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Summer VIIIs 

Summer VIIIs is the largest bumps race in Oxford, taking place in 5th week of Trinity Term. With its roots dating back as far as 1815, it is one of the earliest examples of amateur racing in the country. The unusual back to back racing format started as a result of the Isis being too narrow for standard side by side races. The current competition is similar to Torpids with crews racing over the same 1.8km course, trying to bump the boat in front whilst avoiding the crew behind. All boats compete for the coveted position of ‘head of the river’ at the top of division 1. 

Around 1800 people participate annually across 7 men’s and 6 women’s divisions, each consisting of 13 crews, and over 10,000 spectators come to watch on the final day alone. With blues rowers returning to their college crews after their efforts in the Varsity races against Cambridge the standard is high. Like Torpids, Summer VIIIs also spans 4 days from Wednesday to Saturday with crews racing on every day. However, there is a difference in the rules between Torpids and Summer VIIIs: a boat stops racing if it ‘bumps’ or is ‘bumped’, leading to concessions being rare and contact between boats very common. It also means that winning blades (bumping on all 4 days without being bumped) is a lot more difficult. 

Recent Performance

Summer VIIIs is a competition in which Mansfield has punched well above its weight during the last few years. Consistently impressive racing from our M1 saw them conquer division 2 to reach a record high position of 3rd place by the end of 2016. Some tough competition and a lack of returning athletes meant that in 2017 and 2018 we struggled to hold our own against some larger clubs, but in the most recent regatta the hard work and long hours training finally paid off: we were able to hold off strong M1 crews from Merton and Lincoln, as well as secure an early bump on Worcester to retain a position in mid-division 2.  

Courageous racing from our W1 in 2016 and 2017 saw them reach the same heights as the M1, achieving a 3rd place finish in division 2. Unfortunately, some very fast crews moving up the division in 2018 saw us struggle to hold our position but a strong row over on the Saturday resulted in a respectable 6th place finish. Most recently, the W1 started the week impressively with a bump on Lincoln, followed by a row over as a result of Linacre bumping out ahead of us on day 2. The second half of the week was not quite as successful, with strong crews behind making it tough to make much ground on some weaker boats in front. Our girls refused to give in easily though, making St Catz and Trinity chase them all the way down Greenbanks, and proving themselves a competitive division 2 crew. 

Our second boats have also been competitive, with the W2 fighting their way up division 5 to a record 3rd place in 2017. After struggling in 2018 our girls most recently put out a very impressive performance: they first had to qualify in rowing on, but this was no problem as they destroyed the competition, putting out the second fastest time trial only 1 second behind the leader. Crews bumping out ahead of them and an unlucky encounter with a tree regrettably stalled their progress up the bumps chart early in the week, but our girls came back on Saturday with a vengeance, achieving a bump on Keble before Donnington Bridge to bring a net movement of 0 for the week, and an assured spot in division 5.  

After a net increase of 13 places in just two years, the M2 won blades by bumping up into fixed divisions for the first time in 2016. The problems with numbers on the men’s side over the last couple of years has meant that our M2 has struggled to defend their place in division 5, but with a solid foundation of returning athletes going into the new academic year things are looking more hopeful for the men’s side in 2020.