Developing

Swimmer Charged After Halting Boat Race

A man who swam into the Thames and disrupted the Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race has been charged with a public order offence.

The two rowing crews were forced to stop after 35-year-old Trenton Oldfield, a director of a group called This Is Not A Gateway , put himself in the path of the boats.

The blades of both teams' oars narrowly missed the swimmer as they passed either side of him.

Oldfield was taken away by police after being pulled from the river.

He has been released on bail and will appear at Feltham Magistrates' Court on April 23 accused of a Section Five offence under the Public Order Act.

In a post on This Is Not A Gateway's Twitter feed, its co-cordinator Deepa Naik said: "Deepa here... finding out just like you. Yes is Trenton."

Writing before the protest on his blog Elitism Leads To Tyranny , Oldfield talked about why he planned to carry out a "performance on the Thames".

"This is a protest, an act of civil disobedience, a methodology of refusing and resistance," he wrote.

He described the race as "a public event, for and by the elites with broader social relations aims".

Cambridge won the 158th running of the Boat Race after it was restarted from near Hammersmith Bridge after about 30 minutes. Oxford broke an oar allowing their rivals to win back the title.

President of the Oxford University Boat Club Karl Hudspith blamed Oldfield after the defeat.

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."

The crews were neck-and-neck when the race was stopped between the two and three-mile markers of the four-and-a-quarter mile race between Putney and Mortlake.

Cambridge team president David Nelson said: "There was a lot of to-ing and fro-ing up to the (Chiswick Eyot) island and suddenly there was some yelling about an obstruction in the water.

"The next thing I know I see a guy's head between the two boats - and there's 10 or 20 boats following us, so that guy was in serious strife."

Umpire John Garrett said it was Olympic gold medalist rower Sir Matthew Pinsent, who was assistant umpire, who 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."

Oldfield, wearing a wetsuit, ducked under the water as the two boats converged on him.

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

Witness Anne Gill said: "The lifeboat men pulled him out of the water, immediately the police boat was alongside them as well.

"He was taken to Chiswick Pier where he was landed. I think he was probably in handcuffs, he was certainly covered in a red rug, and he walked past me smirking."

"Everybody was booing him, everyone was extremely unhappy with him."

After the race had been completed there was more drama as a member of the Oxford crew collapsed.

Alexander Woods had to be lifted from the bow of the boat and was given emergency medical treatment.

Oxford's coach Sean Bowden said: "Obviously our biggest concern is Alex's welfare and it was good to see that he was conscious and taken off to hospital with good care.

"But this really was the product of the most extraordinary and unfortunate chain of events that have conspired against us to take away a win which I think we looked like we were about to take in the race proper."

The world-famous event is broadcast in 200 countries and attracts around 250,000 people to the banks of the Thames.

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.