Eights Week

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Eights Week May 2009 Men's Division 1, showing racing between (from front) Keble College, New College, St Edmund Hall.

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.


A busy riverbank scene as a boat is returned to one of the college boathouses in Eights Week 1982.
The scene at Boathouse Island during Eights Week 2005, crammed with spectators awaiting the next race.
Further information: Bumps race

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.

Double Headship[edit]

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[1] in 2003, to commemorate the historic occasion. Pembroke College retains this trophy.

Early History of Eights[edit]

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.[2] 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.[3]

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.[4]

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[edit]

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.

Eights Week has been held since 1815.[5][6]

Summary [7]
Victories College
32 Christ Church
31 Oriel College
22 Brasenose College
20 Magdalen College
16 New College
13 University College
10 Trinity College
10 Balliol College
7 Exeter College
7 Keble College
5 St. Edmund Hall
4 Pembroke College
3 The Queen's College
2 Corpus Christi College
2 Wadham College
1 Hertford College
1 Merton College
Year College Year College Year College Year College Year College
2015 Oriel College 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[edit]

Oriel Women's Second Eight bump Magdalen Women's Second Eight on the third day of Summer Eights, 2005.
Victories College
8 Somerville College
5 Pembroke College
5 Osler House
4 Osler-Green
4 St. Edmund Hall
4 St Hugh's College
4 Wadham College
2 Balliol College
2 New College
1 Lady Margaret Hall
1 St John's College
Year College Year College Year College Year College Year College
2015 Wadham College 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
2000 Pembroke College 1999 Osler-Green 1998 Osler-Green 1997 Osler-Green 1996 Osler-Green
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 1978 Wadham College 1977 Lady Margaret Hall 1976 Wadham College

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Peter Musson.
  2. ^ Norfolk Chronicle, 16th July, 1808.
  3. ^ Jackson's Oxford Journal, 25th March, 1769.
  4. ^ O'Chee, W.G. "Brasenose College and the Origins of Oxford rowing". Retrieved February 6, 2015. 
  5. ^ 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.  External link in |work= (help)
  6. ^ O'Chee, W.G. "Brasenose College and the Origins of Oxford rowing". Retrieved February 6, 2015. 
  7. ^ http://www.atm.ox.ac.uk/rowing/bumps/estats/nhead.html

External links[edit]