7 Apr 2012

Cambridge wins Boat Race after swimmer forces restart

Cambridge takes the crown from Oxford in a dramatic 158th Boat Race which was forced to restart after being halted by a man swimming in the Thames.

It is the first time in its history that the event has been disrupted by a swimmer, organisers said.

The crews were forced to stop 10.51 minutes into the race between the two and three-mile marker when the man was spotted swimming in the river.

The blades of the Oxford team’s oars narrowly missed the swimmer and the race was halted.

The crews were neck and neck when the man brought the four-and-a-quarter mile race to a standstill. The swimmer was picked up by a lifeboat and brought ashore, shortly after the boats were halted.

After almost half an hour the race restarted but Oxford suffered another setback when a member of the team broke an oar – leaving Cambridge powering to victory.

A rower at the back of the Oxford boat was removed from the vessel after he collapsed at the end of the race.

In another dramatic turn for the event, which traditionally lasts less than 20 minutes, medic Alexander Woods, 27, was lifted from the bow. Karl Hudspith, president of the Oxford University Boat Club, later said that Mr Woods was conscious and “will hopefully be ok”, offering thanks for the many messages of support he had received.

The next thing I know I see a guy’s head just in the middle of the two boats and there’s something like 10 or 20 boats following us so that guy was in serious strife. Cambridge president Dave Nelson

Cambridge president Dave Nelson described it as a “pretty dramatic race”.

Speaking to the BBC on the riverbank afterwards, he said: “It was really to-ing and fro-ing up until the island.

“We would move a seat, they would move a seat and then suddenly there was this yelling about an obstruction going on and then the next thing I know I see a guy’s head just in the middle of the two boats and there’s something like 10 or 20 boats following us so that guy was in serious strife if the armada of boats was coming steaming through.

“Then I guess there was all the hoo-ha around the restart and then the clash.”

Umpire John Garrett said it was veteran rower Sir Matthew Pinsent, who was assistant umpire today, who spotted the swimmer.

“I’m grateful to Matthew for having spotted the swimmer. He basically said, ‘There’s something in the water, there’s something in the water’, he thought it was some debris and then we realised that it was actually a swimmer.

“We weren’t sure what was going to happen, whether he was going to get out of the way in time and then it was quite clear he was just waiting for the boats to come across him so I had to stop the race and restart.”

Trenton Oldfield, the swimmer who brought to a halt the 2012 Oxford-Cambridge University Boat Race
Who was the swimmer?
The swimmer who brought today's Boat Race to a temporary halt was arrested on suspicion of a public order offence, Scotland Yard said.
The man is thought to be Londoner Trenton Oldfield, who posted a blog online explaining his "act of civil disobedience".
"I am swimming into the boats in the hope I can stop them from completing the race," he wrote.
Mr Oldfield, who studied contemporary urbanism at the London School of Economics, has a website called Elitism Leads to Tyranny, which discusses civil disobedience tactics.
He is also joint co-ordinator of a not-for-profit organisation called This Is Not A Gateway, which "creates platforms for critical projects and ideas related to cities".
According to the website, he has worked for more than a decade in non-governmental organisations specialising in urban renewal, cultural and environmental programmes.
Karl Hudspith, president of the Oxford University Boat Club, blamed him for ruining his crew's big day.
He wrote on Twitter: "To Trenton Oldfiled (sic); my team went through seven months of hell, this was the culmination of our careers and you took it from us."

Race rows

It is not the first time the Boat Race has been temporarily halted. In 2001 the race was stopped by the umpire just over a minute after the start following repeated warnings to both crews to move apart and then a clash of blades for which Oxford was blamed.

The race was subsequently restarted and Cambridge rowed to victory, though the decision to restart has remained controversial.

There have also been six sinkings, with the result being determined by a sinking on three occasions. Cambridge went under in 1859 and 1978 and Oxford in 1925.

In 1912, both boats sank and the race was rescheduled for the following day, while in 1951 Oxford sank and the race was rescheduled for two days later, when Cambridge won.

In 1912, both boats sank and the race was rescheduled for the following day.

And despite the genteel nature of the university competition, there have also been other controversies over the years.

Both the 1959 and 1987 races saw rebellions by Oxford athletes.

In 1959, there was a bid to oust president Ronnie Howard and coach “Jumbo” Edwards. Cambridge refused to race any but the president’s crew and, the rebellion quashed, Oxford went on to win the race.

The 1987 rebellion saw five American athletes in the Oxford squad refuse to row for coach Dan Topolski or president Donald Macdonald following disagreements over selection and training methods.

But although the Dark Blues had to rely on oarsmen from the reserve team to make up the numbers, the crew still soared over the finish line first that year.

Oxford and Cambridge boat race won by Cambridge in 2012 after being forced to restart because of a swimmer in the Thames