Position Marshals


A pdf of these instructions can be downloaded here: 2019 Position Marshal Instructions


What do Position Marshals do?

Position Marshals are crucial to the safe and smooth running of the Bumps. Please take the role seriously and ensure that you understand clearly what is required of you. You must act impartially. Your job is to see the fair running of the races and to be prepared to assist generally should the need arise.

Your job is, largely, one of observation and reporting, providing important evidence in the event of a dispute following an incident by your position. Make an immediate note of Bumps you see together with whatever may happen in consequence, in what order, and where on the river it occurs. Equally, your observation of crews chasing each other closely may help the Senior Marshal determine an outcome that is difficult to judge.

You may also need to radio for First Aid help.


Even if you have marshalled before, all marshals should read/re-read:

  • These instructions
  • Bumps Rules – especially details of the Finish point for each Division
  • Notes for Coxes
  • Bumps Safety Rules
  • Race Marshal instructions

(all on the CRA Bumps website)

as the arrangements may have changed.

Please also attend a marshals’ meeting.

NEW MARSHALS – it is very important that you attend one of the marshals’ meetings for a full briefing.

The marshals’ meetings are:

Thursday 11th July 8pm St Andrews Church Hall, St Andrews Road, Chesteron, CB4 1DH

Friday 12th July 8pm Wesley Methodist Church, Octagon Room, Christs Pieces, CB1 1LG

ANY QUERIES – ask fellow Club members to explain

Your duties

  • Print off a starting order from the CRA's website to bring with you together with a writing implement. A pencil may be best if it is wet.
  • Check-in at the control point by Peters Posts on your way down to your position and collect a reflective jacket together with a loud hailer and radio. (Please remember to return it all later.)
  • Observe what is going on during races and report to the Control Point or Senior Marshal if you witness any pile-ups by your position.
  • Radio your report to Control during a suitable lull in the proceedings. Please remember that we cannot all speak at once on the radios so keep use of them to a minimum and ensure you do not "cut in" on anyone. If you wish to speak to someone, address their position and also their name, if known.
  • All marshals need to be aware of the need to help to keep the river clear. The Rules require that the crew making the Bump should stop rowing while the crew being bumped should carry on rowing. In practice, the latter can "collapse" while the former remain "fired up".
  • You may need to warn spectators to move out of the way if you see a crew heading towards the bank at speed. They may not realise that the blades can take their legs from underneath them.

We are sure we do not need to spell out the need to exercise extreme care in the event of any contact with any protesters. Keep a note of the time of any incident and obtain names and contact details from any witnesses so that a full report can be submitted to the River Manager. Let the Senior Marshal and the Bumps Secretary know by radio immediately there is any sign of activity by protesters. If there is any incident involving any boat not connection with the Races, please fill in an accident report form at the control point.



The wildlife marshal is responsible for identifying and reporting any potential wildlife concerns.  During the few days before Bumps racing, the wildlife marshal should walk/ride the course and identify any risk to wildlife e.g. location of cygnets.  Should any risks be identified, these should be reported to the Bumps Committee by 5pm on the day before Bumps racing begins.  The Bumps Committee will advise the club representatives and the senior umpire.


The lock marshals are responsible for controlling motor boats wishing to go downstream through Baits Bite lock and off the Course or coming up from Ely through Baits Bite onto the Course. This requires liaison with Control and the Senior Marshal to minimise the length of time that the Course is not clear for racing. While we are usually aware of the Georgina’s cruises in advance, we rarely know about pleasure cruisers hence it is important to be pro-active.

The lock marshals watch for pleasure boats coming up through Baits Bite, holding them back to suit the Divisions, as necessary. Sometimes these boats are prepared to wait but they are entitled to pass through the lock if they wish to do so. Control and the Senior Marshal need to be advised as soon as possible.

The lock marshals will be advised by Control, the Senior Marshal and other position marshals of the progress of any boat intending to go downstream through Baits Bite lock.

