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Eights Week, also known as Summer Eights, is a four-day regatta of bumps races which constitutes the University of Oxford's main intercollegiate rowing 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.
Early History of Eights
Although regular races between professional watermen had been known since 1715 when Doggett's Coat and Badge was instituted, amateur racing was unknown before 1808. The first such race may have been held in Yarmouth in that year. These races were, however, ‘scratch’ races between ad hoc crews entering on the day.
Meanwhile, recreational rowing had begun in Oxford very much earlier, with students rowing in single wherries at least as early as 1769.
The first amateur races between organised clubs which prepared and trained for the event began in Oxford in 1815. In this year, crews from Brasenose College and Jesus College raced for the Head of the River, from Iffley Lock to Mr King’s Barge, which was moored near the current Head of the River hotel. The event is also notable for the fact that both crews rowed in eight oared boats, specially built for the purpose. Such recreational as occurred at this time was usually conducted in pairs, or four or six oared cutters. The fact the racing was conducted in eight oared boats gave rise to the event being known as Eights.
Brasenose College and Jesus College recontested the event in 1816, with Brasenose again triumphing. Christ Church joined in the event from 1817, when they went Head, a position they retained until 1819.
Christ Church did not row in 1820, and it is unknown whether any racing occurred. The next recorded races, between Brasenose and Jesus, were in 1821 and 1822. A dispute about professional watermen being allowed in college crews precluded racing in 1823. Until this time, Jesus and Brasenose had each used paid coaches who rowed in the stroke seats of the crews.
From 1824, Christ Church and Exeter College began racing, with Exeter going Head in that year. A rule banning the use of “out college men” (i.e. men from other colleges) rowing in college crews saw the entry of Worcester College in 1825, University and Balliol Colleges in 1827, and Oriel and Trinity Colleges in 1828.
Men's Head of River
|5||St. Edmund Hall|
|3||The Queen's College|
|2||Corpus Christi College|
|2015||2014||Oriel College||2013||Pembroke College||2012||Oriel College||2011||Oriel College|
|2010||Christ Church||2009||Christ Church||2008||Balliol College||2007||Magdalen College||2006||Magdalen College|
|2005||Magdalen College||2004||Magdalen College||2003||Pembroke College||2002||Oriel College||2001||Oriel College|
|2000||Oriel College||1999||Oriel College||1998||Oriel College||1997||Oriel College||1996||Oriel College|
|1995||Pembroke College||1994||Oriel College||1993||Oriel College||1992||Oriel College||1991||University College|
|1990||University College||1989||Oriel College||1988||Oriel College||1987||Oriel College||1986||New College|
|1985||Christ Church||1984||Oriel College||1983||Oriel College||1982||Oriel College||1981||Oriel College|
|1980||Oriel College||1979||Oriel College||1978||Oriel College||1977||Keble College||1976||Oriel College|
|1975||Christ Church||1974||Christ Church||1973||Christ Church||1972||Keble College||1971||Christ Church|
|1970||Keble College||1969||Keble College||1968||Keble College||1967||Keble College||1966||Oriel College|
|1965||St. Edmund Hall||1964||St. Edmund Hall||1963||Keble College||1962||Christ Church||1961||St. Edmund Hall|
|1960||St. Edmund Hall||1959||St. Edmund Hall||1958||Christ Church||1957||Queen's College||1956||Balliol College|
|1955||Balliol College||1954||Magdalen College||1953||Magdalen College||1952||Balliol College||1951||Merton College|
|1950||New College||1949||Trinity College||1948||Trinity College||1947||Trinity College||1946||Trinity College|
|1940-45||No races due to World War II||1939||Trinity College||1938||Trinity College||1937||New College||1936||Oriel College|
