Open main menu

The May Bumps (also May Races, Mays) are a set of rowing races, held annually on the River Cam in Cambridge. They began in 1887 after separating from the Lent Bumps, the equivalent bumping races held at the end of February or start of March. Prior to the separation there had been a single set of annual bumps dating from its inception in 1827.[1] The races are open to all college boat clubs from the University of Cambridge, the University Medical and Veterinary Schools and Anglia Ruskin Boat Club. The May Bumps takes place over four days (Wednesday to Saturday) in mid-June and is run as a bumps race.

The most recent in the series was the May Bumps 2019, which ran from 12 June 2019 until 15 June 2019.

1st & 3rd Trinity II about to bump Caius II to go top of the 2nd division on day 2 of the 2005 May Bumps.


Structure of the May BumpsEdit

Downing II getting bumped by Fitzwilliam during the May Bumps 2006.

The races are run in divisions, each containing 17 crews. The number of crews in each bottom division varies yearly depending on new entrants.[2] Each crew contains 8 rowers and one coxswain. A total of 154 crews took part in 2014, totalling around 1390 participants. There are currently 6 divisions for men's crews (referred to as M1, M2....M6) and 4 divisions for women's crews (similarly W1-W4). The divisions represent a total race order with Division 1 at the top. The ultimate aim is to try and finish Head of the River (also said as gaining the 'Headship'), i.e. 1st position in division 1.

At the start, signalled by a cannon, each crew is separated by a distance of about 1½ boat lengths (approximately 30m or 90'). Once the race has begun, a crew must attempt to catch up with the crew ahead of it and bump (physically touch or overtake) it before the crew behind does the same to them. A crew which bumps or is bumped must pull to the side of the river to allow all the other crews to continue racing. If a crew is able to catch and bump the boat which started 3 places in front of it, after the two in front have already bumped out, the crew is said to have over-bumped. A crew which neither bumps a crew ahead nor is bumped by a crew behind before crossing the finishing post is said to have rowed over.

After the race, any crew which bumps or over-bumps swaps places with the crew that it has bumped for the following day's racing. A crew which rows over stays in the same position. Crews finishing at the top of a division also :at the bottom of the next division, as the sandwich boat, in an attempt to try to move up into the next division. The process is repeated over four days, allowing crews to move up or down several places in the overall order of boats. The finishing order of one year's May Bumps are then used as the starting order of the following year's races.

Crews finishing Head of the RiverEdit

Men's May Bumps (1887-2019)Edit

1887 Trinity Hall 1888 Trinity Hall 1889 3rd Trinity 1890 Trinity Hall 1891 Trinity Hall 1892 Trinity Hall
1893 3rd Trinity 1894 Trinity Hall 1895 Trinity Hall 1896 Trinity Hall 1897 3rd Trinity 1898 1st Trinity
1899 1st Trinity 1900 1st Trinity 1901 3rd Trinity 1902 3rd Trinity 1903 3rd Trinity 1904 3rd Trinity
1905 3rd Trinity 1906 3rd Trinity 1907 Trinity Hall 1908 Trinity Hall 1909 Jesus 1910 Jesus
1911 1st Trinity 1912 Jesus 1913 Jesus 1914 Jesus 1919 3rd Trinity 1920 Jesus
1921 Jesus 1922 Jesus 1923 Pembroke 1924 Jesus 1925 Jesus 1926 Lady Margaret
1927 Jesus 1928 1st Trinity 1929 3rd Trinity 1930 Jesus 1931 Pembroke 1932 Pembroke
1933 Pembroke 1934 Pembroke 1935 Jesus 1936 Jesus 1937 Jesus 1938 Jesus
1939 Jesus 1941 Clare 1942 Clare 1943 Clare 1944 Clare 1945 1st & 3rd Trinity
1946 Trinity Hall 1947 Jesus 1948 Jesus 1949 Clare 1950 Lady Margaret 1951 Lady Margaret
1952 Lady Margaret 1953 Lady Margaret 1954 Lady Margaret 1955 Jesus 1956 Jesus 1957 Jesus
1958 Jesus 1959 Lady Margaret 1960 Lady Margaret 1961 Lady Margaret 1962 Queens' 1963 Queens'
1964 1st & 3rd Trinity 1965 1st & 3rd Trinity 1966 1st & 3rd Trinity 1967 1st & 3rd Trinity 1968 Queens' 1969 Fitzwilliam
1970 Fitzwilliam 1971 Fitzwilliam 1972 Jesus 1973 1st & 3rd Trinity 1974 Lady Margaret 1975 Lady Margaret
1976 Pembroke 1977 Pembroke 1978 Pembroke 1979 Lady Margaret 1980 Lady Margaret 1981 Lady Margaret
1982 Downing 1983 Lady Margaret 1984 Downing 1985 Pembroke 1986 Pembroke 1987 Caius
1988 Lady Margaret 1989 Lady Margaret 1990 Downing 1991 Downing 1992 Trinity Hall 1993 Trinity Hall
1994 Trinity Hall 1995 Trinity Hall 1996 Downing 1997 Downing 1998 Caius 1999 Caius
2000 Caius 2001 Emmanuel 2002 Caius 2003 Caius 2004 Caius 2005 Caius
2006 Caius 2007 Caius 2008 1st & 3rd Trinity 2009 1st & 3rd Trinity 2010 1st & 3rd Trinity 2011 Caius
2012 Caius 2013 Caius 2014 Caius 2015 Caius 2016 Lady Margaret 2017 Lady Margaret
2018 Lady Margaret 2019 Caius