The lock marshals should have the lock ready so, going downstream, the boat can steer straight into the lock and off the course. For boats coming upstream, the lock marshals should assist the boat into the lock and fill it up ready to leave the lock to follow behind a racing Division, informing Control and the Senior Marshal accordingly.

Please ensure that you handover to another member of your Club so that the position remains manned at all times.


A careful watch needs to be kept on the racing as it approaches. Be ready to assist in the event of a pile-up. If necessary, use your loud hailer to shout a warning if it appears a cox is not acknowledging and there is risk of a collision.

After a Bump is made, the river needs to be cleared as quickly as possible. If a bump is made in the Gut, if possible, get the crews to keep going to Grassy Corner and pull in on the towpath side. This would require crews to be nearly to Grassy Corner and to be quick. If this is not possible, then get crews to pull in to the towpath side in the Gut. (The bank on the Fen Ditton side has many trees and it is difficult for crews to pull either their boats or their blades in far enough to leave the river clear for following crews.) Crews need to be directed to the outside of bends and all crews need reminding to pull their blades in clear of both following crews and the towpath.

Keep in touch with the marshals at Grassy Corner so that the Gut is kept as clear as possible. If there is a serious pile-up then use the Red Flag, air horn and loud hailer to stop the Division. Safety remains paramount throughout the Bumps.

Please ensure that you handover to another member of your Club so that the position remains manned at all times.

Please remind spectators at First Post Corner that they should not leave any litter along the river bank.


Please bear in mind what your neighbour in the First Post position is tasked to do and be ready to assist him/her in clearing the Gut, if necessary. If necessary, use your loud hailer to shout a warning if it appears a cox is not acknowledging and there is risk of a collision.

Keep an eye out for quad bikes or local troublemakers exhibiting threatening behaviour on the towpath, especially by the cut through from Fen Road. Report any problem to the Control Point.

Help sell programmes, if necessary.

Spectators often stand on the towpath and block progress of cyclists, so both are a danger to each other. When a race is approaching, try to warn folk to keep the towpath clear.

If any cyclists, who are clearly not involved with the Bumps, pass you, heading towards the start when you know a race is approaching, try to warn them. The First Aiders find their "customers" are largely cyclists. We have no right to stop folk, but we can point out the dangers.

Radio to control and the finish marshal when the last boat in a division passes you so they can warn the next Division to be ready to move off towards the start.

Please ensure that you handover to another member of your Club so that the position remains manned at all times.

Please remind spectators at Grassy Corner that they should not leave any litter along the river bank.


Check with Control and consult the Rules to be certain of the end of the Course as it changes during the evening for various Divisions. You need to be in position so the coxes can see you as they approach you.

It is up to crews and their bank parties to be aware of the early finish in each Division, you mark the end of the Course.

As crews pass, you need to advise them to wind down and remind them to stay in single file, no overtaking and keeping to the right as they go back home, watching out for crews going down to the next Division where appropriate. Crews will follow where they have bumped out earlier and these need to be chivvied along with the same warnings so the course is cleared as quickly as possible.

Liaise with the Senior Marshal, Control and the Stourbridge Common marshals so that when the river is clear, you can tell the crews waiting for the early Divisions when to move off to go down to the start.

Liaise with the Railway Bridge marshals, as necessary.

As the finish moves up the river with each Division, a bike is useful to help monitor the situation.

Please ensure that you handover to another member of your Club so that the position remains manned at all times.


Crews need to "check in" with you on their way to the start, especially on the first night and in the early divisions, when everyone will be both nervous and possibly a little uncertain on where they need to be.

Advise the Senior Marshal when a Division is complete or, after the appointed time for crews to have passed you, incomplete. Let Control know as they may be able to chivvy crews up.

Remind crews going down for the earliest division of racing that they need to get themselves into reverse order as they progress down to the start.

On Mon, Tue, Wed and Fri this will be M4 and on Thu this will be W3

On Monday, W2 and on all other nights, W1 should not progress past you until the previous division has cleared through the Railway Bridge. However, with care and suitable warning to keep to the right, they can move off to the start when the last one or two stragglers in the previous division are making their way home.

