The Torpids is one of two bumping boat races in Oxford’s rowing calendar. The other is the Summer Eights.
Oxford‘s Torpids take place annually about the 7th week of Hilary Term (around the start of March) on four successive days from Wednesday to Saturday.
The racing takes place on The Isis, a length of the River Thames in Oxford, which is generally too narrow for side-by-side racing, so the races follow the ‘Bumps’ format, a form of rowing race in which several boats chase each other in single file, where the aim to catch and ‘bump’ the boat ahead to climb the rankings.
For each division, twelve boats line up at the downstream end of the stretch (near Donnington Bridge), each cox holding onto a rope attached to the bank, leaving around 1.5 lengths between each. The start of racing is signalled by the firing of a cannon. There are three gun signals – a five-minute gun, a one-minute gun and the starting gun.
Once a bump has occurred, both crews involved in the bump stop racing and move to the side to allow the rest of the division to pass. The ultimate aim of a crew is to become ‘Head of the River’ (top of the first division) and stay there.
It is possible to ‘over bump’ if the 2 crews in front of your boat bump (and so drop out), and your boat can catch the one in front of them. They then swap places for the next race on the next calendar day or the first day of racing in the following year’s competition.
As always, expect the banks of the Isis to be packed full of spectators watching as the oars slice through the serene waters of the Isis.
Oxford University Rowing Clubs is the body within the University of Oxford that has authority over the conduct of all college crews and is responsible for organising inter-collegiate contests.
It is a confederation of the college boat clubs and the University squads Oxford University Boat Club (OUBC), Oxford University Women’s Boat Club (OUWBC), The Oxford University Lightweight Rowing Club (OULRC), and the Oxford University Women’s Lightweight Rowing Club (OUWLRC).