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Oxford v Cambridge boat race interrupted!

Indeed. I’m watching it on telly now. Someone, a youngish man by the look of him, swam across the course, in front of the boats, and both boats had to stop. They will have a restart, at the approximate point where the race was interrupted. Which will turn the event into two sprints laid end to end, instead of something more like a middle distance event.

The commentators are saying that it was some kind of demo. They are now showing the bloke narrowly missing being decapitated by the oars of one of the boats. It seemed like a very deliberate disruption. They are calling him “a protester”, and they are now reporting that he “has a big smile on his face”, and that he has clearly accomplished what he wanted.

So what do you suppose he was on about? Any bets? Maybe in times gone by, the message being pushed by this demo, if message there was, could have been entirely suppressed by the powers that be, in the event that they wanted it suppressed. These days, no chance.

This is not something that usually happens in the Boat Race. (Yes, yes, there are indeed many other boat races. This one is the Boat Race.) “This has never happened before in the Boat Race”, says an expert talking head.

The race will soon start again. At the time the race was interrupted, the two boats were both very close together. Oxford were apparently heavy favourites at the start. Now, not so much. It was turning into a very good race. How will this affect the result, and be judged to have affected it?

The Boat Race is usually, frankly, a very dull affair, or so I think. Often the race is won and lost within the first half a minute, and the rest of it is a tedious procession. This kind of thing livens it up, in many eyes.

But best of all is when the finish is, as is extremely rare, very close. This one could still end like that, but it’s very unlikely.

I see that in that earlier piece, dated 2003, I wrote this:

I overheard another interesting titbit in among the preparatory waffling. Apparently 90% of these oarsmen go into “banking”, by which I think they meant “merchant” banking. I don’t know what this proves. It could be that rowing is a fine preparation for financial titans. Or it could be that the financial services industry contains a lot of people with more ex-brawn than current brain. A bit of both, I should guess. They don’t get paid anything to be in this race, but it seems that they clean up afterwards. Investment in networking. Speculate to accumulate. Apparently they were racing for the “Aberdeen Asset Management Trophy”. It figures.

So this latest little drama is the kind of thing that Instapundit flags up under the heading of: “metaphor alert”.

And: they’re off!


Oh my god! An Oxford rower has lost the whole end of his oar. It’s just a stick! The race continues, because the umpire reckons it was Oxford’s fault, following a clash of oars. It’s a procession. Another metaphor alert! The sure fire winner is now doomed!

If you care, this is all terrible. But for me it’s more a case of LOL. Whether that’s right is an argument, but that, for me, is how it was.

31 comments to Oxford v Cambridge boat race interrupted!

  • Alisa

    Maybe he was protesting against the dullness of the affair?

  • Mannie

    They are now showing the bloke narrowly missing being decapitated by the oars of one of the boats.

    Better luck next time. If the boats were not so fragile, I would say they should have rode him down.

  • terence patrick hewett

    The Boat Race has no second prize; when you lose you lose everything. It shows us how to deal with failure and then come back to win; no small lesson. The trick is to try and win more than you lose.

  • alecm

    The swimmer/protestor claims to have been fighting “tyranny” and has a frankly potty manifesto at


    His name is Trenton Oldfield, which is nicely googleable if you want to know any more about this twit.

  • Alan Little

    Best of all is when Cambridge sink

  • Why does everyone have it in for Cambridge, anyway? Because we are the better university?

  • Laird

    You never see this sort of thing at a NASCAR event.

  • Michael:

    I don’t have it in for Cambridge. Frankly, I don’t give a crap about either university. :-p

    And dammit, Brian, why did you have to comment on the pretentiousness of calling it “The Boat Race” as though there weren’t any other boat races on the planet? Granted, you Brits do a lot of this: “The Oval”, “The Championships”, and the like.

  • Alisa

    Indeed, Laird – although I was thinking of more benign sports, like baseball or cricket. I mean, he could stand in front of a batter…

  • Alisa:

    While I wait for another comment to exit from the Smite Purgatory, you might enjoy Morganna the Kissing Bandit.

  • Andrew

    Ahh, “Trenton Oldfield”.

    Let me guess, wealthy background, never done a real job as a result, protesting against daddy?

  • PersonFromPorlock

    So, a man intervenes when the race is close and the heavy favorite ultimately loses, in a country where betting on the outcome is, I believe, legal. Are you sure he’s just a twit?

  • David Crawford

    Here is how you handle those people that try and interject themselves into a sporting contest:

    Drunken idiot Red Sox fan (I know, I know “drunken”, “idiot”, and “Red Sox fan” are all found under the same heading in a thesarus.):


    Mad Dog Mike Curits (linebacker for the Baltimore Colts) introduces himself to a fan trying to steal a football on the field:


    Streaker at an NFL game:


  • RAB

    Well first off, why did they stop? Both boats were past the twat, and if he got chewed up by the stewards boat and the flotilla following, no skin off my nose, but plenty off his I’ll warrant 😉

    One thing I noticed this year, which I have never seen before, they are trying to razzamatazz what is an extremely dull sporting fixture, by introducing the rowers one by one, by name, nationality and the Degree they are studying for, just like American Basketball and Football players fer chrissakes!

    Why is a contest that is of interest to only a tiny minority of people in this country, considered a major sporting event that involves the whole country, 99% of whom have attended neither University, and the closest they’ve got to rowing is hiring a boat on their local municipal lake? Historical longevity? A doff to the Toffs? What?

  • manuel II paleologos

    RAB – I agree with you about the jazzing-up of the event. I dislike the way the BBC is increasingly directing these events, rather than observing them – it’s a little like how they’ve taken over the prizegiving at the end of Wimbledon, complete with naff “so tell us how it feels” questioning.

