Controversial Boat Race ends in defeat

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A brave and unlucky Sydney University men’s eight crew have been defeated by Melbourne University at the 2013 Australian Boat Race.

The Race was one full of controversy as both crews jostled for the best position on Melbourne’s Yarra River, as they rowed along the Loys Paddock to Princes Bridge course.

Most of the jostling had been largely incidental for the first three kilometres, but all of that changed as they approached the Swan Street Bridge when a clash of oars between the respective crews resulted in Sydney University forfeiting nearly a boat lengths lead to their southern compatriots.

Audio and video of the Melbourne University crew coxswains instructions and calls captured for the race broadcast just prior to the collision and viewed after the race, have added to the controversy.

With the Sydney University boat forced to come to a near complete stop in order to rescue a stray oar, Melbourne University capitalised and streaked away.

Rather than restarting the race, the Boat Race Official allowed it to continue as Sydney University fought valiantly as they attempted to cut back a two boat length deficit. This proved to be to no-avail as Melbourne University, led by 2012 London Olympians David Crawshay, James Marburg and Josh Booth, finished the 4.6km race with their first win on the Yarra against Sydney University for 50 years.

Speaking after the race, Sydney University Boat Club (SUBC) Director of Rowing Mark Prater said “I was very happy with how we rowed for the first couple of kilometres.

It was unfortunate that the race seemed to be decided by something like that (the clash of oars). It would have been a close race.” Despite being disappointed with the outcome, Sydney University captain Nick Hudson placed a positive spin on the controversial race. “What a race!” said Hudson.

“Match racing at its best. We saw oars clashing; cox’s cutting it very fine; and a great spectacle for everyone to watch.” Earlier in the day Melbourne University’s women’s crew gave the home crowd exactly what they wanted – a win – against Sydney University’s best women’s eight.

Facing a spirited and disciplined showing from Sydney University’s vastly inexperienced crew, Melbourne University’s star studded line up – which included Kim Crow and Phoebe Stanley – proved overwhelming as they raced to an early lead.

It was a lead that wouldn’t perish, winning by approximately four and a half boat lengths. “We obviously aren’t happy with the loss, but the girls rowed really well”, explained Sydney University Women’s Rowing Club (SUWRC) Head Coach Debbie Fox. “We have been trying to generate more boat speed with less effort and that seems to have come together.”

Sydney University’s women’s captain Ellena Winstanley was proud of her team mates, saying “We are a very young crew and only a few of us have experienced this Boat Race before.”

“It’s really inspiring and I hope they got a bit of hunger today to come back for future years and make a habit of representing the University at such a great event.”

The Australian Boat Race, a stand-alone showcase event, is a one-on-one match race between the best women’s and men’s rowing eights from Sydney and Melbourne University. Held annually, the venue alternates between the Yarra River in the heart of Melbourne and on the Sydney Harbour. It encapsulates the long-standing rivalry between two great cities and two great universities.

At the conclusion of this years event, University of Sydney’s Vice-Chancellor Dr Michael Spence issued Melbourne Uni the challenge for next year’s Australian Boat Race “on Australia’s most beautiful harbour.”