NB. May Bumps were cancelled between 1915 and 1918, and in 1940 due to war.[1] Prior to 1946 1st & 3rd Trinity were two separate rowing clubs: 1st Trinity and 3rd Trinity, hence both separate and combined titles.[3]

Women's May Bumps (1974-2019)Edit

1974 Clare 1975 Newnham 1976 Newnham 1977 New Hall 1978 Churchill 1979 Clare
1980 Clare 1981 New Hall 1982 Trinity Hall 1983 Trinity Hall 1984 New Hall 1985 Churchill
1986 Churchill 1987 Churchill 1988 Jesus 1989 Churchill 1990 Churchill 1991 Lady Margaret
1992 Lady Margaret 1993 Jesus 1994 Jesus 1995 Emmanuel 1996 Emmanuel 1997 Pembroke
1998 Pembroke 1999 Emmanuel 2000 Caius 2001 Caius 2002 Caius 2003 Newnham
2004 Emmanuel 2005 Jesus 2006 Pembroke 2007 Jesus 2008 Pembroke 2009 Pembroke
2010 Pembroke 2011 Downing 2012 Downing 2013 Clare 2014 Downing 2015 Downing
2016 Downing 2017 Jesus 2018 Jesus 2019 Newnham

NB. The Women's May Bumps were rowed in coxed-fours between 1974 and 1989, changing to coxed-eights from 1990 onwards. A new start order was used for the women's 1990 races.[1]

Table of Winning Boats (1887-2019)Edit

Sixteen boats have been head of the river.

Blade Boat Head of the River : Men Head of the River : Women Head of the River : Total Winning Years : Men Winning Years : Women
1909, 1910, 1912–14, 1920–22, 1924–25, 1927, 1930, 1935–39, 1947–48, 1955–58, 1972 1988, 1993–94, 2005, 2007, 2017–2018
Trinity (Combined)
1889, 1893, 1897–1906, 1911, 1919, 1928–29, 1945, 1964–67, 1973, 2008–10 -
  Lady Margaret
1926, 1950–54, 1959–61, 1974–75, 1979–81, 1983, 1988–89, 2016–18 1991–92
1987, 1998–2000, 2002–07, 2011–15, 2019 2000–02
  Trinity Hall
1887–88, 1890–92, 1894–96, 1907–08, 1946, 1992–95 1982–83
1923, 1931–34, 1976–78, 1985–86 1997–98, 2006, 2008–10
3rd Trinity
1889, 1893, 1901–06, 1929 n/a
1982, 1984, 1990–91, 1996–97 2011–12, 2014–16
  1st & 3rd Trinity
1945, 1964–67, 1973, 2008–10
1941–44, 1949 1974, 1979–1980, 2013
1978, 1985–87, 1989–90
2001 1995–96, 1999, 2004
1st Trinity
1898–1900, 1911, 1928 n/a
n/a 1975–76, 2003, 2019
  New Hall (now Murray Edwards)
n/a 1977, 1981, 1984
1962–63, 1968

NB. Prior to 1946 1st & 3rd Trinity were two separate rowing clubs: 1st Trinity and 3rd Trinity, hence both separate and combined titles.[3]

CCAT, Christ's, Clare Hall, Corpus Christi, Darwin, Girton, Homerton, Hughes Hall, King's, Magdalene, Peterhouse, Robinson, St. Catharine's, Selwyn, Sidney Sussex, St Edmund's, Wolfson, Addenbrooke's and the Veterinary School are the regular entrants never to have finished Head of the River for either the men's or women's events.

Blades, Super-Blades, Technical Blades, and SpoonsEdit

Four boat 'awards' are informally/formally recognised by the individual college boat clubs that take part in the Cambridge May Bumps, these accolades are awarded as follows:

  • Blades - The accolade of earning 'blades' (referring to the rowing oars used by crews) is given to crews that bump up on every day of the May bumps (alternately 4 bump ups for boats in the 'Sandwich Division'). Crews that achieve blades are often given the opportunity to purchase decoratory oars from their college boat club, to serve as a reminder of their contribution to the club's success. For most college rowers, who do not attempt to become University Blues rowers, earning blades is the highest rowing related achievement that can be obtained. Obtaining blades is a rare occurrence. Crews who obtain blades are often photographed and recorded on the walls of the college boathouse to serve as a longer term reminder of their success, and to inspire future generations of college rowers. In the occasion that a crew earns blades, they also earn the right to row back to their college boathouse on the last day of the calendar with their college flag raised high; this practise allows for recognition of the (significant) achievement by members of other college boat clubs and the general public watching the races.
  • Super-Blades - In the event that a crew bumps and/or overbumps on the river 4 times (with no row overs/bumping down) they are said to have earned 'super-blades'. This is obviously a higher distinction that standard 'Blades' but is of course rarer due to the particularly circumstantial nature of the award, and the ability of the super-bladed crew that is required.
  • Technical Blades - In the case that a crew does not bump up on each day of rowing (at least), but does manage to bump up net 4 places in the overall standings over the course of the week, with no bumping down, i.e. 'making up' for any row overs with an overbump, then they are said to have qualified (at the discretion of the boatsperson at each college boat club) for 'Technical Blades'. Technical bladed rowers are usually afforded the same opportunity to obtain a ceremonial blade as those crews that obtain regular blades.
  • Spoons - This 'award' is obtained by crews that bump down on every day of the May bumps calendar. The awarding of spoons is an informal occasion by the crew captain, often this captain will actually buy a wooden spoon (decorated) for each crew member as a reminder that "at least they tried".

