Boat clubs ready to do battle on the Yarra

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Sydney University’s men’s eight crew are aiming to remain undefeated against Melbourne University, in the fourth installment of the resurrected Australian Boat Race, this Sunday.

The men’s eight race begins at 10am, and is staged at the completion of the 9.15am women’s race between Australia’s oldest and best-known universities. Crews will race from Loys Paddock to Princes Bridge on Melbourne’s Yarra River for the right to be crowned Australia’s premier boat club.

Despite coming up against an extremely strong looking Melbourne University men’s crew that contains 2012 London Olympians David Crawshay, James Marburg and Josh Booth, Sydney University will look to its tried and tested Australian Boat Race crew members – seven of whom have won this prestigious race on at least one occasion.

Sydney University’s eight, which includes five members of last year’s winning crew, includes captain Nick Hudson and Fergus Pragnell. Both were reserves at the London Olympics.

Teammates Peter Koster, Kit Cunningham-Reid and Tom Sacre all represented Australia at the World U23 championships this year; Alex Purnell competed at this year’s Junior World Championships; while Cameron Girdlestone is a former Australian U23 representative.

Sydney University Boat Club (SUBC) Director of Rowing  Mark Prater believes that there will be very little between the two rivals come Sunday, saying “Having seen the Melbourne line up, I think it will be a close affair. The crews are evenly matched in terms of power and experience.”

He also gave very little away when it came to race tactics, which have historically played a large part in determining a winner in this race.

“The result will be decided by the technique of the two crews and tactics employed by the crews and coxswains,” said Prater.

In last year’s race held in Sydney, it was Sydney University’s Fergus Pragnell who won the toss at a pre-race reception and made the decision (in consultation with coxswain Will Raven and coach Mark Prater) to take a risk in choosing the southern station.   

With the race starting a Woolwich, the northern station crew had the advantage of leading at the first left-hand bend and heading for the finish line at Darling Harbour. Melbourne University’s women’s eight had already demonstrated the tactic when they won the toss, chose the northern station and won the short sprint to the first turn, then controlled the race across the harbor to run out winners.

But Pragnell and his men had different ideas, having also outwitted Melbourne on the bends of the Yarra River in 2011.

In the short rough and tumble start, the crews twice touched oars before Sydney University emerged ahead at the first bend at the mouth of the Lane Cover River at Greenwich Point. The course then took the crews just north of Balmain at Long Nose Point, Birchgrove, and past Snails Bay before they negotiated the narrows between Goat Island and Simmons Point.

While passing Darling Street Wharf the eights changed from a south-east course to a southerly course which took them past the new Barrangaroo development site, with King Street Wharf on the left and the Maritime Museum on the right as they closed in on the finishing line at Darling Harbour.

Having come out of the Lane Cover River ahead, Sydney University responded to every move Melbourne made to run out winners.

For Sydney University’s women’s eight their task on Sunday will be to defeat a Melbourne University crew containing experienced competitors Kim Crow, Phoebe Stanley.

Crow is the current World Champion in the single scull and a dual 2012 Olympic medallist; Stanley  stroked the Australian women’s eight at the London Olympics; and MacNamara narrowly missed selection on the 2012 Olympic Games team.

Sydney University Women’s Rowing Club (SUWRC) Head Coach Debbie Fox is confident of a strong showing from her crew in Melbourne.

“The girls have been training diligently for this event and are showing good cohesion as a crew for this phase of the season,” explained Fox.

India Evans, Holly Lawrence (members of the successful Australian U21 Trans-Tasman team that competed against New Zealand in September) and Genevieve Fick (has been steering the girls throughout the season and is having a positive impact on their results) headline a Sydney University’s women’s eight crew attempting to win the clubs first Belinda Guerin Trophy in four attempts since the Australian Boat Race was officially revived in 2010.

For more information on the race, please visit the official website.

You can also follow all the pre-race updates on the official Facebook and Twitter pages.

The full crew lists for Sydney Uni and Melbourne Uni can be seen below.

Sydney University Women
Genevieve Fick (cox)
Ellena Winstanley (captain)
Holly Lawrence
India Evans
Lydia Yerrell
Madeleine Wallace
Rebecca Humphris
Marianna Doumanis
Kathleen Bolger
Emma Thomas
Debbie Fox (coach)

Melbourne University Women
Jennifer Cleary
Hedda Cooper
Kim Crow
Katherine Eyles (cox)
Alice McNamara
Olivia Sibillin
Phoebe Stanley (captain)
Holly Treverton
Olympia Ward

Sydney University Men
Fergus Pragnell
Nick Hudson (captain)
Cameron Girdlestone
Peter Koster
Tom McClintock
Alex Purnell
Tom Sacre
Kit Cunningham-Reid
Will Raven (cox)
Mark Prater (coach)

Melbourne University Men
Sarah Banting (cox)
Josh Booth (captain)
George Ellis
Sean Lake
Callum MacKenzie
James Marburg
David Crawshay
James Redhead
Jordan Smith

Timings for this year’s race are:

7:45 am – Crews depart from the University of Melbourne Boatshed
8:30am – Festivities commence at Federation Square
9:15 am – Women’s Race starts
10:00 am – Men’s Race starts
11:00 am – Presentations at the River Terrace, Federation Square