Boats, Bumps and Blades: An Overview of Summer Eights 2024


Fifth Week of Trinity term can only mean one thing… Lots and lots of rowing talk.

Last week saw Summer Eights take place – the centuries-old, University-wide rowing competition in which colleges compete to ‘bump’ (catch up with) the boat in front, in order to achieve the coveted title of Head of the River at the end of the four days of racing. On the final Saturday, as tradition dictates, spectators line Boathouse Island, spending the day enjoying the sunshine, Pimms in hand, and cheering on their college crews as the boats whizz past. It’s one of the most quintessential Oxford events.

Spectators watch from the top of the Pembroke Boathouse, which is adorned with a sign saying 'Pembroke and Proud'.


As with many other sports, Pembroke’s reputation at Summer Eights is historically strong, with our first men’s and women’s crews having consistently sat within the top eight spots on the river since 1987. In 2003 we became the first college to achieve a historic double headship – meaning both our men’s and women’s crews were Head of the River! This achievement, which has yet to be repeated by another college, came in the midst of a four-year run of headships for the women’s crew between 2000 and 2003, a title W1 has since achieved twice in 2012 and 2018 respectively. M1 (the first men’s crew) achieved headship once again in 2013, and has been second on the river six times since their 2003 headship. And this is all without mentioning Torpids, the equivalent event in Hilary term, for which M1 held headship in 2009, and then for a five-year run between 2012 and 2017.

While the headship eluded us this year, being pretty much impossible for all crews except the top four starting positions, the next greatest honour is to achieve ‘blades’ – a title reserved for those who manage to bump every day of the competition. Honouring our strong rowing reputation, our second women’s crew (W2) managed an impressive set of five bumps across the four days to achieve this award! Five bumps, though rare, is possible when your crew ends up as the ‘sandwich boat’ – this happens when your crew bumps up a division, and therefore has to row twice in one day (the second time being at the bottom of the division you have moved into). A thoroughly impressive achievement, putting them in the position of third-highest W2 on the river!

The first women's crew (W1) in action on the river.


Our five other crews also enjoyed various successes this year, with W1 moving up two places on the river to finish fourth overall, having rowed over (avoided getting bumped) twice and bumping Teddy Hall and Oriel on the other two days. Perhaps this higher starting position for next year anticipates another headship in their future?

M1 defended their position as fifth on the river, rowing over on the first and final days, and bumping and being bumped by Wolfson on the two days between. A strong finish, especially considering there were no Blues rowers in the boat – most crews at the top of Division 1 have at least one or two (or even more) among their crew!

M2 suffered a bump from Green Templeton on day three, but rowed over every other day, meaning they retain their title as third-highest M2 on the river.

The first women's crew celebrating on the river bank after their bump on Saturday.


Our third men’s boat was almost entirely a boat of novices, who only started rowing very recently. Despite being bumped twice, they produced some very strong rowing and rowed over the other two days.

W3 got bumped on the first day, but evidently took it in their stride, finishing the race with two row overs on Thursday and Saturday, and a bump on Friday!

A fantastic year for Pembroke College Boat Club overall – we’re incredibly proud of the hard work put in by all of our crews this year. Look out for a new Blades chalking on the walls around College soon!

Left, a spectator congratulates a rower from W1 after their bump on Saturday; right, the Pembroke Boathouse with a sign saying 'Pembroke College Boatclub'