One hundred and fifty years of intervarsity rivalry will come to a head this month at the inaugural Australian Boat Race, a historic clash of oars between the University of Sydney and University of Melbourne.
Inspired by the famous competition between Oxford and Cambridge, the race to be held on Sydney Harbour on 31 October marks 150 years since Australia’s two oldest universities and boat clubs met for the first time on Melbourne’s Yarra River.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for Australia’s two leading universities to stage a world-class event and build on their historical rivalry,” says Chris Noel, Convenor of the Australian Boat Race.
The race, which will include both Men’s and Women’s Eights, will run a challenging 7.3 kilometre course across Sydney’s inner harbour from Iron Cove to Riverview Wharf on the Lane Cove River.
Organisers are hoping the event will become a fixture on the Australian rowing calendar, emulating the international and local pre-eminence of the original Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race.
“The original Boat Race has shown the potential for rowing to attract a real following, something we’d love to work towards at our event,” Noel adds.
Now considered a major sporting event and a national institution in England, the original Boat Race saw Oxford and Cambridge take to the Thames for the first time in 1829.
The Boat Race now attracts a crowd of around 250,000 each year, with more than 120 million viewers in 180 countries watching the televised event.
The crews from the Sydney University Boat Club (SUBC) and the Melbourne University Boat Club (MUBC) will meet at St Andrews College at the University of Sydney on the Friday before the race for a press briefing and official weigh-in.
University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence and University of Melbourne Professor Glyn Davis will follow the rowers in a VIP boat and present medals to the winning crews.
At least half of each crew must be made up of current students, giving young rowers the opportunity to join their more experienced counterparts in a world-class event.
“The University of Sydney and University of Melbourne are currently Australia’s highest performing rowing clubs, so the Australian Boat Race will be a fantastic opportunity to see some of the best rowers in the country,” Noel said.
What: The inaugural Australian Boat Race
When: Sunday 31 October – Women’s Eights at 8.13am, Men’s Eights at 8.51am
Where: Sydney Harbour, 7.2km from Iron Cove to Riverview Wharf