The University Of Sydney men’s and women’s crews rowed to victory in the Australian Boat Race 2017, with the women’s eight finally breaking Melbourne’s eight-year hold on the trophy.

In total, the University of Sydney won three of the four head-to-head races on the program after St Andrew’s College Men’s Eight proved too strong for the University of Melbourne’s Ormond College, while Wesley College went down by just one-boat length against Ormond in the Women’s Colleges Eight race.

Sydney University Boat Club’s (SUBC) Women’s Eight made history in downing the eight-times defending champion Melbourne University Boat Club’s (MUBC) women’s crew by four-boat lengths, over a 4,200 metre course.

There were rumblings that the SUBC women could finally break Melbourne’s stranglehold on the Bella Guerin Trophy after Sydney beat Melbourne at the recent Australian Uni Rowing Championships on the Gold Coast.

Sydney Captain Dyone Bettega received the trophy at the presentation, and said of the win: “We’ve always had heart in our racing. That passion, combined with strong preparation and good coaching, got us there.”

The Australian Boat Race Men’s Eight event, also over 4,200 metres on a winding Yarra River course in the heart of Melbourne, was a spectacular show. SUBC, with flashing yellow oars, started strongly and edged their bow in front. As the river narrowed on one section, the two boats came perilously close together with the bow oar of the Melbourne boat and the blade of Sydney Olympian and number seven rower in the boat, Sasha Belonogoff, millimetres from clashing.

The Sydney crew, under the experienced command of Cox and Captain Will Raven, held their nerve and continued to push hard, extending to a three-quarter of a boat length lead. SUBC found a powerful rhythm and extended their advantage to cross the line four-boat lengths ahead. Raven, competing in his seventh successive Australian Boat Race said, “It’s a great rivalry and puts rowing on the map. Today we rowed the best line, and river racing has that edge where you get to play out tactics around the bends.”

In retaining the Edmund Barton Trophy, named in honour of Australia’s first Prime Minister, the Sydney men’s crew celebrated their fourth consecutive victory and a total of seven out of nine wins since the Australian Boat Race was re-introduced in the modern era in 2009.

The Australian Boat Race, based on the famous Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race, features current and alumni rowers from Australia’s oldest universities. The two university clubs met informally on the Yarra in 1860, with the rowing competition a regular event by 1870. The Vice-Chancellors of both universities agreed to celebrate 150 years since the founding of their two boat clubs with the resurrection of the annual rowing challenge in 2009.The race now alternates between Sydney Harbour and the Yarra River, with the race returning to Sydney in 2018.

Australian Boat Race Crews, 2017:

Men’s Eight

William Raven, Coxswain and Captain; Cameron Girdlestone, Stroke; Alexander (Sasha) Belonogoff; Leon Chambers; Jake Bicknell; Andrew Judge; Devlin Walsh; Marcus Britt and Jack Hanley, Bow. Morgan Brooking was Reserve.

Coaches: Don McLachlan and Dustyn Butler.

Women’s Eight

Rebecca Harrison, Coxswain; Wallis Russell, Stroke; Georgie Masters; Dyone Bettega, Captain; Emma Fessey; Harriet Hudson; Carina Simpson; Laura Triggs and Elizabeth Treloar, Bow. Reserve was Jaime Ford.

Coaches: Alfie Young and Debbie Fox.