UPDATE: A protestor’s blog has claimed responsibility for swimming into the Thames to disrupt the race.

UPDATE: 5.50pm

Business networking site LinkedIn reveals Trenton Oldfield’s anti-elitist credentials. An LSE graduate, Oldfield has been involved in urban renewable projects focusing on the Thames towpaths that surround today’s shocking incident. He has past form in river-based protest: council records reveal he planned to stage a ‘boat trip between Hammersmith and Chelsea to promote sustainable transport issues’.

UPDATE: 5.30pm

Trenton Oldfield, a 35-year-old protester, has been identified as the rogue swimmer, and the blogpost quoted below is believed to have been written by him as well.

UPDATE: 4.30pm

Speculation is rife regarding the identity of the rogue swimmer. A blogpost claims responsibility for the disruption, which it claims was a protest against elitism:

“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.”

More as we find out.

___________________

Cambridge won the 158th boat race in a storm of interruption and clashes of oars. Nothing could have prepared them for what happened in today’s race.

A swimmer interrupted the race halfway through, only for the crews’ blades to clash on the restart. An Oxford blade snapped in half, giving Cambridge an easy row to the finish in one of the most extraordinary races ever.

Cambridge President David Nelson won the toss and chose the Surrey station, which has produced the lion’s share of wins in recent years. With Oxford pre-race 4/9 favourites, it was an early bonus for the Light Blues.

With 250,000 spectators lining the banks, the atmosphere was electric as the race began. Oxford made the strongest start, pulling out to a quarter of a length lead within the first minute. But Cambridge knew their Surrey station would have the advantage coming past Hammersmith and didn’t panic. 

The crews level at Hammersmith Bridge before the stoppage

The Light Blues upped their stroke rate to 37 and pulled it back to lead by a third of a length as there was nearly a clash of blades going under Hammersmith Bridge. Coming past Chiswick Eyot the crews were level, when suddenly everything stopped.

Assistant umpire Sir Matthew Pinsent had seen a protester swim out into the river, forcing the stoppage of the race for the first time since 2001. He narrowly missed hitting an Oxford blade at high-speed, which could have killed him, before being whisked away in a police boat, still smiling.

As confusion spread along the banks, the boats turned around and headed back to re-start the race from a point just before the interruption at Chiswick Eyot. The following flotilla’s wake had churned up the river, and there was a delay while the water settled down again.

It made for a completely different race. Both crews had been selected for a four-mile marathon and found themselves with a two mile sprint to the finish, but the choppy waters seemed to favour a Cambridge crew who were on average 7.9kg heavier per man.

When umpire John Garrett got the crews going again with a rolling start, there was still nothing to choose between the boats. The crews came closer and closer to each other, with the umpire warning the Oxford crew to keep their distance, as Cambridge held their line. But the boats came too close and the inevitable clash happened. It caused Oxford’s Wienhausen’s oar to snap and they were effectively reduced to seven men.

From then on the race was all but over, and Cambridge went on to win easily. Oxford cox Zoe De Toledo registered an appeal at the end of the race, but umpire Garrett said he was “comfortable with Cambridge’s position on the river”, laying all fault with the Oxford crew.

Cambridge crossing the finish line ahead of 7-man Oxford

Cambridge stood up in their boat to celebrate as they came under Chiswick Bridge, but the jubilations were quickly muted when the Oxford bow Alex Woods collapsed having crossed the finish line. Medics were called to administer oxygen and he was taken to Charing Cross hospital, but is said to be doing well.

Alex Woods collapsed in the Oxford boat after the race

After the race Cambridge’s Steve Dudek echoed the sentiments of all present at the finish line, saying “we hope he’s all right. Our thoughts are with him”. Light Blue coach Steve Trapmore said it was “not the ideal way to win, but we’re very proud of the guys”. Due to Woods’ collapse, the presentation was cancelled, despite Boris Johnson having turned up for it.

Cambridge President David Nelson felt that Cambridge had been rowing better than Oxford at the point of the clash, but the 158th Boat Race will forever be remembered for the drama that surrounded it.

In the reserves race, Cambridge’s Goldie also won the toss and chose Surrey. It was Goldie who made the best start, pulling out to a half-length lead. But by the milepost that had evaporated and Isis got a quarter of a length ahead. Goldie never recovered, and by the time the crews were approaching Chiswick, Isis had pulled out to three lengths, using the Middlesex bank to their advantage. A final margin of five lengths was the official verdict.

You can also see our live coverage here and on Twitter.

Photographs by Sonali Campion and Laura Pugh

  • Boat Race

    = OARkward.

    • Oarful.

      Anagram of Trenton Oldfield = Lent Loon Drifted.

  • boatie

    YEAHHH

  • Mr Swimmer

    is a dinkleburger

  • Trenton Oldfield

    =
    GDB twat

  • Google

    Swimmer's name is Trenton Oldfield

  • Mrs Swimmer

    is a twinklehotdog

  • Amateur Umpire…

    Shame we'll never know for sure, but Oxford were looking comfortable (and better), and were about to get their advantae…
    [polldaddy 6117083 http://answers.polldaddy.com/poll/6117083/ polldaddy]

    • Speculative

      Nah, they had been consistently overrating Cambridge and were a lighter crew. That's generally bad news for them at that stage of the race.

