An Australian protester interrupted Saturday’s Oxford-Cambridge regatta by swimming into the paths of the boats, stopping the race and raising the ire of former lightweight crew oarsman and Rhodes scholar Will Zeng ’11, who rowed for Oxford on Saturday.
When environmental campaigner Trenton Oldfield interrupted “The Boat Race” about halfway through the four-an-a-quarter mile course, Oxford was slightly ahead of Cambridge just over nine minutes into the race. An official spotted Oldfield and stopped the regatta. Oldfield was picked up by a police boat and arrested, while spectators booed and shouted “Take him to the Tower!”
Zeng addressed Oldfield after the race in several Twitter posts:
“When I missed your head with my blade I knew only that you were a swimmer, and if you say you are a protester then no matter what you say your cause may be, your action speaks too loudly for me to hear you.”
“I know exactly what you were protesting. You were protesting the right of 17 young men and one woman to compete fairly and honorably, to demonstrate their hard work and desire in a proud tradition.”
“You were protesting their right to devote years of their lives, their friendships, and their souls to the fair pursuits of the joys and the hardships of sport. You, who would make a mockery of their dedication and their courage, are a mockery of a man.”
The race resumed 30 minutes later. An Oxford oar snapped when the blades from the two boats tangled, allowing Cambridge to cruise to victory. An Oxford oarsman collapsed at the finish line and was taken to hospital. He is in stable condition.
Saturday’s regatta was the 158th Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race, a tradition dating to 1829.