The Sydney Uni Boat Club (SUBC) Men’s Eight has come away from a trip to China with a Gold and Bronze medal from two International University Rowing Regatta’s with a number of top international teams in attendance.
The SUBC team of Hamish Playfair, Jack Hargreaves, Jacob Bicknell, Campbell Watts, Franz Förster, Andrew Judge, Jack Hanley, Matt Murray and cox William Raven travelled to China to race in Changsha and then onto Chengdu.
The Changsha regatta involved a number of cultural activities along with the racing, including trips to educational institutions, temples, a fireworks show and a number of monuments in recognition of Chairman Mao.
The racing format was changed once the crews arrived in Changsha, with racing being cut short to 1000m due to strong winds. Racing took place over two days, with heats and reps on the first day, and the semi-final and finals on the second morning. SUBC was up against Shanghai Jiao Tong in the heat, who were last year’s winning crew from the Shanghai regatta. This race saw Jiao Tong jump out to an early lead, with SUBC in a clear second in front of the field. SUBC posted the second fastest time overall from this round of racing.
The crew then went on to win the rep that afternoon to progress to the A/B semifinal. The A/B semifinal saw SUBC come a close second behind Wuhan University, defeating Cambridge University and qualifying for the four boat A-Final. The crews approach to the A-Final saw good improvement throughout the regatta, with SUBC attacking the early stages of the race with a much more aggressive style. This placed the crew well coming through the middle of the race, with all four boats reasonably level. Through the later stages of the race, the two Chinese crews were able to step away, being more accustomed to the shorter distance, with SUBC trying to hang onto them, and consequently moving clear of the fourth placed Princeton crew.
The Final Standings from Changsha were:
1st Shanghai Jiao Tong University (China)
2nd Wuhan University (China)
3rd Sydney University (Australia)
4th Princeton University (US)
5th Harvard University (US)
6th Cambridge University (UK)
7th Central South University (China)
8th University of London (UK)
Racing in Changsha was followed by a celebration dinner hosted by the Chinese Rowing Association. This involved the awarding of medals and trophies to the top three ranked men’s and women’s crews (Gold Otago NZ, Silver Trieste Italy and Bronze Cambridge UK), and followed by each team performing a cultural act for the crowd. The Sydney act was a mashup of classic Australian songs, performed by Jacob Bicknell, with the Australian contingent at the regatta, including a number of Cambridge, Princeton and Harvard rowers along with SUBC athletes joining Jacob on stage to support the final few songs. The performance was embraced by the crowd, with everyone brought to their feet singing along.
The second regatta in Chengdu had a similar format, with a number of cultural experiences crammed in around the racing. The crew were lucky enough to have experiences including a tour of The Chengdu Research Base for Giant Panda Breeding, a trip to a local market street, a tour of temples and finishing off with a visit to a flower show.
The racing in Chengdu was vastly different to the normal regatta SUBC would attend, with racing being held over 800m, and the accumulated time after two races being the determining factor for the medals. This was unique in that they had four heats, so crews were not aware of how they placed against the competition till the conclusion of racing.
SUBC drew Brown University in both races, this benefitted both crews, as they were able to push each other and the clock. In the first round SUBC jumped out to an early lead and sat a length clear of brown, holding this margin to the line. Consequently both boats posted the fastest two times for round one. In the second race SUBC wanted to show a little more dominance, racing the entire way, not being satisfied with any margin they gained. The crew jumped out again to an early lead, and this time stretched the margin to over a length clear of Brown. Once the numbers were crunched SUBC came out clear winners, claiming the Gold.
The final Standings from Chengdu were:
1st Sydney University (Australia)
2nd Brown University (US)
3rd Tohoku University (Japan)
4th Aalborg University (Denmark)
5th University of London (UK)
6th Fu Jen Catholic University (Taipei, China)
7th Otago University (NZ)
8th Taiwan Sports University (Taipei, China)
The racing was capped off with a cultural presentation night, involving a number of acts by local preforming arts institutions, classical Chinese dancers and native instrumental performances. This was followed by the international crews’ cultural performances, however due to the night running extremely late, the performances were cut short, as such Jacob Bicknell performed again, this time limited to a short snippet of Thunder Struck.
Racing in Chengdu was followed by a day of dragon boating, with crews combining to race against local club and school crews. SUBC combined with Otago (NZ) and Aalborg (Denmark) to come away with second in their race, paddling through a local dragon boat crew in the later stages of the race.
Overall the trip was a success, with the crew learning a great deal about handling the conditions, adapting to racing over the shorter distances, and ultimately gaining invaluable international racing experience against a number of top quality crews. It was also a good opportunity for many of the athletes to experience the Chinese history and culture in a way that would not have been possible without the support and organisation of the Chinese Rowing Association.