia (edited).