Women’s Boat Race argument breaks out as Oxford lodge complaint to disqualify Cambridge | Other | Sport

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The Women’s Boat Race came to a tense conclusion on Saturday afternoon as Oxford’s cox, Joe Gellett, raised a complaint against Cambridge over a mid-race collision. The two boats made contact part-way through the contest before Cambridge roared on to victory, but the result was put on hold while Gellett debated with umpire Richard Phelps.

The heavily fancied Oxford crew came racing out of the blocks on a glorious spring day in west London, but it wasn’t long before underdogs Cambridge began clawing back the deficit.

Having edged their bow in front, Cambridge received a warning from Phelps when it became clear that the two boats were at risk of making contact. The umpire then had to raise his voice and direct instructions towards the Oxford crew, when they seemingly steered in and bumped their opponents’ boat.

The collision caused Oxford to lose significant ground which they never made up, and Cambridge produced a shock result by powering to the finish line with daylight between themselves and their rivals.

Oxford’s cox, Gellett, was unwilling to take the defeat lying down, however. After the race he raised a hand to signal his intention to lodge a complaint against Cambridge, and umpire Phelps – a former Olympic rower himself – consequently held a red flag aloft.

Rules of the Boat Race state: “It shall be considered a foul, when after each race has started, there shall be any physical contact between the boats, oars, or persons, of the two crews. In the event of a foul occurring either crew may claim, to the Umpire, that the other crew be disqualified.

“If the crew making the claim was in its proper course, and the crew against whom the claim is made was out of its proper course, the latter shall be disqualified unless the foul was so slight as not to influence the race. In this case the crew against who the claim was made shall only be disqualified if, in the opinion of the Umpire, it has seriously or deliberately encroached on the course of the crew making the claim.”

A heated debate subsequently broke out between Phelps and Gellett, with the umpire saying: “If you remember the briefing, I said that if you come out of your station and bump the other crew, that’s not a foul by the leading crew.”

Not satisfied with the umpire’s assessment, Gellett protested: “I didn’t come out of my station! You warned them, they were in our water.”

However, Phelps was unmoved and delivered a final verdict to the losing cox before confirming that Cambridge’s victory was valid. “My view is that you were out of your water when you made contact,” he said in a back-and-forth that was broadcast live on the BBC.

“My view is that you deliberately steered out of your station in order to make that contact, and the contact took place on the Surrey side of the racing line. That’s my view. I warned you several times for you to come off your trajectory. Cambridge were on their station, I warned them back on their station, and you came off your station in order to make contact with them.”

Oxford were widely expected to end their opponents’ dominance in the Women’s Boat Race this year, but the result makes it seven victories in a row for Cambridge, who celebrated jubilantly once Phelps’ judgement was passed down.

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