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.