Race Marshals


Download a word version of this instructions here: Race Marshal Instructions


What do Race Marshals do?

Race 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.

You will be allocated to two crews. Each crew has its own bank party and the cox is in command of each crew.

Your job is, largely, one of observation, providing important evidence in the event of a dispute. 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.

You must also help to keep the river clear for the crews behind your allocated crews.

The Senior Marshal is in overall charge of all race marshals.


Even if you have marshalled before, all marshals should read/re-read the following documents (all on the CRA Bumps website) as the arrangements may have changed:

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

Please also attend a marshals’ meeting (see below).

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

Before the Start

  • Print off a starting order for the Division(s) you are marshalling from the CRA website and bring a pencil (and a spare).
  • Check in at CONTROL (by Peters Posts) 30 minutes before your Division start time and collect a reflective jacket. (Please remember to return it later.)
  • Report to the Senior Marshal (at the A14 Bridge). He will allocate you to your crew(s) and remind you where the finish is for your Division.

At the Start

  • Introduce yourself to your allocated crew(s). Remind all involved that, in the event of a dispute, they must tell you that they want to register their dispute at Control at the end of the race.
  • Check that both your crews have bow balls and both coxes are wearing life jackets. Warn the crews and the Senior Marshal if these are missing. No crew is permitted to race without these safety measures.
  • If your chased crew is not on their station at the start, warn the chasing crew that they will be awarded a technical bump when they row past its station, unless the crew behind them catches them first. They must therefore be ready to stop and pull in quickly. Warn the next crew back that your chasing crew will be stopping within the first few strokes unless they bump them first.
  • Check that the coxes of your allocated crews have hold of the bung at the end of their chains on the start.
  • If a cox drops the bung before the start, and you consider this gives that crew an unfair advantage AND they make a bump, report it when you get to Control. On the first night, coxes will be nervous and, if the bung is dropped but it makes no difference, just mention it to the cox, who will probably be mortified anyway.
  • Bikes and bank parties - No crew may have more than four bikes in its bank party. Fines are imposed on clubs ignoring this rule. If you see any Club at the start with more bikes than this, warn the cox and report this to the Senior Marshal and, if not rectified before the start, report it to Control after the race. If you notice a large bank party during the race, report it to Control after the race. If you see a bike pulling a baby carrier, a tandem, or other ‘adapted’ bike following a crew, please report this to Control as it is dangerous and risks a serious accident. Control will, if practical, ask the cyclist not to cycle during the race and will radio a warning to all position marshals.

During the Races

  • Follow the crews to which you have been allocated. Cycle close to the bow ball of the chasing crew so you have a clear view of any overlap / bump. Keep an eye on the river ahead.
  • If the chased crew’s cox puts up their hand to acknowledge a bump, that is a bump, whether or not you saw it. (See below for an explanation of what constitutes a bump).

After a bump

  • Help both boats to clear the river for the crews behind. The chased boat should keep rowing to the bank. The chasing crew should stop until the other boat is clear and should then row to the bank. If the bump has been made on a corner, direct the boats to the outside of the corner. NB chased crews tend to collapse and stop: ‘fired up’ chasing crews tend to keep going. Both boats should pull in their oars. Be loud and clear with your instructions.
  • If a bump is made in the Gut, if possible without causing problems to chasing crews, get the crews to keep going to Grassy Corner and then pull in on the towpath side. This would require crews to keep going 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.)
  • Warn spectators to move out of the way if a boat is approaching the bank at speed.
  • Once your crews are safely “parked”, assist the crews behind to carry on racing.
  • If three or four boats are close together, you may have to decide very quickly which crew bumped first, before helping the crews behind them to make their way through to continue their race.
  • If a crew makes a wrong judgement with the course that it takes and is bumped, that is still a valid bump.
  • If the river is blocked and it would be dangerous for crews to try to follow through, stop the race. You should be within shouting distance of a position marshal who will take control. The position marshals at First Post and Grassy will have loud hailers and radios. The marshal at First Post will have a red flag and air horn to warn following crews. Bank parties should also help with this.
  • Emergencies – Position marshals have radio contact with all the other officials, including the First Aiders who will be positioned, predominantly, at Grassy Corner. In the event of a medical emergency, contact should be made with the First Aiders as quickly as possible. They will take charge. Ensure that the Senior Marshal and the Bumps Secretary are alerted by radio, stating exactly where on the Course the incident has taken place.
  • Once the race has stopped (and/or after the end of a Division), help crews on their way again when it is safe to do so and encourage a speedy return home to ensure the next Division can come down to the start on time.

In general terms, we do not have time for any re-rows, however disappointing this may be for crews.

At the end of the Division

  • Report any bumps and/or incidents etc, either at the end of the race or, if urgent, via a position marshal's radio.
  • In the event of a dispute, report to Control what happened. A ‘verdict’ may be helpful if you feel the circumstances are clear.
  • Confirm your report in writing at Control. When making a report, please print clearly and include your name and mobile phone contact number in the event of any query.
  • If no Bumps are made and there are no disputes, you can return to the Senior Marshal at the A14 Bridge for the next division, if you are continuing on duty. If your duty has finished please handover to your replacement, including the reflective jacket. Please only marshal the race(s) you have been allocated to.

End of Day Bumps Committee Meeting

At the end of each day, the Bumps Committee will meet at the Control Point to finalise the results. If there has been a dispute or incident you may be required to give your report.

The website will then be updated. On the Friday night, this is usually done quickly so that everyone can attend the presentation of the Head Plate, Trophy and individual pots at the CRA/Nines/City boathouses at 9.30 pm.

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.

A bump will also be awarded when:

  1. Bowball of the following boat passes the bowball of the leading boat
  2. Bowball of the following boat passes the chain bolt of the station of a non-starting boat

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.