The Pegasus CupEdit

The Pegasus Cup is a Cambridge rowing prize first awarded in 2006. It was donated by Milton Brewery and will be awarded annually to the most successful college boat club competing in the Cambridge May Bumping Races. The winner is decided by means of a points system, which is described in the Cambridge University Combined Boat Club handbook as follows:

Pegasus Cup

The Cup is awarded to the Club gaining the most points over the course of the May Bumps. Points are awarded as follows:

  • One point for every place gained by each of a Club’s boats.
  • One point for each night that a Club retains the Men’s or Women’s Headship in Division One.
  • One point deducted for every place lost by each of a Club’s boats.

The total number of points gained over the four days of racing is multiplied by 12 and then divided by the number of boats entered by the Club to give the final score.[4]

To be eligible a club must have at least one men's and one women's boat (except in the case of single sex colleges where two boats of the same sex may be permitted).


2015 finishing positions (2016 starting positions)Edit

Caius M1 rowing over to claim the men's Headship in 2011.


Men's 1st DivisionEdit

  1. Caius [Rowed over head]
  2. Pembroke [Bumped: Jesus, Downing, Lady Margaret]
  3. Lady Margaret [Bumped: Downing; then bumped by Pembroke]
  4. Jesus [Bumped by: Pembroke, First and Third; then bumped First and Third, Downing to finish level]
  5. Downing [Bumped by: Lady Margaret, Pembroke, Jesus]
  6. 1st & 3rd Trinity [Bumped Jesus; then bumped by Jesus to finish level]
  7. Queens' [Bumped St. Catharine's]
  8. Clare [Bumped St. Catharine's]
  9. King's [Bumped St. Catharine's]
  10. Peterhouse [Bumped: Emmanuel, Christ's, St. Catharine's]
  11. St. Catharine's [Bumped by: Queens, Clare, King's, Peterhouse]
  12. Emmanuel [Bumped by Peterhouse; then bumped Christ's to finish level]
  13. Christ's [Bumped by Peterhouse, Emmanuel]
  14. Churchill [Bumped: Fitzwilliam]
  15. Magdalene [Bumped: Fitzwilliam]
  16. Selwyn [Bumped: Girton, Fitzwilliam]
  17. Robinson [Bumped: Girton, Fitzwilliam]
Downing W1 with the Women's Headship in 2011

Women's 1st DivisionEdit

  1. Downing [Rowed over head]
  2. Caius
  3. Emmanuel
  4. Jesus [Bumped: Clare]
  5. 1st & 3rd Trinity [Bumped: Clare]
  6. Clare [Bumped by Jesus, First and Third]
  7. Christ's [Bumped: Queens', Lady Margaret, Newnham]
  8. Girton [Bumped: Queens', Lady Margaret, Newnham]
  9. Newnham [Bumped by Christ's, Girton]
  10. Lady Margaret [Bumped by Christ's, Girton]
  11. Pembroke [Bumped: Queens]
  12. Churchill [Bumped: St. Catharine's, Peterhouse, Queens']
  13. Queens' [Spoons. Bumped by Christ's, Girton, Pembroke, Churchill]
  14. Jesus II [Blades. Bumped: Trinity Hall, Murray Edwards, Selwyn, St. Catharine's, Peterhouse]
  15. Peterhouse [Bumped by Churchill, Jesus II]
  16. King's [Bumped: Trinity Hall, Murray Edwards, Selwyn, St. Catharine's]
  17. St. Catharine's [Bumped by Churchill, Jesus II, King's]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c John Durack, George Gilbert & Dr John Marks, The Bumps: An Account of the Cambridge University Bumping Races 1827–1999, 2000. ISBN 0-9538475-1-9.
  2. ^ "May Bumps Getting-On Race". Cambridge University Combined Boat Clubs. Retrieved April 11, 2012.
  3. ^ a b First and Third Trinity Boat Club.
  4. ^ "Pegasus Cup". CUCBC Handbook. CUCBC. Retrieved 2009-06-05.
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Summary results". Cam FM. Retrieved 17 June 2018.
  7. ^ [1], CUCBC.
  • Durack, John; Gilbert, George; Marks, John (2000). The bumps : an account of the Cambridge University bumping races, 1827-1999. Cambridge: G. Gilbert. ISBN 9780953847501.

External linksEdit