To take on the job of organising and umpiring of the Bumping Races is not for the faint-hearted. At a time in the term when many others are winding down and the evening regime of marking in the Common Room seems a distant memory, you find yourself alone in the Common Room answering more emails than normal and preparing tomorrow's programme into the early evening (normally to the strains of whatever concert happens to be taking place that evening on Top Common). On top of this you have a group of tired and competitive Housemasters hungry for one last House victory to round off the year, a form of racing which is incomprehensible to many, and this year a request for the final round of Bumps to return to Speech Day. This is a recipe for madness.
When Paul Pattenden was appointed to Moser's Hall in 2010 having run Bumpers for a number of years, the finger of fate/madness turned to me. PP had much experience of Bumps, having raced and umpired at Oxford. Coming from Durham, where we concentrated on what many would call "normal rowing races", I was certainly thrown in at the deep end. I remember my first experience of Shrewsbury's races in 2008 - I was enthralled by the tactics and the hypnotic effect of looking at the Bumps charts for too long.
Now in my third year, I reckon that I'm mellowing into the role - but still not mellow. Managing races between some rowers and coxes who only find their way to the river during Bumps is interesting to say the least and it certainly raises the blood pressure, especially when the Sabrina river cruiser is sailing. This year I had the pleasure of introducing Bumps to our departing Graduate Sports Coach, David Cooke. I think he was sceptical at first but he quickly learned, as I did, to love the randomness of the event, and that the fastest crew doesn't always win (in fact this is often the case). The final round on Speech Day with hoards of people crowding onto the pontoons was very special indeed, particularly the noise as Rigg's and Moser's went toe-to-toe at the Head of Division 1.
Given that the races began in 1867, I'm already looking forward to 2017 and considering how to celebrate the 150th anniversary - ideas on a postcard (or email) please!
Below: Moser's chase Rigg's for The Head of the River in front of the Shrewsbury Roar