|1935||Oriel College||1934||Oriel College||1933||Oriel College||1932||Magdalen College||1931||Brasenose|
|1930||Brasenose College||1929||Brasenose College||1928||Brasenose College||1927||Christ Church||1926||Christ Church|
|1925||Christ Church||1924||Christ Church||1923||Magdalen College||1922||New College||1921||New College|
|1920||Magdalen College||1915-19||No races due to World War I|
|1914||University College||1913||New College||1912||New College||1911||New College||1910||Magdalen College|
|1909||Christ Church||1908||Christ Church||1907||Christ Church||1906||Magdalen College||1905||Magdalen College|
|1904||New College||1903||New College||1902||University College||1901||New College||1900||Magdalen College|
|1899||New College||1898||New College||1897||New College||1896||New College||1895||Magdalen College|
|1894||Magdalen College||1893||Magdalen College||1892||Magdalen College||1891||Brasenose College||1890||Brasenose College|
|1889||Brasenose College||1888||Brasenose College||1887||New College||1886||Magdalen College||1885||Corpus Christi College|
|1884||Exeter College||1883||Exeter College||1882||Exeter College||1881||Hertford College||1880||Magdalen College|
|1879||Balliol College||1878||University College||1877||University College||1876||Brasenose College||1875||University College|
|1874||University College||1873||Balliol College||1872||Pembroke College||1871||University College||1870||University College|
|1869||University College||1868||Corpus Christi College||1867||Brasenose College||1866||Brasenose College||1865||Brasenose College|
|1864||Trinity College||1863||Trinity College||1862||Trinity College||1861||Trinity College||1860||Balliol College|
|1859||Balliol College||1858||Exeter College||1857||Exeter College||1856||Wadham College||1855||Balliol College|
|1854||Brasenose College||1853||Brasenose College||1852||Brasenose College||1851||Balliol College||1850||Wadham College|
|1849||Christ Church||1848||Christ Church||1847||Christ Church||1846||Brasenose College||1845||Brasenose College|
|1844||Christ Church||1843||University College||1842||Oriel College||1841||University College||1840||Brasenose College|
|1839||Brasenose College||1838||Exeter College||1837||Queen's College||1836||Christ Church||1835||Christ Church|
|1834||Christ Church||1833||Queen's College||1832||Christ Church||1831||Christ Church||1830||Christ Church|
|1829||Christ Church||1828||Christ Church||1827||Brasenose College||1826||Christ Church||1825||Christ Church|
|1824||Exeter College||1823||No races||1822||Brasenose College||1821||Brasenose College||1820||Unknown|
|1819||Christ Church||1818||Christ Church||1817||Christ Church||1816||Brasenose College||1815||Brasenose College|
Women's Head of River
|4||St. Edmund Hall|
|4||St Hugh's College|
|1||St John's College|
|2015||2014||Wadham College||2013||St John's College||2012||Pembroke College||2011||Balliol College|
|2010||Balliol College||2009||St. Edmund Hall||2008||St. Edmund Hall||2007||St. Edmund Hall||2006||St. Edmund Hall|
|2005||New College||2004||New College||2003||Pembroke College||2002||Pembroke College||2001||Pembroke College|
|1995||Osler House||1994||Osler House||1993||Somerville College||1992||Somerville College||1991||Somerville College|
|1990||Somerville College||1989||Osler House||1988||Osler House||1987||Somerville College||1986||Somerville College|
|1985||Osler House||1984||St Hugh's College||1983||St Hugh's College||1982||St Hugh's College||1981||Somerville College|
|1980||Somerville College||1979||St Hugh's College|
- Peter Musson.
- Norfolk Chronicle, 16th July, 1808.
- Jackson's Oxford Journal, 25th March, 1769.
- O'Chee, W.G. "Brasenose College and the Origins of Oxford rowing". Retrieved February 6, 2015.
- Sherwood, W. E. (1900). "The Eights". Oxford Rowing: A History of Boat-Racing at Oxford from the Earliest Times. Oxford and London: Henry Frowde, Archive.org. Retrieved April 11, 2012.
- O'Chee, W.G. "Brasenose College and the Origins of Oxford rowing". Retrieved February 6, 2015.