By Tara Diviney
Rowing is one of the quintessential ‘Oxford sports’ that is embedded in the city’s history and culture. The Annual Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race, a 7km race on the Thames between Oxford and Cambridge university crews, is one of the most highly anticipated rowing events of the year in the UK and televised to millions of people around the world.
In my opinion, there is no better place to start rowing than in Oxford. Rowing is fantastic for getting fit and build strength but, most importantly, it’s a fun way to meet new people, undergraduates and graduates inside and also outside of college. Even the early morning training has its perks - lots of sunrise snaps for Instagram being one! There are many opportunities to join rowing in Oxford at both a college and university level. Joining the Women’s rowing team at St. John’s college and the University development squad was one of the best things I have done since I started studying in Oxford. I have met some of my best friends here through rowing, when you only have each other to rely on to keep the boat afloat, you bond very quickly!
The biggest event of the Oxford Rowing calendar in Hillary Term is Torpids, or Bumps racing. The aim of Bumps racing is exactly what it says on the tin: bump (or overtake) the boat that is rowing ahead of you and don’t get bumped by the crew who is coming behind you. Over four days, crews from various Oxford colleges will battle it out on the Isis to be crowned the ‘Head of the River’, the overall winner of the competition, or to be awarded ‘Blades’ for bumping on all four days of the competition. Bumps racing is a format completely unique to Oxbridge and although direct collisions are rare, the clashing blades and fast racing pace makes for entertaining shenanigans on the water and nail biting finishes. Torpids is said to have originated in 1838 because the Isis is too narrow for side by side racing and has grown into a quirky, well- loved sporting tradition.
This year, Bumps are taking place from the Wednesday 26th to Saturday 29th of February.
Even if you don't know anything about rowing, I would encourage anyone to go to Torpids to cheer on their college crew and soak up the lively atmosphere on the banks of the River Isis!