2001 saw the race stopped by umpire Rupert Obholzer just over a minute after the start, following repeated warnings to both crews to move apart, and then a clash of blades.
The race report explains what happened:
“Both crews came off the start well with Oxford taking a slight lead. Almost immediately after the start, Cambridge steered sharply towards the Middlesex line and were warned twice in rapid succession by the umpire Rupert Obholzer.
Then Oxford, still on their own station and a matter of a few feet ahead, veered towards Surrey and were warned. Almost immediately after this and still well before the Black Buoy the blades of the two boats overlapped substantially.
The blade of Cambridge bowman Colin Swainson dislodged from his hand and in consequence the umpire immediately stopped the race, with Cambridge floundering and Oxford pushing ahead oblivious to the umpire’s red flag.”
This decision was highly contentious, especially when Cambridge went on to win after the restart. However the rules of the race state that when a clash occurs: ‘The Umpire shall be the sole judge of a boat’s proper course – in the event of a serious or deliberate foul the Umpire shall disqualify the offending crew.’ In which case Oxford may consider themselves lucky not to have been the first crew of the new century to be disqualified.
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