7th Apr 2012
Karl Hudspith (OUBC President):
The past few days have been very hard for all my crew and we have all been through a mixture of emotions. I hope I can comment on Saturday’s events more clearly now.
The Race itself had unfolded into what would almost certainly have been an all-time classic. We had worked ourselves into a good position at the point the Race was stopped, having survived the head wind and the Surrey advantage to Cambridge, and just retaken a narrow lead. From what Cambridge have told us, they felt they were also feeling good, with neither crew having yet had to use a tactical push. What would have happened from there we can therefore only guess at.
It is unfortunate that the actions of one selfish individual robbed us all of a true Boat Race contest and forced a restart. As if that was not enough – the conditions in which we then found ourselves made the resulting decisive clash almost inevitable. Without stakeboats it is almost impossible to ensure crews go off straight, and the natural competitiveness of both sides to tap up and ensure that they did not start down resulted in the crews re-starting at high speed, close together on a collision course, in very turbulent water that made steering difficult.
I would like to thank John Garrett, the umpire for dealing very competently and commendably with a difficult and unprecedented situation. We all value greatly the members of the umpires panel who are all volunteers, without whom the Race could not be run, and I would like to say personally that I would be happy and honoured to have John umpire me again. If there were any failings in how the Race was contested it was due to the rules having never been designed to accommodate such unusual circumstances, and I am sure these matters will be debated at length in the coming months.
I would like to thank the medical services for their care of Alex Woods’ right from the moment when we had all realised that he had collapsed, through to his discharge from Charing Cross Hospital the next day. I would also like to thank Dr John Bell and Dr John Sichel on our supporters launch who quickly came to his aid.
I wish to congratulate David Nelson, Steve Trapmore and the CUBC Blue Boat, both for the work they have done throughout the year to make themselves a fast crew, and for taking their opportunity on the day to win the Race within the rules. We all appreciate the gesture you made in not celebrating when we were concerned for Alex’s wellbeing, and for the messages you have sent to us since.
Finally I would like to say that I am proud of my crew for finishing the race, even when it quickly became apparent that we had no chance of winning and could have stopped. I would also like to mention the pride I have for Isis, who have been overshadowed in all this, not only for winning their Race, but for becoming the fastest reserve crew in history, and setting the third fastest time in the history of The Boat Race.
We must accept that what happens in sport is sometimes beyond our control, and that our response is part of the test we are measured by. From what I have seen at the OUBC, both as President, and since my first day as a triallist, we will not be demotivated by Saturday’s events, but it will strengthen our resolution to return next year stronger.
David Nelson (CUBC President):
First and foremost it was a huge relief to hear that Alex Woods is out of hospital. Winning the Race seemed totally insignificant when suddenly it became clear that a fellow competitor’s health was in grave danger. The responsiveness of all involved was commendable. Compassion transcends old rivalries in such circumstances.
We condemn the actions of the protestor. The Boat Race is all about 18 students testing themselves to the ultimate for no reward other than that of winning itself. The Boat Race is no place for such callous and selfish action. Sadly, just as it looked like the Race was shaping into an epic finish, the interruption occurred and we will never know what might have otherwise happened.
As a team we had spoken all year about coping with adversity, dealing with whatever is thrown our way and capitalising on key moments. I was extremely proud of the composure of our crew to recover from a poor start, deal with the interruption and restart, and then take the opportunity when the defining clash occurred.
As underdogs and having overcome so much, crossing the line was full of raw emotion. The revelation of Hanno Wienhausen’s lost blade and then Alex’s condition, however, then cast a sobering light over the Race. It wasn’t my preferred way to win, but nonetheless, that’s The Boat Race and its unpredictability is part of what makes the event so special.
To Karl Hudspith and the Oxford crew I send my commiserations and I take my hat off to them for the tremendous courage they showed in fighting all the way despite having lost an oar. To never give up against all the odds demonstrated real character and was in the finest traditions of the Race.
