From my house, it is a long, beautiful walk along the Thames River into Oxford. On most days, just before coming in sight of the college spires, I am greeted by the rhythmic cadence of the crew teams as they train upon the river. I’m not a huge fan of the sport, but I enjoy watching the long boats glide across the river, and once a year, I like to watch the famous Oxford/Cambridge boat race on T.V.
Well, the race just ended, and what a mess it was...
Going in, Oxford was given the edge, but everyone was expecting a close race. On the start, Oxford jumped out to a quick half a boat lead, but the larger men on the Cambridge team slowly battled back and evened the race at the halfway mark. Then, as they rounded a corner that should have been in Cambridge’s favour, Oxford began to just sneak out a head. And then, both boats stopped...
There was a swimmer in the water, a man who was lucky not to be decapitated. I have little doubt that the man was purposely disrupting the race. I don’t know why, and I don’t really care, but I hope he is punished rather severely by the law. He was last seen being taken away in a police boat.
The race official decided to take the race back a few hundred yards and restart the race. I think most will agree this decision was in Cambridge’s favour, they not only gained by the boats once again starting even, but also got back their corner. As it turned out, it may not have mattered. Within the first 100 meters of the restart, the oars of the two boats clashed, and one of the Oxford oars was sheared off. The official ruled that Oxford was in the wrong, and the race continued. Well, I should say the event continued, there was no race at that point, seven oars cannot compete with eight. Cambridge stormed ahead to any easy win. One of the announcers wondered why Oxford even continued to row, arguing it would be better to take a ‘Did Not Finish’ result under the circumstances. I don’t know enough about crew rules to say if the official was right or wrong, I’m guessing it mostly depends on which side you were supporting.
Anyway, just to make the whole thing worse, upon crossing the line, Oxford’s bow rower dropped unconscious and lay unnoticed for several minutes by his crew mates (who were all faced away from him in the boat). Once they realized what had happened, the medical boat was quickly called over, and the limp oarsman was passed aboard. He seemed to be mostly okay, when t.v. coverage finally cut away.
Some mention should be made of the great sportsmanship showed by Cambridge, who kept their celebrations very muted at the finish line and on shore in difference to the collapsed competitor and the oddity of the race. These men have trained 6 hours a day, 6 days a week for 6 months for this race, it is not their fault that any of these things occurred and it is unfortunate that they couldn’t celebrate their victory as I’m sure they had dreamed it.
It was a sad day for British sports.