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A person is recollecting his college days in Oxford. He used to be in the team of an eight, rowing a boat.

In the year I got my colours the Wadham boat went up five places on the river. It was the happiest week of my life.

What is go up five places on the river supposed to mean? Five victories or something else?

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Possibly a reference to Bumps racing where boats repeatedly race in a single file trying to 'bump' the boat ahead, if they succeed they take that boat's place in the starting order for the next race.

A crew (A) may find that the boat in front of them has caught the boat ahead of them. Since (except at Oxford during Torpids) these boats both then drop out, crew A must now try to catch the next boat ahead of them still racing (most often the one which started three places ahead). If they succeed, this is called an overbump and, in exchanging places with the boat they bumped, they move three places up the start order. Further still, it is possible, though very rare, to double-overbump (move up five places) or triple-overbump (seven places).

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It sounds like the finishing position.

Eg. where they used to be finishing 8th, they are now finishing 3rd.

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