Eights Week, also known as Summer Eights, is a four-day regatta of bumps races which constitutes the University of Oxford's main intercollegiaterowing event of the year. The regatta takes place in May of each year, from the Wednesday to the Saturday of the fifth week of Trinity Term. Men's and women's coxed eights compete in separate divisions for their colleges, with some colleges entering as many as five crews for each sex.
Summer VIIIs has seven men's divisions alongside six for women's, encompassing a total of 171 boats and around 1,500 participants. Including the qualifying rounds, in which success is termed 'Rowing On', the number of participants in 2003 was over 1,800.
The racing takes place on the Isis, a length of the River Thames, which is generally too narrow for side by side racing. For each division, thirteen boats line up at the downstream end of the stretch, each cox holding onto a rope attached to the bank, leaving around 1.5 boat lengths between each boat. The start of racing is signalled by the firing of a cannon, each crew attempting to progress up their division by bumping the boat in front, while avoiding being bumped by the boat behind. Once a bump has taken place, both of the crews involved stop racing and move to the side to allow the rest of the division to pass. 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 boat that was in front of them. They then swap places for the next day's racing, whether that be the calendar day or the first day of racing in the next year's competition.
The ultimate aim of a crew is to become "Head of the River" (top of the first division) and stay there. This entitles the winning crew to commission trophy oars in their college colours with the names and weights of the successful crew on them — commonly called 'winning blades'. As this is only possible for crews already near the top of division one, another way to win blades is to bump on each day of the competition. As the responsibility for awarding blades to crews rests with the individual colleges concerned, there are slight differences in the criteria required.
The 'Double Headship' is an accolade awarded to any college finishing with both their men's and women's crews at the 'Head of the River' in their respective divisions. Pembroke College is the only college to have achieved a Double Headship in Eights, having both men's and women's crews at the Head of the River in 2003.
A silver 'Double Headship Trophy' was commissioned from the silversmith Peter Musson in 2003, to commemorate the historic occasion. Pembroke College retains this trophy.
The earliest-known scene of a race between two eight-oared boats at Oxford University. It has been suggested that the picture shows the "disputed bump" of 1822 in a race between Jesus College and Brasenose College, but this is uncertain.
Balliol College Men's 1st VIII rowing to take the Headship in 2008.