Boat Race: Man charged over swimming incident

A man has been charged over an incident which led to the 158th University Boat Race being halted halfway through.

The Oxford and Cambridge boats were side by side after 10 minutes and 30 seconds when the race was stopped.

After 31 minutes the race was re-started. Cambridge went on to win after Oxford broke an oar.

Trenton Oldfield, 35, of Whitechapel, east London, will appear at Feltham Magistrates' Court on 23 April charged under the Public Order Act.

Cambridge went on to win with ease after Oxford broke an oar in a clash moments after the resumption but the drama continued after the race.

Oxford bowman Dr Alex Woods collapsed in the boat after they crossed the line and was transferred to the race launch for medical treatment, before being taken to Charing Cross Hospital.

After being monitored overnight he was allowed home on Sunday.

Oxford crew help take their bowman Dr Alexander Woods ashore

Following the race, Oxford's bowman Dr Alexander Woods collapsed in the boat

Oxford coach Sean Bowden said: "He's pretty well recovered. He had a night in hospital mostly for observation.

"There was no pre-existing condition. All our rowers are thoroughly screened for all cardiac conditions. That all takes place before anyone starts training. I think it was just somebody rowing themselves into a state of exhaustion."

A closely fought race had looked to be heading for an exciting finish going into the final bend, only for a man wearing a black wetsuit to swim in front of the boats and narrowly avoid being hit by the oars of the Oxford crew.

"They almost took his head off," said Sergeant Chris Tranter of the Metropolitan Police.

Race umpire John Garrett halted the race after his assistant, the four-time Olympic champion Sir Matthew Pinsent, spotted the protester in the water just after the crews had passed Chiswick Steps.

Garrett told BBC Sport: "I wasn't sure if he was going to get out of the way in time, it was quite clear he was waiting for the boats to come across him, so I just had to stop the race."

Pinsent added: "It's not ideal but given those circumstances what could we do? It's a safety issue. Fortunately we spotted him and stopped the race. We couldn't possibly have carried on."

Boat Race drama

  • In 2001, umpire Rupert Obholzer stopped the race after repeated warnings to both crews to move apart and then a clash of blades
  • The result has been determined by a sinking on three occasions: Cambridge sank in 1859 and 1978, Oxford in 1925
  • In 1912, both boats sank and the race was rescheduled for the following day
  • In 1951, Oxford sank and the race was rescheduled for two days later

The last time the race had to be restarted was in 2001 when there was a clash of blades.

The two boats headed back to the halfway point and the race restarted after a 31-minute delay, but Oxford's Hanno Wienhausen broke his oar in a clash with Cambridge and the contest was effectively over as eight men took on seven.

Oxford had gone into the race as the defending champions, but Cambridge's victory extended their lead overall in the contest to 81-76.

"It's not the way anyone wants to take away the win," coach Steve Trapmore said. "We're more worried about the Oxford boat right now and we'll reflect later on what's gone on."

Light Blues president Dave Nelson added: "I feel bad. Finishing the race there was a lot of raw emotion and some of the celebrations seem pathetic in retrospect, but I wasn't aware of the broken oar and of Alex at the time.

"It was a dramatic race. We said through our whole campaign to expect the unexpected. That happened."

In a statement, the Boat Race Company Ltd said: "It is very sad that the 158th Boat Race, which was heading towards a thrilling finale, was disrupted by a member of the public in a manner that risked serious injury to himself and the competing crews.

"These incidents are planned for and we would like to congratulate both crews and the Race Umpire for their speed and professionalism in unfortunate circumstances as a result of which the protestor suffered no injuries."

Official crews for the 158th Boat Race

Cambridge: Bow - Moritz Schramm (91.8kg), 2 - Jack Lindeman (94.6kg), 3 - Mike Thorp (91.8kg), 4 - David Nelson (92.8kg), 5 - Alexander Scharp (95.6kg), 6 - Steve Dudek (109.6kg), 7 - Alex Ross (102kg), Stroke - Niles Garratt (92.2kg), Cox - Ed Bosson (55.6kg)

Oxford: Bow - Alexander Woods (77.8kg), 2 - William Zeng (82.4kg), 3 - Kevin Baum (91.6kg), 4 - Hanno Wienhausen (93.6kg), 5 - Karl Hudspith (91.2kg), 6 - Alex Davidson (94.6kg), 7 - Dan Harvey (79.6kg), Stroke - Roel Haen (96.8kg), Cox - Zoe de Toledo (49.6kg)