Remind crews they must not do a racing start at the railway bridge but may do a racing start at the Plough.

Tell crews going home past you that if they are swapping boats/coxes/etc they should do so on the upper common, downstream of Green Dragon Bridge.

Please ensure that you handover to another member of your Club so that the position remains manned at all times.

Café/Beer Tree

Suggestion: Bring a bike. 

Ensure any crews who wish to stop at the beer tree pull in upstream of the bend to avoid congestion and to walk back down to the beer tree. No boats with crews attending the beer tree should be on the course. Boats should not be left unattended and blades should be pulled in clear of the towpath and the river.  

Request that crews and members of the public do not congregate around the café and Beer Tree obstructing the tow path, advise that they should move to the grass verge on either side of the tow path.

While crews are marshalling between divisions, or pulling in after divisions, ensure that blades are kept off the tow path. 

Ensure the tow path in this area is kept clear during racing, particularly as crews are approaching the finish.


Suggestion: Bring a bike.

Print a copy of the marshal equipment list, marshal rota and start order. 

Initial/earliest division of racing:  The marshal in post for earliest division of racing is responsible for checking out the marshal equipment to the course and race marshals. 

Final division:  The marshal in post for the final division is responsible for checking the marshal equipment in at the end of M1.  Ensure radios and loud hailers are switched off.

In the event of any missing equipment, report to your club organizer/representative who will be required to report to the bumps committee.

All other divisions:  Marshals in post will be responsible for dropping into the boathouses between divisions and requesting to conduct spot checks on the 8s being used in the event. 1-2 boathouses should be checked per evening, liaise with the marshal as part of the handover as to which boathouse has been visited.  The main boathouses used for boating are as follows:

  • Cantabrigian
  • Combined
  • Emanuel
  • Clare
  • Christs
  • Girton
  • St Catherines
  • City
  • 99s
  • CRA
  • Fitzwilliam
  • Queens

When at the boathouse, standard BR checks should be performed i.e.

  • Present and secure bow ball (critical)
  • All hatch covers are present (advisory)
  • Heel restraints present and attached to the footplate
  • Shoes have quick release ties/straps linked to both shoes

In the event that any boat fails to meet these standards, please advise the cox.

If bow balls are not present or secure, please also report to the Senior Umpire, Club, Boat Name, Crew.


Lend a hand in setting up initially and then dismantling at the end of the day, the control desk, gazebo and radio mast; put out cycling signs.

Bumps, challenges, incidents and disputes, all will be reported at the Control Point. If a marshal only provides brief information by radio, ask them to visit Control to complete the details as fully as possible before they go home.

Some incidents may need reporting to the River Manager.

Summarise any challenges and liaise with the Senior Marshal to determine them.

In the unlikely event that resolution is not achieved, advise the Bumps Secretary and the parties involved that the matter will be referred to the Bumps Committee whose decision, after hearing from a single representative from each crew involved at Control at the end of the day’s racing, will be final.

Keep radio traffic to a minimum.

Ensure that Control is not left unattended, as there is a lot of expensive and vital equipment based there.

Marshal any crews that may pull in to keep their stay as brief as possible and maintain a space large enough for an VIII to pull into in the event of an emergency.

Bumps must be recorded IMMEDIATELY at the end of each Division. Include a note of where the Bump took place.

Please ensure that you handover to another member of your Club so that the position remains manned at all times.


Generally assist the control desk by liaising with the Stourbridge Common marshals to ensure immediate and smooth movement of waiting crews to make their way to the start when advised to do so by the Senior Marshal and/or Control.

Liaise with the Railway Bridge and Beer Tree/ Café  marshals to ensure that crews using the beer tree (and their boat(s) and blades) do not obstruct the towpath or the course.

Liaise with Control Desk to keep the towpath and bank clear.

In between divisions, may need to assist with handing over equipment between marshals.

At the end of the final division, assist the equipment marshal in taking in all the equipment and ensuring radios and loudhailers are switched off.

(Suggestion: bring a bike!)

Please ensure that you handover to another member of your Club so that the position remains manned at all times.


