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1984: Boat race halted before starting

VIDEO : Race goes ahead with a new boat

The 130th Boat Race has been postponed less than an hour before it was due to start after the Cambridge vessel was in collision with a barge and sank.

It is the first incident of its kind in the history of the world famous boat race, in which students from Cambridge and Oxford universities are pitted against each other.

The Cambridge boat, estimated to have cost 7,000, ran headlong into a large moored barge, used by umpires in the middle of the river, shattering the bow section of the vessel.

'Cold'

Before an audience of hundreds of spectators gathered at Putney Bridge, the oarsmen were forced to paddle to the side of the river, with bows still and pointed upwards, until it was almost submerged.

Most of the crew stepped out of the boat and walked to the side, while others who had to swim back described it as "cold".

The Light Blues have now taken shelter in their boat house and the race has been postponed until tomorrow afternoon, estimated to start at 1345 GMT, with a vessel borrowed from the Amateur Rowing Association.

The crew had been holding a practice run under Putney Bridge when the accident happened.

It is reported the barge was only moved into position yesterday morning but the team had been practising for weeks without it there.

The crew refused to blame the boat's cox, 21-year-old Peter Hobson, who at only 5 feet 4 inches high apparently struggled to see over some of the large rowers.

Officials first hoped the race could go-ahead this afternoon with a substitute boat but by the time necessary alterations had been made to the boat it was decided the tide would have turned.

There were other suggestions to run the race in the opposite direction from Mortlake to Putney.

The team is reported to have suffered only minor bruises and is not expected to change before tomorrow but they are not expected to attend the annual Boat Race Ball tonight.

In Context
The next day the Boat Race went ahead with Oxford crossing the winning line first.

They set a new personal best time by completing the race in 16 minutes and 45 seconds, 13 seconds inside their previous record of 1976.

The average time taken to complete the course is 20 minutes, but Cambridge holds the record of 16 minutes and 19 seconds, achieved in 1998.

The race dates back to 1829 and the four-and-a-quarter-mile distance from Putney to Mortlake along the River Thames through London is three times the length of an Olympic course.


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