Second place finish for Sydney Uni crews in Gallagher Great Race

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Sydney University finished second in the men’s and women’s races behind Waikato University at the 12th Gallagher Great Race in Hamilton, New Zealand on Sunday.

Sydney Uni’s men’s crew suffered a blow to their chances of claiming historic back-to-back Gallagher Great Races on Thursday, where they finished in third place behind Waikato University and Cambridge University at the indoor rowing challenge.

Sydney Uni were subsequently assigned what is usually considered the worst starting lane for Sunday’s race – the East Station. Waikato chose the Centre station, while Cambridge decided upon the West.  

From the start the powerful Waikato crew got in front of Cambridge and when all the crews crossed over to the East side for the first time, Waikato held the best position against the bank with Cambridge forced into the stream. Sydney Uni were close enough to Waikato to force Cambridge to fall back behind them into last position.

This order remained the same through the middle section of the race, as the crews crossed over to the West bank again, and then back to the East in order to find the shortest route via the fastest water.

Knowing there last opportunity to edge in front was in final straight to the finish line (as the leading crew, the rules stated that Waikato must pull out into the stream and finish on the West side of a buoy that was positioned 100m from the finish line) Sydney Uni tried several times to bridge the gap, but each time Waikato responded to keep the margin to half a length of clear water between the two crews.

At the finish line the margin was half a length from Waikato to Sydney Uni. Cambridge finished a further one and a half lengths behind.

Sydney University Boat Club (SUBC) Director of Rowing, Mark Prater was pragmatic in his assessment of the race.

“We performed well in the circumstances but this race is hard to win from behind, particular against the caliber of crews we were racing against,” explained Prater.

“We are pleased with the efforts of the crew and we are keen to return in the future to have another crack at winning this unique race.”

Earlier in the day, with the sky overcast and a packed river bank of local fans, the Sydney Uni women’s team also started in their least preferred lane after finishing third in the indoor rowing challenge – this time behind Waikato University and Melbourne University.

Despite being disadvantaged by their starting position, which saw Sydney Uni fall a few lengths behind early, coxswain Genevieve Fick used her experience to move up on the Melbourne Uni crew which forced them out into the faster moving water – a distinct disadvantage in an up-river race.

As the race wore on Waikato Uni continued to increase their lead and Sydney Uni were unable to challenge them, eventually finishing in second place and Melbourne Uni in third.

The Waikato crew was an extremely strong one, containing four rowers who had just returned from competing at the World Rowing Championships, two of them winning silver and bronze medals. A further two crew members had national representation in 2013. 

“We were pleased with the result and the aggressive form of racing the girls adopted,” explained SUWRC Director of Rowing, Debbie Fox.

“We were also particularly pleased to place in front of Melbourne Uni, as we have been consistently beaten by them over the last season.”