It is vital to the smooth running of the event that crews progress to the start as soon as it is safe to do so. Control will advise in conjunction with the Senior Marshal.

Collect from Control and put out numbers so that crews wait in the correct reverse order before they progress to the start.

Crews in the earliest division of racing must progress straight down to the start.

Crews in Divisions W3 (apart from Thu when they are the earliest racing division) and M3 need to assemble in reverse order in the Reach along the common below the railway bridge and above the railings.

Liaise with the Senior Marshal, Control and Finish marshals to send these crews off to the start promptly when told to do so. As soon as the last Division has moved off, collect the numbers and put them out for crews in W2, M2, W1 and M1, as per the Bumps2019-Crew Marshalling Positions. Please ensure all crews remain ready for a prompt get away as soon as the Senior Marshal and Control confirm they should progress to the start.

Also check general marshalling in the area below Green Dragon Bridge and Morley’s Holt where boats and/or crew changes/swapping may take place in the earlier Divisions. Boats must not be left unattended on the water and crews should be encourage to lift them out onto the bank, putting them back on the water only when they are ready to push off straight away.

For W1 and M1, these crews should be able to take care of themselves in terms of marshalling into order but keep an eye open to ensure prompt setting off when the OK comes. Await confirmation from the Senior Marshal/Control to tell them when to push off to go to the start.

Please ensure that you handover to another member of your Club so that the position remains manned at all times.


This marshal rides ahead of the division warning spectators, pedestrians, other cyclists, etc. that boats (and bicycling bank parties) are approaching and advise them to clear the path for their own safety.

Collisions between bank party cyclists and other cyclists and pedestrians provide the highest number of injuries that occur during the Bumping Races and this Marshal is key to path safety. (Suggestion: ‘bring a whistle’!)

Please ensure that you handover to another member of your Club so that the position remains manned at all times.


This marshal rides behind the last boat in a division and hurries along the boats that have bumped up or have been bumped to clear the course for the next division. 

It is particularly important to get boats that have bumped up to cease celebrating and get moving as there is little time between divisions.

Please ensure that you handover to another member of your Club so that the position remains manned at all times.


Apologies for stating what many may regard as the "obvious". Comments and suggestions for improvements are welcome.


At the end of each day’s racing

At the end of each day, the Bumps Committee will meet at the Control Point to finalise the results and the website is updated straight away. On the Friday night, this is usually done quickly so that everyone can get to the CRA/Nines/City boathouses where the presentation of the Head Plate, Trophy and individual posts is made, at 9.30pm in front of City's boathouse.


What constitutes a Bump?

A Bump is either actual contact between boats/blades of the chasing and chased crews, or may (in the first half of each race only) be a technical bump.

Technical bumps - before the post on the towpath opposite the Plough, a technical bump can be made. This is where the bow of the chasing boat is level with the cox's seat in the chased boat (if on a corner, allowance should be made for its effect to the advantage of the chased boat).  The chased cox should acknowledge the technical bump but marshals may have a better view and may need to tell the cox to acknowledge. These decisions can be difficult but if two crews are travelling fast with one overlapping another and making ground, safety is paramount so, when it is clear a bump is inevitable, the race marshal should tell the cox to acknowledge.

Contact and acknowledgement - after the Plough post, contact must be made or if the bow ball of the chasing boat passes the bow ball of the leading boat a bump is awarded. If the chased cox acknowledges, the bump is valid, whether or not you or the race marshal saw it and whether or not there was in fact contact.

If you have seen contact or the bow ball of the following boat passing the chased boat, but the chased cox fails to acknowledge, you should tell them to do so immediately. Safety is paramount and heavy fines are imposed for refusal to acknowledge promptly.  If the cox persists in refusing to acknowledge, warn them and their bank party of your intention to report them to the Senior Marshal.

In the case of non-starting boats, the bow ball of the chasing boat must pass the chain bolt of the station of the non-starting boat for the bump to be awarded. A marshal should be stationed at the chain bolt of a non-starting boat to ensure the bow ball of the chasing boat passes the chain bolt.