Oxford boat crew rescued by a lifeboat after their craft sank in the Thames
The Oxford University Women's boat crew had to be rescued by a lifeboat after their craft sank in the Thames just over a week before the Boat Race.
The eight student rowers and their cox were fished out of the water by an RNLI launch after it was overcome by choppy water during a training session.
Oxford are favourites to win the Women's Boat Race, but the mishap was hardly ideal preparation for the annual event and will have given a boost to the light blue crew of Cambridge.
The rescue on Wednesday was captured on camera by the Chiswick RNLI crew, which returned the rowers to Putney.
The RNLI said: "Strong wind against tide had created the unsafe waters and three successive waves poured over the boats' riggers, creating an influx of water that could not be managed by the craft's bilge pump.
"The Oxford crew and their cox were boarded onto the Chiswick lifeboat and returned to Putney. The sunken eight was then recovered by three coach’s’ launches and safely returned to Oxford’s base ahead of the race next week."
The RNLI crew came across the stricken eight by chance while they were out training.
An RNLI spokesman said: "While passing through Putney on exercise the crew of the Chiswick RNLI Lifeboat noticed some unusual manoeuvrings on the water just beyond Fulham railway bridge. A few moments later they noticed that an eight had swamped and the coaches were in the process of removing athletes to a nearby barge."
Ian Owen, the RNLI helmsman, said: "While we have rescued quite a number of rowers over the years, this is the first time I’ve been involved in helping such a prestigious team.
"The weather can be unpredictable on the Thames, and the Oxford University team dealt with the situation as safely and calmly as possible. We wish them all the best for their upcoming race."
The Boat Races, sponsored by BNY Mellon, will be held on Saturday, April 11. The men's race will be the 160th race, with the score standing at Cambridge 81, Oxford 78. The Women's Boat race has been contested since 1927, with the score standing at Cambridge 40, Oxford 29.
Oxford are the holders of the Newton Women's Boat Race trophy, though they are slightly lighter than Cambridge (by an average of 2lbs). They include four Americans and one Swiss crew member, with three medallists at world or Olympic level.
The Oxford team president is Anastasia Chitty, 21, a medical student at Pembroke College, who won silver with the Great Britain crew at the 2014 Under-23 World Rowing Championships.
Sinkings are an occupational hazard for boat race crews in the tidal waters of the Thames. In 1912 both crews sank during the race. Cambridge also sank in 1859, 1978 and 1984, while Oxford sank in 1925 and 1951.