Boat Race swimmer Trenton Oldfield faces court

 

A swimmer “protesting about elitism” brought chaos to this year's Boat Race when he jumped into the Thames and brought it to a dramatic halt, a court heard today.

Trenton Oldfield, 36, stopped the annual contest for around half an hour on April 7, the first time in the history of the 158-year event that it had been disrupted by a bather.

Opening the case, prosecutor Louis Mably told jurors the race between Oxford and Cambridge was spoiled for hundreds of thousands of spectators watching from the banks of the river or live on BBC TV, not to mention the two university rowing teams.

He said that despite it continuing, "so far as the Boat Race was concerned, Mr Oldfield had obviously caused chaos".

He told jurors at west London's Isleworth Crown Court: "The feeling of disappointment was obvious - because not only had everything been delayed but the crews and the public had been denied a natural conclusion to the race that they had come to the river to see."

He said that after being rescued from the river, Oldfield was detained by police who asked him why he had jumped in the river.

Mr Mably added: "He replied that he was protesting about elitism. Exactly what he meant by that - who knows?"

Oldfield, of Myrdle Street, east London, denies a charge of causing a public nuisance.

Mr Mably said the two eight-man teams were just "settling into the rhythm and the race was developing into what was a close and exciting contest" when the disruption occurred.

He added: "By this time both crews were rowing flat out and were neck and neck.

"The race came to an unexpected and sudden halt, all in front of the tens of thousands of people at the side of the river who wanted to watch the race."

Oldfield, who was clad in a wetsuit, had swum into the paths of the two boats as they neared Chiswick Eyot between the two and three-mile markers of the race, which had set off from Putney.

Mr Mably said that although "to some extent" there was a risk of danger to the rowers, the real threat was to Oldfield himself as he narrowly avoided being hit by the blade of an Oxford oar.

"One does not need to imagine too much the damage that would have been caused to him if his head had been struck by an oar that was coming through the water at full force."

He said race umpire John Garrett spotted Oldfield and called a halt to the race.

"What Mr Oldfield had done was in effect to force someone else to take responsibility to stop him from serious injury.

"Of course, ordering the race to stop, bringing it to a halt in front of the tens and thousands of people who were watching at the river and on the television, it is not something that a race official is going to do lightly as obviously it spoils the race for everyone - the crews and the spectators.

"One person decided for his own reasons to disrupt a national sporting event and in the process the enjoyment of the spectating public."

Oldfield, an Australian, was plucked from the water by a boat and transferred to Chiswick Pier where he was met by police.

Jurors were shown the BBC's coverage of the race, and the chaotic aftermath of Oldfield's stunt before it was eventually restarted.

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones