The Oxford City bumps are rowed in IV's (including bowloaders!), with two men's and two women's divisions each rowed four times, all in one day. Because it is IV's, and only 13 boats to a division, the half hour spacing between divisions works fine. They are rowed to "Torpids rules" which we (we?!?) in Cambridge know nothing of: the boat bumped keeps going. These are the same rules used in the Torpids (== Lent) bumps; the university summer eights are rowed to "the usual" rules. As it fell out, these rules worked well for us, in the sense of making the racing more interesting. Oh, and the bumps are non-contact: if there is overlap, the umpire on the bank whistles and the bump is given. This works.
We started 3rd in division 2. Start order Tabs 2, CORC Heavyweight developement, Us, Tabs 3, etc. As it happened, Tabs 3 were mostly the good half of their second summer VIII, which is well ahead of our first VIII. And so they caught us fairly soon (just on the exit from the gut) and very definitely. But due to the Torpids rules, we had our chance to row on and try to bump CORC. Which we stuffed up - one of our number de-seated when we were a canvas down and gaining rapidly. But otherwise, it was a pretty good row.
In the course of waiting for the start - Mike P-J was our poleman - I remembered why Oxford bumps don't do the push-off-at-20-secs that Cambridge do: its because the banks are too high to allow you to get your blades on them. That means (as I remember well) lots of tapping on and nerves before the start if there is wind or stream. Fortunately today there was little of either.
We started 4th except, confusingly, the sandwich boat wasn't there as boat 1, so we were the 3rd physical boat on the river. Never mind, we're off. As expected Tabs 3 caught CORC in the gut. With a bit of experience of this kind of thing under our belt we realised that (a) CORC had a start but would fade rapidly after the gut and (b) rowing in puddles is hard (perhaps especially in a IV?). So the cunning plan, on leaving the gut, was to pick whichever side of the reach CORC didn't and get them. And so it was; I think we got them half way up the reach. Abingdon had held station behind us and even looked threatening once but (to our surprise) didn't go on to catch CORC.
Incidentally, if we had managed to catch CORC in round 1, all that would have happened in this division was that we'd have rowed over behind Tabs. So, Will, all is forgiven.
This is the one that (in retrospect) we really stuffed up. It turned out that the missing sandwich boat from round 2 was Claire's Court School who (perhaps not used to bumps sandwich boats) hadn't realised they were now in div 2. So they got bumped down to 4th. So the start order is now: sandwich boat, us, CORC, Claire's, etc. And the sandwich boat was Jesus. I've always wanted to bump Jesus. We knew nowt about them, except that they were slower than Tabs, but that wasn't saying much.
To cut to the chase: we rowed well and got to perhaps a half length at the top of the reach (look at the video, its great). But when they crossed over and we were again in their puddles we were unable to close the gap. And (to give them credit) they held up well under pressure and kept us at bay. So (having pondered this) what I'm now sure of is that we should have pushed much harder and pretty well thrown everything at them down the reach when we had the chance to get overlap in clean water.
Claire's Court caught CORC, and Jesus didn't bump up, so we were chasing them again but now with a fast boat behind us. And they proved fast enough to get us. But, the glories of Torpids rules meant we didn't have to worry about that: we could continue with our grudge match against Jesus. But despite our rowing at least as well, and probably better than, last round; and them having been sandwich boat in between; Jesus held us off again.
[Oh, and looking at the results, I remember: the some-what disappointment of this, over and above the not-bump, was that Jesus rowed as sandwich boat and caught Press; and since we were faster than Jesus, we'd have done that too, if we'd got Jesus in either round 3 or 4. Ah well, that's the bumps.]
And so we ended up with one real bump up, one technical bump up, and two down, for a net gain of zero. But no! We gained a great day out and a lot of fun and entirely new rowing. We'll be back next year.
Oh, did I introduce the crew? We were:
- Mr Wykeham, the Cantab Calamari
- Mr Holland, the Tentacled Sucker. Then follows the better educated stern:
- Dr Howard, the Legendary Kraken
- Dr Connolley, all Conquering Cephalopod. Then the quality drops right off:
- Mr Tidy, Tetrapussy