Bumps 2019: Day One, I’m in the Mood For Dancing.

On Monday night we bumped up. It sounds simple but that’s the clean-line of the bumps chart version. A straight sword-swipe upwards, crossing the downwards slash of the crew ahead while the crew in front of them followed the clean horizon of their row over. 

The clarity of memory… means you can slide the names into place along the boat, tag your emotions to each stroke and trace your finger along the lines of memory that radiate from the starting gun’s roar.

Looking at a Bumps chart can be mesmerising but it is the Flatworld version of the messy Four dimensional world of Bumps rowing. 

The multi-coloured Zorro strikes ignore the noise of the night, the choppy water, the fears and hopes of each crew member, and the gunpowder smoke framed in the churn of the motorway bridge.

It also ignores the weeks of training (or not) ahead of the Bumps. For our crew it started 8 weeks ago and since then the eight rowers, our cox and our coach have all rearranged our lives to turn up at the boathouse to put in the miles. Perfecting a start, worrying about how to transition from that hectic beginning routine into a sustainable race pace and worrying about how our aged bodies will cope with the whole, silly, tiring and amazing event. 

Being Chesterton Rowing Club‘s M2 we don’t have the pressure of being the club’s premiere men’s crew, nor do we have to race in the first division, being placed as we are snuggly in the middle of the second division. However we carry the weight of expectation after two years of very successful M2 Bumps rowing. Therefore getting the bump on day one was a great relief. It means:

  • the ephemeral hope of blades still floats like a spider web strand in the wind
  • the leaden dread of spoons has been removed.
  • We get to watch at least one video of us bumping, over and over again. 

The last one is narcissistic but an important part of why people come back year after year. The fog of memory is what enables you to unremember the nerves of each bumps start. You suppress the recollection of the increasing forboading on that first night in the row up to the start. But the clarity of memory, the crisp lines on the bump chart and the shaky video of your race let you remember that call of ‘Hold it up!’ as the cox in the crew ahead puts up their arm to concede the bump. It means you can slide the names into place along the boat, tag your emotions to each stroke and trace your finger along the lines of memory that radiate from the starting gun’s roar. 

Tonight we row again – it will be a memorable one whatever happens.


Monday’ results for us:

We were chased by: St Neots M2 (who were bumped by Radegund M1)

We chased and Bumped: Cantabs M6. It took approximately 1:45 seconds – covering around 500m plus. The water was dirty, the rate was forty. We carried with  us a newly found 45rpm vinyl single of the Nolans’ I’m in the Mood for Dancing.

Next race: Chasing City M6.

Our crew this year is:

Cox: Maddy Scragg

Stroke: Paul Holland

7: Simon Emmings

6: Jonathan Pilgrim

5: Ian Foster

4: Ralph Hancock

3: Brian Stevens

2: Dan McGreal

Bow: Ondrej Cervinka

The tenth man: Andy Southgate

Coach: Chris Clark

Subs: Dave Richards, Chris Wood, William Connolley

What are the Town Bumps ?

Bumps is a wet chaos and not something easily explained. For a quick video on the subject you could do worse than watch this (I apologies for my vocals on it – this concerns the University May and Lent bumps but the Town Bumps are the same, but with rowers whose dreams are long behind them and whose elbow skin is bunching in telling ways):

For more information see the Cambridgeshire Rowing Associations webpages.


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