Sydney men and Melbourne women winners in Australian Boat Race
Sydney University has won the men’s title in the Australian Boat Race but they had to fight through waves and 40-kilometre-an-hour winds to take it out.
Melbourne University took the women’s race in slightly better conditions but it was far from still waters.
The annual event alternates between Sydney and Melbourne and this year’s was held on Sydney’s Darling Harbour on Sunday.
In the men’s race, Sydney University not only had the home advantage, they had two Olympians in the boat.
Stroke Cameron Girldlestone and seven-seat Sasha Belonogoff won silver in the men’s quadruple sculls at the Rio Olympics.
Melbourne led for a short time on the 4.3 kilometre course before the home team were able to pass them and consolidate their lead in the more protected waters to take the win.
Girdlestone gave Melbourne credit for putting up a good fight.
“I thought Rio had the toughest conditions Sasha and I had ever faced, but this took the cake.” he said. “It was more like a race of survival than a race of the fittest and strongest.”
Their victory gives Sydney a 6-1 record against Melbourne.
But in the women’s event Melbourne University has dominated– in fact, they are unbeaten. On Sunday, their crew had to come from behind, trailing until the 1.5 kilometre mark. But with the help of Rio Olympians Jennifer Cleary (women’s quadruple sculls) and Sarah Banting (coxswain of the women’s eight) they were able to power through and dominate for the rest of the course.
Banting said the pair joked that their Rio experience would help them navigate the rough waters.
“We put a little bit of pressure on ourselves but we get the wind and cold all the time down in Melbourne, so we were probably more in our natural habitat than the Sydneysiders.”
The convenor, Chris Noel, says both losing crews went too wide on a huge and particularly blustery bend that meant they had to deal with more wind than the winning sides.
The wind speed almost meant the race could not take place in its long form, he said. “Another ten or 15 kilometres an hour and it would have been sinking weather. ”If it had become any stronger they would have had to move locations to a more sheltered 1800-metre course - or Plan C as Noel calls it.
The race mimics the famous Oxford and Cambridge race and Noel said he would love to see more events like it.
Some of the most popular rowing events outside the Olympics are head races, like the Henley Regatta, and it would be great to see an annual fixture between New Zealand and Australian crews, he said.