About ⚙️

Our team has been working tirelessly to make Virtual May Bumps 2020 as engaging and realistic an experience as it can be. Here's how it works.

Behind the scenes

Our strive to balance both realism and simplicity has resulted in a Bumps algorithm primed to receive hundreds—possibly thousands—of data points and churn out Bumps charts in seconds. Each 800m time you submit gets fed into our algorithm and compared to those of the people running 'around' you to determine if the nine of you can run fast enough to catch the crew ahead while keeping out of reach of the crew vying for your spot the next day...

Going for a run

On the Cam, the distance between Head Station and Top Finish is about 2.6 kilometres. Luckily for you, you don't have to run quite that far this year. Instead, each of the nine members of the crew needs to run 800 metres* and submit their time to their entry contact, so that they can fill out the form we send to them for each day of racing. You could pop down to your local running track if you have one nearby, use an online route plotting tool like MapMyRun to create your 800-metre-long course, or even run 800m on a treadmill if you have access to one. However you choose to complete the distance, please adhere to the public health regulations that apply wherever you are and keep yourself and those around you safe.

As a crew you will need to group yourselves into threes, whose times are averaged together to provide a running pace for one third of the race. You might choose to put your fastest runners first to 'fly and die', or maybe try and hold back in the first third to play the long game and be in with a shot of the overbump. It's up to you to decide which tactic has the best chance of getting you that bump!

Converting reality into virtuality

Once we've received everybody's 800m times and the groups of three they want to be put into, we find an average pace for each group. A crew's 'boat speed' in the first third of the race is determined by the average pace of the three runners the crew has elected to put first. After the first 800m, the second group takes over with a new running pace, and so on. Overall, the three groups between them effectively run 2400m, one group of three after the other.

This 3-by-3 relay format allows you to run the approximate length of the Bumps course as a crew without having to do the whole thing yourself, and it also means that a crew's 'boat speed' changes throughout the race as different runners take over, just like in the real thing. However, it still maintains the element of teamwork that makes rowing such a rewarding sport.

Who bumps who?

Around the middle of May, we asked you to submit sample times to us so we could work out how fast college rowers can run 800m. This allowed us to fine-tune the starting separation—2½ boat lengths on the river (including the boat itself)—so that making a bump is a worthy challenge, but an achievable one! If your crew's pace is fast enough to make up the distance between you and the crew ahead at any point during the race, then you bump them, and both crews are taken out of the simulation, allowing further bumps and overbumps to happen, just like on the Cam!

Using the average paces we calculate for each group of three runners, we work out how much distance has been covered by each crew for every second of the race, and based on where they started this tells us how close they are to the crew ahead. Each second, the simulation checks to see if any crew has managed to catch up with the crew ahead, starting from the head of the division and working backwards, and if so it logs that as a bump!

If two crews have been involved in a bump, the algorithm switches their start positions for the next day and removes them from the simulation, allowing overbumps to take place (and maybe more—could we see the first ever quintuple overbump in the Mays this year?). The simulation runs until all crews have either been involved in a bump or finished their three legs of 800m.

Bumps charts!

Clearly we want to be able to tell you more than just who bumped who. Our simulation tells us how long it has taken the chasing crew to make the bump, and also where the bump has happened, so you know if you have bumped at First Post, on the Reach, or anywhere in between!

After our simulation has figured out who has been victorious and who might have forgotten to tighten their laces before they set off, it spits out the classic bumps chart that we all know and love, as well as all the data we need to create the content that our CamFM commentators are able to bring to you!

Boathouse Managers' Circuits Challenge!

If four days of running aren't enough for you, we have teamed up with boatmen and women from along the Cam, led by Carmen Failla (St Catharine's College Boat Club's boatwoman), to bring you an all-out challenge to find out which crew will be bestowed with the title of supreme circuit champions. This ten-minute challenge will take place on Sunday 28th June on Zoom, and include two minutes each of burpees, sit-ups, push-ups and air squats, plus a two-minute Surprise Finisher to be released the day before. Prizes are available for those who perform the most reps on each station as well as the most reps overall!

If you think your crew's got what it takes to fight off the competition and become the Circuit Champions of Cambridge, then email Carmen at cssf2@cam.ac.uk by Wednesday 24th June.

Pegasus Cup

Usually, the Pegasus Cup is awarded to the boat club that competes in the May Bumps. For every club with at least two boats entered (one men's and one women's unless competing for a single-sex college), one point is awarded for every time a crew bumps or rows over as Head of the River, one point is subtracted for every time a crew is bumped, and then this number is multiplied by 12 and divided by the number of boats entered by that club.

However, given this year's charitable focus, we thought we'd do things a little differently. We're suggesting that competitors make a voluntary 'entry fee' contribution, which will be a direct donation towards the Milton branch of East Anglia's Children's Hospice, the charity that is usually supported by a combination of the May Bumps and the CRA Town Bumps through Milton Brewery. The same eligibility rules apply as normal (one men's and one women's boat unless you're a single-sex college), but by contrast the club which manages to raise the most through seat donations relative to the size of its college will be awarded the Pegasus Cup. The total raised by each college will be divided by the number of undergraduate and postgraduate students at that college to indicate who has raised the most.

You can make your voluntary seat donation here.

Our partners

We are proud to be operating in partnership with CamFM to bring you radio coverage of the Virtual May Bumps 2020 each evening between Wednesday and Friday. We are also working alongside RAG, the May Week Alternative and the May Week Presidents' Committee, as well as CamFM, to produce a five-minute video on the Virtual May Bumps as part of the May Week Mega Event livestream on Sunday 28th June, including the announcement of the results from the final day of Virtual Bumps. Make sure to tune in!

Contact us

To contact us, please email us at virtualmaybumps@gmail.com, or check out our Facebook and Instagram pages.


* We understand that running 800 metres may not be possible for some people for various reasons. However, we would like as many people to be able to participate as possible, so if you find yourself in this situation then please email us at virtualmaybumps@gmail.com so we can work together to find a solution.