Marvellous May Bumps results

Wednesday 19 June 2024

The St Catharine’s College Boat Club (SCCBC) is celebrating a marvellous set of results from the May Bumps (12–15 June). With students rowing in six boats, there was an astonishing a net gain of 14 places across the whole campaign. What’s more, M3 earned their first set of blades (i.e. bumping the boat ahead on each day of racing) in May Bumps since 2002. 

Sir John Benger (1979, English), Master of St Catharine’s, welcomed the results by saying:

“I am delighted to congratulate our rowers on a marvellous set of results, in stark contrast to the miserable conditions that were more fitting for Lent Bumps than May Bumps. As my first time cheering on our May Bumps crews as Master, I was impressed by the overall performance across the whole of SCCBC – men and women alike – and hope there will be plenty more celebrations in the years ahead. Carmen Failla, our amazing Head Rowing Coach & Boathouse Manager, has been supported by coaches who made a phenomenal impact this term so thank you to alumni David Cruttenden (1967, Mechanical Sciences), Elly Hardwick (1992, Oriental Studies) and Kate Balch (1997, History) plus Dan Blackburn (father of Barney Blackburn, a first-year MML undergraduate) for their time and encouragement.”

Preparing for May Bumps: Racing experience

SCCBC hosted a training camp for the first men’s eight (M1) and first women’s eight (W1) in St Neots over the Easter vacation, which put the Club in a strong position for four weeks of racing on the River Cam:

  • Four boats raced at the Spring Head To Head on 4 May 2024: M1 (IV+) won their division, W2 finished fifth in their division, M2 came seventh and a boat drawing on M3/M4 rowers came sixth in their division. 
  • At the Radgund mile the following week, M1 (still in the IV+) earned more silverware, W1 put in a strong performance to finish second in their division, M2 came seventh and the M3/M4 composite finished fourth in their division.
  • W1 came second in Champs VIIIs Head on 19 May.
  • M2 competed in Cambridge Spring Regatta on 26 May, winning all of their races to earn the men’s (III division) cup.

Preparing for May Bumps: The Lady Joanna 

With so many crews competing, it is important that the St Catharine’s boathouse can keep up with demand. The College was delighted to receive a new boat and officially name it in honour of Joanna Woodings, daughter of alumnus Herb Bate (1963, Mechanical Sciences; Fellow Commoner 2009) and Carolyn Bate who generously funded its purchase. The family were joined by Joanna’s husband Simon and two of Herb’s friends from his undergraduate days at St Catharine’s, Geoffrey Norman (1963, History) and Chris Menaul (1963, History/Classics) for a naming ceremony at the boathouse on 15 June.

The Master welcomed everyone and paid tribute to Herb and Carolyn and their support for SCCBC over many decades. Herb spoke about the friends he made through SCCBC (particularly Geoffrey and Chris) – he first rowed in the May Bumps 60 years ago. He expressed the hope that current SCCBC members would be as fortunate as he had been to make his lifelong friends through rowing. Barbara Neto-Bradley (a Plant Sciences PhD student and captain of W1) shared her reflections on the May Bumps campaign and expressed SCCBC’s appreciation for The Lady Joanna.

Other attendees included the W1 crew who raced in the Lady Joanna throughout the May Bumps and other student members of SCCBC, Professor Dame Jean Thomas (Master 2007–2016; Honorary Fellow 2016), Professor Peter Wothers (1988, Natural Sciences; Fellow 1997), David Cruttenden (1967, Mechanical Sciences), and Catherine Twilley (2023).

Carolyn and Herb Bate, Joanna Woodings and Sir John Benger with The Lady Joanna
Carolyn and Herb Bate, Joanna Woodings and Sir John Benger with The Lady Joanna (credit: Catherine Twilley)
Joanna Woodings naming The Lady Joanna
Joanna naming The Lady Joanna (credit: Catherine Twilley)

M1: Up three positions

M1 secured bumps on three out of the four days of racing, finishing in ninth position on the river and in the middle of Division 1 – their best finishing position since 2014. The crew included four Cambridge University rowers: Matt Edge (2018, Natural Sciences; now a Chemistry PhD student), Joe Holey (a Maths PhD student), William Liu (a final-year Natural Sciences undergraduate) and Nikita Zoglo (a final-year Natural Sciences undergraduate).

Carmen commented, “It is amazing that five of the eight M1 rowers learned to row at Catz and Romy only learned to cox with us last year. I am thrilled that Matt was able to join M1 as we have really benefited from his endless enthusiasm, but I also want to thank all the substitute rowers from Catz and other colleges who stepped when he was busy preparing for Henley. This year’s success is bittersweet because it is the last May Bumps for Tom, Will, Nikita and Joe – but it is great that they are leaving us on a high!”

St Catharine's College M1 crew list
M1 crew list
St Catharine's College M1 crew in the 2024 May Bumps
M1 celebrate their final bump, with stroke and cox swapping seats (credit:

W1: Up three positions

W1 matched M1’s performance with bumps on three days, finishing in seventh position and moving up into the top half of Division 1 – their best finishing position since 2002. The crew included Clare Hole (2020, Natural Sciences; now a Population Health Sciences MPhil student), fresh from winning the Women’s Boat Race and who had never competed before in a May Bumps campaign. 