    Those of us who care about this event couldn’t really care less about the media coverage – I’ll follow it on my bike if I have to, especially if it gives me a chance to kick the teeth out of any “activists” who look likely to disrupt it. If you don’t like it, then don’t watch it. Lots of us do.

    For what it’s worth, I think the umpire was technically correct in his decision to allow the race to continue, although I think I’d have stopped it and ordered a re-race tomorrow.

    The logistical question it does pose, however, is that the sheer number of boats following the race effectively makes it impossible to re-start quickly. If it had just been the umpire and a TV camera following, they’d have been able to just basically carry on.

  • chuck

    Oh my god! An Oxford rower has lost the whole end of his oar.

    I’m sure it’s a metaphoar for something. Isn’t everything these days?

  • Alisa

    Speaking of metaphors, something is wrong with that woman’s lungs, Ted…

  • the other rob

    I suspect that that is the case, Michael Jennings.

  • manuel II paleologos

    RAB – those of us who care for the race would generally agree with you about some aspects of the BBC coverage – I hate it when TV directs rather than just observes the event and the crew intros were awful. On the other hand, they had some real expertise at hand who were quick to explain events – in contrast, when rowers in the past have collapsed (1980, 1992) it’s gone completely unnoticed by the chumps on the microphone.

    I think the absurd popularity was much to blame for the mess today; the reason they had to stop, and why it then took so long to re-start, was largely because of the enormous flotilla behind creating a threat to the swimmer, then an immense wash. If it were just the umpire and a camera crew it might have been fine.

    What we have now, it seems, is a signed-up leftie civil servant, who went to LSE and is a member of the Royal Society, taking a stand against “elitism”. It’s hard to avoid unkind thoughts. My previous ones don’t seem to have made it past smite control.

    It seems a shame to me that Cambridge went on to “win”, as they looked well beaten when the race was stopped (having failed to make any ground on their inside bend), and were getting pummelled at the restart too, so unfortunately the eejit really did impact the result. The umpire did an OK job, but I felt and still feel that a re-row tomorrow would have been a better option. Whether the BBC could fit it in or not.

  • David Crawford

    Why is a contest that is of interest to only a tiny minority of people in this country, considered a major sporting event that involves the whole country, 99% of whom have attended neither University, and the closest they’ve got to rowing is hiring a boat on their local municipal lake? Historical longevity? A doff to the Toffs? What?

    RAB, you lucky dog you. You’ve actually got ahold of one of those North Korean TVs that only has one channel. Keep it, I’m sure it’ll be worth something in the future.

  • Philip Scott Thomas

    Fnarr, fnarr. I put fifty quid on the alma mater out of tribal loyalty to the old girl, despite what the pundits predicted. I’m now a very happy man indeed.

  • RAB

    I’m pretty sure my TV was made in Korea alright David, but definately in the South, and your point was?

  • jasonp

    Ouch, that’s gotsta hurt.

    The only reason that the whole world knows about this little canoe race is due to an Aussie anti elitist protester interrupting your pathetic dick swinging competition.

    Whilst in the land of lime I was once accosted by and educated ‘Oxford man’: ” Ha ha, whats it like coming from the colonies?” Before I could punch this arrogant little twat in the face my mate came back, calm as; “coming from the colonies is okay, what’s it like loosing an entire empire?”

    Get used to it limeys…. your time is up.

    Peace and respect. jp++

  • Stephen Willmer

    Oldfield seems to be on LinkedIn. That’s got to be the fatal flaw in any posturing, hasn’t it. Facebook for the working classes…

  • JohnB

    I heard that he was protesting against elitism.

    Which caused me to re-think my own position because I often see some of the baddies as the controlling elites who use deception to maintain their elite status.

    And I realised that, yes, there is nothing wrong (or right – it is just as it is) with there being an elite.
    What is wrong or destructive is when an elite uses force or deception to maintain an elite status.
    Which would further indicate it not being a true elite but rather a bunch of crooks, or conmen, or thugs.

    I suppose it might even be a good idea for such a false, but established, elite to get an idiot to wreck a boat race in the name of anti-elitism?

    Just kidding.

  • I am not sure the powers that be did a particularly good job of keeping Emily Davison’s name out of the papers.

  • AndrewWS

    Personally, I think the twit should undergo the traditional Oxford punishment of being stoned to death with champagne bottles.

  • RW


    I agree, it fits the crime better than the traditional Greek punishment of reaming round the rectum with a horseradish. Although that could be said to be suitable for ****holes.

    The reason I find this completely unfunny is that the rowers have spent 7 months of extraordinarily intensive training which is reduced to futility by a non-result in which for the rest of their lives not merely will the losers feel that they did not deserve to lose but the winners will not feel that they deserved to win. All for 15 minutes of publicity for some self-satisfied navel-gazing egotist.

    Ok Brian, the Boat Race is often a very dull affair, even in the eyes of those of us who enjoy it, if only for our tribal loyalties. But the same applies to lots of other activities – I happen to find football dull, for example. But I wouldn’t be amused by some sabotage prank.

  • Michael Lorrey

    Oh I think these sabotagers can be great entertainment, if the rules allow players to roundly thrash the sabotagers for the entertainment of the public. *I* certainly wouldn’t want to get a half dozen or more oars smacked upside my head.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I was glad, being an East Anglian, to see Cambridge win this race but not in these circumstances. I hope the moron is harshly treated. People have trained for months to get ready for such an event. The megalomania of people who think their own obsessions are somehow more important than those of others never fail to piss me off.

    He’s lucky he was not badly hurt. Perhaps a sharp bang on the head would have done him some good.

    Of course, “THE” boat race is the America’s Cup, held in San Francisco next year. I plan to be there.

  • Alisa

    The megalomania of people who think their own obsessions are somehow more important than those of others never fail to piss me off.