The Torpids is a series of bumping races held at Oxford University yearly. There are six men’s and five women’s divisions – almost 1,200 participants in total. Crews of eight rowers and a cox begin the race arrayed along the bank; then, all take off at once when signalled by a cannon.
The Torpids racing takes place on the Isis, a part of the River Thames, usually in the 7th week of Hilary Term (from Wednesday to Saturday), typically in February. First, there’s the rowing, and then the bumps.
How Did the Torpids Begin?
Bumps racing was developed because the narrowness of the Isis made side-by-side racing impossible. The name Torpids derives from the event’s origins as a race for the second boats of the colleges. These boats were slower than the first. The status of the event – still adjudged below that of Summer Eights – only began to rise at the very end of the nineteenth century. Nowadays there is no limit on the number of boats a college may enter.
Who Participates in the Torpids?
Torpids is open to all teams not competing in the summer Boat Race. Over 130 teams, drawn from every college, take part each year.
Who can Visit the Torpids Race?
The Torpids takes place every year around the start of March on the stretch of the Isis from Iffley Lock to Folly Bridge. Each of the 11 divisions race at half-hour intervals from noon to 5.30pm.
Anyone can visit the event. Saturday is of course the busiest day because it’s the day of the Torpids finals.