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article image158th Boat Race halted by protester in the Thames

By Anne Sewell     Apr 8, 2012 in Sports
Oxford and Cambridge were going neck and neck until suddenly the Cambridge boat stopped. They had spotted the head of a person swimming in the Thames right near Oxford's oars. The video of the incident is going viral on many news sites.
The Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge is one of the most historic events in the UK each year, with Oxford and Cambridge battling it out on the River Thames.
On April 7, 2012, at around 2½ miles into the 4½-mile race course, and seen by thousands of spectators on the banks of the river in southwest London, the race was halted by John Garrett, the race umpire.
As the boats were racing along, with the teams neck and neck at just past the Chiswick Eyot, suddenly the Cambridge boat was halted as they saw the swimmer's head in the water.
The swimmer ducked his head under the water, narrowly missing the Oxford crew's oars.
Cambridge's American oarsman, Steve Dudek said: "I saw a head. I looked over and thought they had lost a guy (out of the Oxford boat)."
"They almost took his head off," said Sergeant Chris Tranter of the Metropolitan Police who later arrested the man.
Chief Executive of the Boat Race company, David Searle was on the umpire's boat when it occurred and spoke to the protestor. "I asked him what he was doing and who he was, but he wouldn't say anything. He said he knew what he was doing and that was all."
Assistant umpire Matthew Pinsent, who is a winner of 4 Olympic gold medals, got the credit for spotting the protester and avoiding a potential disaster with the 2 boat crews heading straight for him. He later said: "I just think it is a real shame. It was such a fantastic race and there will be a part of both crews that feels, 'Well, that was the race that got stopped.' It feels unfinished."
The swimmer, dressed in a wetsuit, was taken into a police boat and was arrested for public disorder. In a blog named "Elitism Leads to Tyranny", Trenton Oldfield later claimed responsibility for the stunt.
Oldfield stated on his web page: "This is a protest, an act of civil disobedience, a methodology of refusing and resistance. This act has employed guerrilla tactics. I am swimming into the boats in the hope i can stop them from completing the race and proposing the return of surprise tactics. This is ‘peaceful’ ... I have no weapons (don’t shoot!) My only fear, is not swimming fast enough to get in the right position to prevent the boats."
The Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge.
The Boat Race between Oxford and Cambridge.
Race umpire John Garrett had been warned prior to the Boat Race in 2011 that such a protest might occur, but they had no idea that it would actually happen this year.
The race was restarted after 31 minutes, halfway along the course. Then the next drama occurred as an Oxford oar snapped. This turned into a near tragedy when Oxford rower, Alex Woods, collapsed in the bow of the boat.
Woods was treated by paramedics at the scene and later was taken to Charing Cross Hospital, where his condition has been described as stable.
This unfortunate incident allowed Cambridge to cruise to victory. A margin of victory was not given by the officials.
More about the boat race, Oxford, Cambridge, Protester, Swimming
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