Finally I would like to applaud John Garrett, Sir Matthew Pinsent and the rest of the Umpires’ Panel for their decisiveness and integrity throughout a very difficult situation.
Dr Alex Woods (OUBC):
I’d like to thank everybody for all of their concern and for their kind wishes over the last couple of days, it really does mean a lot. I’m sorry for causing any worry! I am pleased to say that I am on the mend and that the doctors have allowed me to return home to recover. I should be fine in a few days.
I’d like to thank the paramedics, Dr Sichel, 1st Response Medical Services, the St John’s Ambulance staff and everyone at A+E and the Cardiology unit at Charing Cross Hospital for their great care. I hope that I can reach the same standards when I qualify.
I'm very proud of Zoe and all of the guys. I feel privileged to have lived, trained and raced with them and it has been an honour to call them my crew mates. It is a shame that we’ll finish this year having never raced the whole Boat Race course together.
I don't remember anything of the Race after being aware of the blade breaking, and am obviously devastated at the way things turned out, but would like to congratulate CUBC for their win.
I have contacted their crew and Steve Trapmore personally, to say that I'm very sorry that my collapse prevented their celebrations, and to thank them for thinking of me at the time. Such sportsman-like behaviour is a real credit to all of their crew and everyone at CUBC. Although The Boat Race 2012 will be remembered for a number of unfortunate reasons, I hope it is some of these qualities that will keep the Race in people’s minds for years to come.
Zoe De Toledo (OUBC Cox):
Firstly, I’d like to say how proud I am of the eight true gentlemen who I had the pleasure to cox in The Boat Race yesterday. Seeing how the guys attacked the Race in the last 5 minutes was simultaneously one of the worst, but also one of the proudest moments of my life.
Ultimately it is just a tragedy that neither crew had the opportunity to display its best ability over the full course from Putney to Mortlake. We are devastated that we did not get the chance to find out what we were capable of achieving in the second half of the Race, and many of us will never have that opportunity again. It is our sincerest hope that every future Boat Race crew, from both Oxford and Cambridge, is afforded the chance to fairly test themselves over the full 4 and a quarter miles that make The Boat Race such a unique event.
We are all extremely proud of The Boat Race as an event and a tradition, and accept that bizarre events like those that occurred yesterday do happen. That’s sport. Whilst I believe I will remember yesterday’s remarkable events for all the wrong reasons, I would not trade the friendships I have built with my crewmates for anything. Yesterday I truly learnt what it was to be part of a team. A team that rallies around you and shelters you from the storm when you are at your lowest. Lastly I want to finish by saying how proud I am of my teammates in the Isis crew, who not only set the record for the Reserve Boat Race, but also recorded the third fastest time in the history of the Race.
Dr John Sichel (OUBC Medical Officer):
The vicissitudes visited on both crews in this year's Boat Race had consequences on their performance. The sudden and premature stopping of the Race when concentration and exertion were at their peak was bad enough, but when the Race had lost its equal footing for having lost an oar, the psychological response was to try even harder. Oxford drove themselves to the limit to try to contain the damage. Alex Woods rowing at Bow reached the finishing line and found he had expended all reserves of energy; in my view he had rendered himself hypoxic, and this was the cause of his collapse. He was administered 100% Oxygen at the scene, and this was continued in Hospital along with the administration of iv fluids. All tests in Hospital confirmed normal cardiac, respiratory and renal function. Tests were completed this morning and he was discharged in good shape, having recovered from his exhaustion and the oxygen deficit.
Boat Race Company Ltd (BRCL) latest:
First and foremost, we are delighted that the Oxford Bowman Alex Woods is in a stable condition and looks set to make a full recovery.
The Xchanging Boat Race is a British institution and an annual highlight in the sporting calendar. It is a free event enjoyed by many hundreds of thousands of Londoners and visitors, and many millions of television viewers around the world. It is very sad that the 158th Boat Race, which was heading towards a thrilling finale, was disrupted by a member of the public in a manner that risked serious injury to himself and the competing crews.
