News24

Cambridge win bizarre race

2012-04-07 19:01

London - Cambridge beat Oxford in a bizzare and chaotic Varsity Boat Race which featured an intruder in the River Thames, a broken oar and an ailing oarsman on Saturday.

Cambridge won the 158th edition of the race but the event would have sparked security concerns just 111 days before the start of the London Olympics after the appearance of a swimming intruder forced the umpire to halt the contest near the halfway mark.

A man wearing a black wetsuit was almost hit by the oars of the Oxford crew before he was hauled out of the river and detained.

The boats were ordered to pull up and race umpire John Garrett declared a restart after a stoppage of around 30 minutes.

There was more drama just a minute following the restart when one of the Oxford rowers saw his blade snap off following a clash of oars between the crews of the two boats.

That effectively ended Oxford's challenge and Cambridge sprinted away to win by several lengths.

But as Cambridge celebrated, there was despair and concern in the beaten Oxford boat where exhausted bow man Alex Woods collapsed. After being carried off the boat for treatment, media reported that he was recovering in a London hospital.

Oxford cox Zoe de Toledo, unhappy at having to race minus one oar, appealed against the result but was told by Garrett they had been warned for getting too close.

Cambridge president Dave Nelson, asked about the intruder, told BBC TV: "Suddenly there was this yelling about an obstruction going on and the next thing I know is I can see a guy's head in the middle of the two boats

"There must have been 10 or 20 boats following us so that guy was in serious strife.

Garrett said: "We thought it was some debris but then realised 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 re-start."

He said of the Oxford protest: "In the immediate run-up to the clash of oars I was warning Oxford. Cambridge were in the right position so I was content to let the race continue and the result stand."

Reuters