Marines To Patrol Thames Boat Race
Royal Marines will be drafted in to patrol the Boat Race tomorrow as security is beefed up to ensure the event is not disrupted by another protester.
Last year's race had to be halted when Trenton Oldfield swam into the path of the Oxford and Cambridge university crews, narrowly avoiding being struck by an oar.
Organisers have warned against a repeat of anyone taking to the water for the 159th race, with the Marines set to patrol eight miles of the River Thames in inflatable boats.
Boat Race executive director David Searle said:
"We are taking additional measures this year and have reviewed all of our actions last year in detail.
"The Boat Race course is four and a quarter miles long so we have eight and a half miles of riverbank to manage and monitor.
"What I would say to anybody thinking of disrupting the race is that it's unbelievably dangerous. You risk injuring yourself, the crews and the other people following the race.
"Nobody wants that to happen. This is just a sporting event."
Oldfield, 36, was released from prison in December having served seven weeks of a six-month sentence after being found guilty of causing a public nuisance.
He has since been contacted by the Metropolitan Police by letter and on Twitter to establish whether he was planning any action this year, saying they were "keen to facilitate any peaceful protest".
In a statement, the police stressed they were not offering to organise a protest but to afford him the opportunity to exercise his "lawful rights without causing disruption or danger to themselves or others".
However, Oldfield told The Spectator he would "probably have a ramble across the Cotswolds instead".
Oxford have emerged as clear favourites to win the race after more than 70% of bets were placed on the Dark Blues, according to bookmaker William Hill.
Spokesman Joe Crilly said:
"Oxford are certainly the best backed crew as of yet, although that was very much the case at this stage of proceedings last year.
"Last year, however, we took nearly £40,000 on the day of the race and Cambridge became best backed by the time the race started. Maybe history will repeat itself this time around."
There have been calls for supporters to boycott the Cambridge team over claims that it plans to build a new boat house which will threaten wildlife.
Mark Avery, the former head of conservation at the RSPB and Cambridge student, told the Daily Telegraph that the building project is in danger of wiping out otters and bitterns on the Great Ouse river.
"I hope that the Cambridge boat sinks in Sunday's University Boat Race," he said.
"Why? Because the Cambridge University Boat Club is planning to build a new boathouse (although it is far more than just a boathouse) on one of the best sites for otters in Cambridgeshire, and its impact on local wildlife will be severe."
But Project Ely, the group working to provide the new facility, have stressed the boat house would be built sensitively to protect its natural surroundings, the paper reported.