These incidents are planned for and we would like to congratulate both crews and The Race Umpire for their speed and professionalism in unfortunate circumstances as a result of which the protestor suffered no injuries.
BRCL can confirm that Alex Woods is in a stable condition. He will continue to be monitored by hospital staff.
At this time, BRCL's concern is for Alex's well-being. Alex's family are with him and he is receiving the best possible medical care. Until we have any updates, there will be no further comment.
Bureau, New Scotland Yard:
Shortly before 14:30hrs on Saturday 7 April police were alerted to a man in the River Thames where the Boat Race was being held.
Officers from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) Marine Policing Unit (MPU) attended and took the man (no further details at this time) back to the riverside where he was arrested for a section 5 public order offence. He has been taken into custody at a west London police station.
Enquiries into the circumstances of the incident are underway.
Sean Bowden (OUBC Coach) :
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. We rowed ourselves into a very good position and the crew looked in good shape. And we were ready to go and again at the restart we put ourselves in a very good position. The clash was obviously just one of those extremely unfortunate things. And the outcome of the crash was a broken blade. And I guess you can only imagine the desperation that Alex must have been in with only 6 crew mates left and that’s probably how he ended up pushing himself beyond his limits.
Steve Trapmore(CUBC Coach):
Our primary concern is Alex Woods and we are glad to hear he is doing ok. It is not the way any of us wanted the Race to pan out.
In terms of the Race itself, I felt that both crews started off well and from where I was sat in the launch, it looked like it was going to be a closely contested affair.
To have to stop the Race was a great shame. When we restarted we knew it was going to have to be a blast to the finish. The guys were ready for the challenge and were in good position off the start, but Oxford encroached on our water, which resulted in a broken blade.
1st Response Medical Services
Today 1st Response Medical Services Limted were tasked to provide Paramedic cover at both the finish line and Mortlake Boat Club with the primary responsibility of emergency provision of the athletes involved in the Boat Race.
At the end of the race it was seen by our crew on the quayside that a competitor at the back of the University Of Oxford Boat appeared to be lying flat and may have been in distress. Our crew prepared themselves for possible deployment with full Advanced Life Support equipment.
The crew was summoned to the marshal boat and soon boarded, our paramedics worked with two Doctors, one from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and a GP.
Our crew with the doctors assessed the patient and assisted him to the riverbank and travelled with the doctor to hospital in a St John Ambulance frontline vehicle.
1st Response would like to thank both Doctors, the RNLI and St John Ambulance for this coordinated response to Dr Woods.
1st Response Medical Services wishes Dr Woods a speedy recovery.
I am proud of how our guys handled themselves. We all now wish Alex the speediest of recoveries.
John Garrett (Boat Race Umpire 2012):
Although during any Boat Race, the Umpire of the day has many decisions to make, there were four key moments for me as Umpire in the 2012 Boat Race, which understandably have come under close scrutiny. The first of these was the swimmer in the water, and the decision to stop the Race; the second was the follow-on decision to restart the Race; the third was to allow the Race to continue through to the finish after the clash between the crews; and the fourth at the end of the Race to raise the white flag and declare a Race in accordance with the rules and with a result that could stand. In this statement I set out the reasons behind each of these four decisions.
At each stage I sought to interpret the 10 rules agreed by the two University Boat Clubs and which govern the Boat Race. The first of these rules states that “the conduct of the Race shall be the sole responsibility of the Umpire”, so I knew that ultimately I had the authority to take those decisions and be responsible for them.
