Last week saw 5 Brasenose crews take to the water for this years’ Summer Eights bumps competition. Over 160 crews from 35 different colleges took part in 4 days of action-packed and adrenaline-filled bumps racing along the 1.5km long stretch of Thames, locally referred to as the Isis.
This traditional style of Oxford student rowing involves the crews (8 rowers and 1 cox) chasing each other down and aim to “bump” or at least overlap the one in front until they concede. The next day the crews that bump switch positions and they go again. If you bump up every day it’s called “wining blades” and it is an amazing feat. If you get bumped every day, you will have unfortunately “won spoons”. With no exemptions for crashes or mechanical problems, this form of racing can be as brutal and unforgiving as it is thrilling.
Brasenose entered three women’s crews and two men’s crews this year and all five crews enjoyed success, making us the (joint) second most successful college in Oxford, with an average of 1.8 places gained per crew. All crews either maintained their position or gained places, which is a testament to the strength and depth of this year’s squads, the organisation prowess of the captains and the dedication of the athletes throughout the long cold winter months. This is even more impressive, given that the majority of rowers had never stepped in a rowing boat this time last year!
Brasenose’s men’s first VIII secured a place in division 2 over the course of VIIIs, after starting at the top of Division 3 on the first day. Their position as sandwich boat meant that for the first three days, M1 rowed not just once but twice every day, and for days one and two, rowed the full course in both races, with an easy row over ahead of Christchurch M2 in division 3 on days one and two but very close row overs at the bottom of division 2 meaning that they did not fully secure their place in Division 2 until day 3, when they rowed over ahead of St John’s M1 and bumped a plummeting Mansfield M1 (on their way to spoons). The last day saw Brasenose M1 row only once for the first time all week, rowing over and securing a place at the bottom of Division 2 for next year.
The women’s first VIII also had a positive VIIIs campaign – one-upping the men to go +2 over the course of the week. Starting 4th in division 3, W1 rowed over the first two days, chased by Corpus Christi W1 and chasing first St Peters and then Merton W1, who they managed to bump on day 3. They followed up this success with a bump on Wolfson W2 on the final day of VIIIs, bringing them to second in their division by the end of the week. Although the crew, like M1, will say goodbye to several of its finalist members at the end of this year, next year they will hope to come back just as strong and hopefully build on the success of this year and bump up to Division 2!
The women’s second VIII started the week right at the bottom of division 4, and proved they had nothing to be afraid of in the fixed divisions as they bumped Regent’s Park W1 on the first day right off the start. They had only rowed about 10 strokes before achieving a row-past on Regent’s, who had taken an unfortunate line straight into the bank. W2 replicated this strong start on the second day, bumping Wolfson W3 in the middle gut. Their row over on day three, surrounded by clear water on both sides, saw them row more than half the course for the first time all week, and they did the same on the final day after holding significant overlap on John’s W2 up until the gut, with only John’s cox’s gutsy refusal to concede preventing their bump and instead leading to a row over that saw John’s never get more than a boat length away from Brasenose. Their bumps campaign ended in +2, a very positive result for a boat that had all been novices in Michaelmas.
Although a last-minute scratch crew, the Brasenose women’s third boat should not be overlooked. W3, a composite with St Peters’ became history-makers: their row over on the first day made them the first composite crew in VIIIs history to not be bumped on day one, and they went even further to become the first composite crew to ever get a bump, as they caught up to Wadham III for a bow on stern bump on the second day. Their second two days saw them be bumped by Wadham III and then row over on the last day, (meaning they neither bumped nor were bumped), overall leading to a net 0 week – a very positive result for a crew who did not have the same eight people any day, and who had rowed as a crew less than three times before the start of their bumps campaign!
Brasenose men’s second VIII had the most successful week of all, winning blades – a feat not accomplished by the men’s second boat since 2005. Their first day saw them bump Queens’ M2, whilst on the second day they bumped Merton M2 to reach the top of division 5. An unfortunate klaxon preventing them from being able to secure a place in division 4 on day 2, but this was simply delaying the inevitable. On day 3 M2 rowed over, easily escaping Merton, to then bump Lincoln M2 before Donny Bridge on the third day (luckily before their race was once again klaxoned due to swans in the racing line). The final day brought yet another klaxoned Men’s Division 4 race, and having not heard an announcement of a bump over the tannoy, spectators at the boathouse feared that M2’s blades hopes had been defeated. However, M2 had in fact bumped Jesus M2 halfway up the bunglines, so early that we did not know that they had in fact gone +4 and won blades until their triumphant return!
Overall, BNCBC ended up joint second with Worcester on a net score of +9 for the week, with every single boat ending on a positive score which was an incredible achievement. For the first time since 1992, Brasenose has four boats that will be in fixed divisions and not have to row on (qualify in time trials) next year, as both M2 and W2 secured their places in Division 4. The successes of the bumps campaign were celebrated in style on the Saturday of VIIIs, as tradition dictates, the rowers threw their coxes into the river before jumping into the Isis to join them for a swim, before heading back to college for a lovely black tie dinner and then drinks in the college bar. Such an overwhelmingly positive VIIIs week bodes really well for the 2023/4 rowing season, when Torpids and Summer VIIIs will no doubt see further successes from
Hattie Altaparmakova, the incoming 23-24 Women’s captain wrote:
“Having never rowed before starting my first year in October, I wouldn’t have believed it if someone told me it would become such a central part of my uni life by the end of my first year! I think the same goes for most people in the boat club – only one member of each of the boats we had racing in summer VIIIs had ever rowed before coming to Brasenose, and 7 out of 8 members of each of the second boats, including myself and the other incoming captains, only started rowing this year. Our home-grown rowers had such a strong campaign that you’d never know they hadn’t been rowing for years – blades for M2, and no negative results for any boat made it a massively successful week!“
Ollie Burgess, the 2022-23 vice-captain wrote:
“Summer VIIIs this year was fantastic for the club as a whole. Our second boats were almost entirely filled with people who’d learnt to row in Michaelmas-term, and they performed exceptionally well (particularly M2 who got blades)! Almost everyone in the club started rowing or coxing when they came to Oxford, and we were still the second-best performing club in the uni. We’re looking forward to training up even more novices next year and continuing this trajectory”.
Undergraduate and Graduate freshers will be able to try out rowing, alongside many other college sports, during fresher’s week in October and current students are also welcome to join. Let’s hope 2023-4 is another strong one for BNCBC.