  • qwerty

    sa-boat-aged

  • Craig Slade

    http://oxfordstudent.com/2012/04/07/boat-race-hal

    Interesting that the Oxford Student doesn't make a single mention of the broken oar.

  • Zoe de Toledo

    is a babe

    • cam

      maybe…but a bad cox.

  • Actually happened

    God damns bloody Oxford?

  • alex

    Zoe de Toledo has got fire in her belly !

  • Trenton's blogpost

    My suggestions include withholding elite toilet paper, and inconspicuously towing away David Cameron's car.

    It seems I am the work of a delusional child.

  • WEARETHE99%

    OccupyThames is the protest of a generation.

  • ISpeakForTheStudents

    Just want to inform everyone that after an emergency meeting with my buddies at Cambridge Defend Education (a Skype conference, that is) we have decided to give Trenton Oldfield an honourary membership. He will be coming up to Cambridge next term and hold a series of lectures on "vacuous activism" at the Rainbow Café. Hope to see many of you there!

  • BaldingsSexyBlueCoat

    It'll be interesting to see if CUSU (past and present) et al will be defending his right to protest?
    http://cambridgetab.co.uk/opinion/we-must-protest

  • Pun

    Cameras failed to show an old man chasing this afternoon's boat race protestor shouting 'TRENTON! TRENTON! JESUS CHRIST. TRENTONNN!'

  • Matthew Pinsent

    needs to be told that "protester" actually means "a piece of debris you can definitely row straight over. Twice if you have to."

  • ZoeDeToledo@irony

    would still like to 'steer a boat straight'! http://www.leander.co.uk/athletes/Zoe_DETOLEDO.ht

  • BaldingsSexyBlueCoat

    Boatie help needed…

    Having watched it on TV , with little (ok, no) knowledge of rowing rules – Oxford were shouting something about (oars breaking??) "within 100m from the start" meaning there should have been a re-start ?? I've looked online in the national press reports, but this seems to have been glossed over…

    Can any boatie types confirm?

    • Armchair Umpire

      There's a contradiction in the rules – if there's a clash within 100m of the start, you restart. If there's a clash in the second half of the race, you don't restart. In this case, both conditions are satisfied. However, the rules also say that any boat that causes a clash (and Oxford were judged to have done so) does so "at its own peril" – analogous to playing the advantage in football or rugby.

    • 100m restart…

      Indeed this rule is true – but sadly for Oxford they had gone way over 100m by the time the oars broke.

    • boatie

      There is a rule at high level regattas (like FISA/Olympics) that if there is a legitimate equipment breakage within 100m of the start, the race is re-started with new equipment – something ZDT with her masses of international rowing experience is probably used to, so argued for. However, a restart halfway through a four and a half mile race is very debatable as to being classed as 'the start', especially with the previous holdup and the distance from the boathouses (halfway down a 4.5 mile race is almost double the length of a full FISA/Olympic regatta).

      So, to be honest, it was worth a try, but combining the fact that it was her fault the clash happened (rather than not being straight off the start), the fact that it was a restart rather than 'the start', probably would mean it wasn't applicable. Can't imagine the umpire ignoring it if it was.

  • What an absolute

    cunt

  • Anna Isaac

    I don't use the word cunt very often but for Trenton Oldfield, I'll make an exception.

  • Nelson Mandela

    This is actually a quality article. cheers tom tryon, you've served the tab well and i hope you go on to good things in the future :)

    ps
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVv7o1ePo4U

    nah but seriously, i love you

  • Ashpit

    what does a girl say after having 8 orgasms? THANKS ASHPIT!

    true story

  • Tryon

    DAMN i write well. like really well

  • Ron Burgundy

    mmmm i look good. i mean, i look really good. HEY EVERYBODY, COME SEE HOW GOOD I LOOK

  • heyguesswhowon

    CAMBRIDGE BABY!!!!! lets all go celebrate by ruining cindies and stealing the van of death

  • NewZealander

    you got any t sauce?

  • lolbytheway

    you, have' really! bad grammar?

  • 50 wings?

    i think bbc should potentially take their article down and replace it with this?

    POTENTIALLY

    POTENTIALLY

  • Fijian Pikey

    ok so basically what happened was i work on motor engines, like the ones you find in bikes and cars and stuff, so i decided to build one of them (true story) instead of coming spoons. anyway, on the way to work i found a coconut and threw it at this police officer, who took offence and arrested me. now i'm in jail for 3 months for armed robbery of a child, which sucks because the police officer didn't even tell me his name! what a chopper. anyway its all good because chopper bailed me out and bought my ticket back to chris brown's apartment in the south of kent so GET INVOLVED. like fully involved

  • More drama than…

    the ADC.

  • that oarkward moment

    when you just want to go rowing on the Thames and Trenton Oldfield won't get out of the way.

  • /sp/

    -lose race
    -pretend to die

    Stay classy, Oxford.

  • http://www.houseprotectors.co.uk Colin Hall

    This was the first boat race that I ever watched !
    I'm 45 years old and I never knew that they could be such fun to watch !
    Does a passing swimmer always nearly get decapitated ?
    I wonder what the odds were.