For the first incident, the swimmer in the river, the rules state that “the Umpire may declare “No Race”, and order a restart, or a re-row...if either crew is interfered with by any outside agency to such an extent as to influence the result of the Race” (Rule 9). The Assistant Umpire, Sir Matthew Pinsent, first spotted the swimmer, and when it was clear that the swimmer was placing himself directly in line with the crews, I called the Race to a halt, as set out in Rule 9. At the same time, the Boat Race Marshall, David Searle, sent the signal for the following launches to carry out an emergency stop. The fast reactions of the coxes, crews and launch drivers prevented serious injury or even death to the swimmer.
The next decision for me was how to continue the Race. I quickly opted for a restart, rather than a re-row (the full Race rescheduled to a later day), because no damage had been done to the boats or crews, and there was sufficient tide and time to restart and bring the contest to a conclusion. However, due to the time taken to stop the Race and rescue the swimmer, the fast tide under the two crews had taken them significantly further down the course from where the Race had stopped. I instructed that they and the following launches re-assemble at a well-known landmark on the straight: the beginning of the island on the Middlesex bank, Chiswick Eyot. Although this took some time, not least to allow the wash from the large number of following launches to settle, I considered it the best option for a fair re-start and conclusion to the Race.
My intention was to start the crews in the same relative positions as when I had stopped the Race. I asked the BBC to check the film footage of the Race before the stoppage, and they reported that Cambridge had had a slight lead. The Oxford crew called to me before the restart saying that in fact they had been in the lead (by about a man). I discussed with the Assistant Umpire and decided, as there were conflicting reports and that the margin was in any case small, to start the crews level.
The third incident was the clash following the restart. Although the crews got away cleanly I saw that they were soon getting too close. I was content with Cambridge’s position on the river, and issued several warnings to Oxford. Unfortunately it was not possible to avoid a clash however, and severe damage was done to the oar of the Oxford six-man, effectively taking him out of the Race.
Rules 6, 7, 8 and 9 are all relevant to this incident. Rule 6 states “it shall be considered a foul, when... there shall be any physical contact between the boats, oars or persons of the two crews”. Rule 7 says that “in the event of a foul occurring, either crew may claim that the other crew be disqualified. If the crew making the claim was in its proper course, the latter shall be disqualified unless the foul was so slight as not to influence the Race.” Rule 8 also discusses fouls, and says that “in the event of a serious or deliberate foul the Umpire shall disqualify the offending crew without waiting for a claim...at once, or at any later time up to or immediately after the end of the Race.”
After the clash, both crews continued rowing, although Oxford began to signal to me. It was clear that the damage done to Oxford was as a result of the clash, rather than “interference with an outside agency” as in Rule 9 (which would have been grounds for stopping the Race for a second time, and another restart or re-row). However, as I was content with Cambridge’s position on the river at the time of the contact (following their “proper course” on a traditional Surrey line), I was clear in my mind that Cambridge had not “fouled” Oxford as defined in the rules. I saw no reason therefore to stop the Race or to take any action against Cambridge.
Cambridge went on to cross the finishing line ahead of Oxford. Oxford signalled to me their wish to appeal, so I went over to their boat to hear the appeal. However, there was nothing in the appeal to alter the material consideration that Cambridge were correctly on their station at the time of the contact, and that Oxford had therefore been responsible for the foul. However, although significant damage had been done to one of Oxford’s oars, there was no damage to the Cambridge boat or oars. Cambridge had not raised any appeal, and although I judged Oxford responsible for the foul, I saw no reason for a disqualification. Rule 9 states that “crews shall abide by their accidents”, and I decided that this would be my final judgement on the Race. I therefore showed the white flag, signalling that the Race had been conducted consistent with the Boat Race Rules, and that the result of a Cambridge win could stand.
I regret not having discerned more quickly after the end of the Race that the Oxford bowman, Dr. Alex Woods, was in physical distress following his extreme exertions during the Race. I am grateful however for the fast reactions in particular of those on the Oxford following launch, that he was able to receive the necessary medical care in the immediately following minutes and hours, and that ultimately he was able to make a full recovery.