Carmen said, “I have never coached such a committed team of women as this W1, who have trained so consistently this year, and they absolutely deserve seventh place on the river – our best position for over two decades and in front of the namesake of the Lady Joanna too! W1 was another boat packed with students who learned to row at Catz – six out of the eight plus Finn as cox. Our secret weapon may have been our fabulous captain in Barbara, who has kept everyone upbeat and excited. I am so pleased we could send off graduands Rosie and Clare in style, and I wish Clare the best of luck for Henley.”

St Catharine's College W1 crew list in the 2024 May Bumps
W1 crew list
St Catharine's College W1 crew rowing in the 2024 May Bumps
W1 in action on the final day of racing (credit:

M2: Maintained position

Having moved up to Division 2 last year, M2 fought hard to maintain their position: starting the week with a bump, before rowing over on Day 2, being bumped on Day 3 and rowing over on Day 4. 

Carmen reflected, “M2 should feel proud of what they achieved this year. It was a tough campaign but they showed a lot of grit and held their position amidst all the first boats in Division 2, bumping St Edmund’s M1 and only conceding a bump to Sidney Sussex’s M1. Kudos to our brand-new novices, Matt and Andrew, on their first May Bumps and to Anna who has never coxed a Bumps boat before.”

St Catharine's College M2 crew list for the 2024 May Bumps
M2 crew list
St Catharine's College M2 crew rowing in the 2024 May Bumps
M2 in action (credit:

W2: Up one position

W2 finished May Bumps a position higher (eighth in Division 3) having made good progress (rowing over on Day 1 and bumping on Day 2 and Day 3) before incurring a technical bump on the final day of racing. 

Carmen commented, “Half of the W2 boat plus our cox were novices this year, but they have improved significantly and gained a lot of experience from racing this term. I want to applaud their gutsy rows on every day of May Bumps and congratulate them on laying a good foundation for moving up towards Division 2 next year.”

St Catharine's College W2 crew list for 2024 May Bumps
W2 crew list
St Catharine's College W2 crew celebrating bumping at 2024 May Bumps
W2 celebrating one of two bumps (credit: Jeremias Pohle)

W3: Up one position

W3 rowed over on all but Day 2 when they bumped King’s W2, finishing in eleventh place in Division 4. Although half the boat were novices, Julianna Harrison, a third-year History undergraduate, is one of SCCBC’s most experienced coxes.

Carmen said, “I am proud to have such depth in the rowing programme at Catz that we can field a strong W3. It was great to see Julianna grow in confidence this campaign and she made some excellent decisions that secured our finishing position. I am also grateful to Kate and Elly, who gave this boat some wonderful alumni experience and knowledge.”

St Catharine's College W3 crew list for the 2024 May Bumps
W3 crew list
St Catharine's College W3 crew celebrate bumping at the 2024 May Bumps
W3 celebrating their bump on Day 2

M3: Up six positions (super-blades)

Last but by no means least, the M3 boat ended last year four positions down (spoons) but bounced back this year in unbelievable style to move up six spaces (earning super-blades). They finished in tenth place in Division 4, having started in 16th position. 

Carmen added, “Despite spending so little time on the water in Lent Term due to poor conditions, M3 had an amazing term and built a strong team spirit. Their super-blades are completely deserved and it was brilliant that they earned them in The Lady Carolyn in front of Carolyn Bate.Two special shout-outs from me: Salvatore taught all of the M3 crew to row and effectively became ‘dad of the boat’, while Dan was pivotal in progressing this crew to super-blades.”

St Catharine's College M3 crew list for the 2024 May Bumps
M3 crew list
St Catharine's College M3 crew with flag denoting blades at the 2024 May Bumps
M3 celebrate earning superblades (credit: Giorgio Divitini)

A view from the St Catharine’s marquee

The Alumni & Development Office organised a riverside marquee from which members of the St Catharine’s community could cheer on this year’s crews on the final day of rowing (15 June).

Catherine Twilley, Development Director at St Catharine’s, commented:

“We were delighted that nearly 170 supporters braved the elements to join us at the Catz Marquee this year. It is a prime spot on the river and we were thrilled that M1 and W1 decided to make their bumps right in front of the assembled crowd. As well as the excellent rowing, everyone enjoyed the hog roast and delicious cakes, and the sense of camaraderie was palpable. We can’t wait for next year!”

Spectators on the riverbank at the St Catharine's College May Bumps 2024 marquee
Spectators gathered on the riverbank (credit: Catherine Twilley)
St Catharine's alumni and guests at the 2024 May Bumps
Members of the College and guests cheered on our rowers (credit: Catherine Twilley)

Boat Club Dinner

SCCBC members celebrated their successes at the Boat Club Dinner held at St Catharine’s on 15 June. 

Carmen said, “The evening was a well-deserved celebration of all our crews. On behalf of everyone, I’d like to thank the Catz catering team for probably one of the best meals we’ve ever been served during my time attending these dinners. We revived a tradition of providing diners with souvenir menus which were circulated during the meal so we could sign and add messages for each other. I was pleased that the captains awarded ‘Sub of the Year’ to Filippo De Luca (a PhD student in Applied Mathematics & Theoretical Physics) and we got to acknowledge Harry Wild (a third-year Natural Sciences undergraduate) as our luckiest rower, since he’s earned two sets of super-blades in the space of two years with M2 and now M3.”

St Catharine's College Boat Club Dinner attendees in front of the College gates
St Catharine's College Boat Club members (credit: Esha Patel)