Home Sweet Victory: Sydney claims back-to-back titles

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Resplendent in red, Sydney University rowers have secured the sweet double victory to mark the 10th edition of the Australian Boat Race.

The University of Sydney Men’s Eight, captained by Sydney University Boat Club’s (SUBC), Marcus Britt defeated the University of Melbourne Men’s Eight to maintain their firm grip on the Edmund Barton Trophy.

The Women’s race was equally impressive with the Sydney Women’s Eight, captained by SUBC’s, Dyone Bettega scoring their second consecutive Australian Boat Race victory over the Melbourne University Boat Club (MUBC) Women’s Eight. Sydney retain The Bella Guerin Trophy which they won for the very first time in 2017.

Based on the famed Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race, the Australian competition is an annual event featuring current and alumni rowers from Australia’s two oldest universities. The rowing conditions were tough, with white-water flying off the blades as the crews battled a stiff-cross breeze at times, however, the class and quality of all crews shone through as they navigated the gruelling 4.3 kilometre course from Woolwich to Darling Harbour.

The women’s race saw the SUBC crew start on the favoured southern-station. It was neck and neck for a while, though Sydney pressed to gain a one-boat length lead which they gradually extended to win by clear water. Melbourne showed their renowned grit in pushing Sydney all the way. Given the turbulent water it seemed a smart strategy by Sydney to go out hard and try and hold the margin so they could control the lines heading into the bends.

The Men’s event saw Melbourne start quickly to gain a four-seat margin, however, once the boats bit into open water and faced the wind, Sydney surged and stuck their bow in front. The predicted 12-15 knot breeze was making its presence felt as both crews used all their experience to keep their respective boats in alignment. Tactics were crucial and a good battle ensued between the two Coxswains in testing conditions. Sydney were not to be denied though and showed their speed to edge away and eventually win by clear water. The MUBC Men’s Eight were brave in defeat pushing hard right to the end.

Carving out his own piece of history, Rio silver medallist and Sydney oarsman, Sasha Belonogoff has now won every Australian Boat Race he has contested, that is eight wins from eight starts. Sydney Cox, Will Raven is not far behind as a seven-time winner of The Australian Boat Race.

The event attracted a large flotilla of spectator craft and it made for great vision to see all these vessels in seeming pursuit of the powerful rowing boats, against a backdrop of the magnificent Sydney Harbour and the iconic Harbour Bridge.

In the earlier College races University of Melbourne’s Ormond College Women’s Eight won a very tight finish against Sydney’s St. Andrew’s. The final margin was just half a boat length. In the Men’s Eight St. Andrew’s secured an impressive win over Trinity College, from the University of Melbourne. The College races feature the winning inter-collegiate crews from both Universities.

Master of Ceremonies and Sydney Uni Sport & Fitness stalwart, Rodney Tubbs conducted the presentation of awards. In the College races, Ormond Women’s Captain , Sarah Columbus accepted the trophy and St Andrew’s Men’s Captain, Zac Von Appen did similarly on behalf of his crew.

Before a large crowd, The University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Michael Spence presented the medals to both Women’s crews in The Australian Boat Race. The Bella Guerin Trophy was bestowed to the Sydney crew by SUBC President, Sarah Cook.

The new Vice-Chancellor of The University of Melbourne, Professor Duncan Maskell, presented The Australian Boat Race medals to the men’s crews. The Edmund Barton Trophy, named after Australia’s first Prime Minister, who also rowed for Sydney University in 1870, was presented to the Sydney crew by retiring Australian Boat Race Convenor, Chris Noel OAM.

While there is a fierce rivalry between the respective Colleges and Universities, the annual Australian Boat Race is renowned for the wonderful spirit and camaraderie displayed by all competitors and coaches, who enjoyed brunch together afterwards in Darling Harbour.

Huge congratulations go to all competing crews, coaches and support staff. Special mention goes to the irrepressible Race Convenor, Chris Noel OAM. Noel has been a driving force for many decades at SUBC and helped reinvigorate The Australian Boat Race 10 years ago. So many people contributed to the success of this event, in particular the two University Boat Clubs and Colleges plus Kathleen Dalziel, Senior Events Manager, Sydney University and Aaron McNaughton, Marketing Manager, Melbourne University Sport.

The Australian Boat Race continues to grow in popularity and prestige each year as a celebration of the deep rowing traditions at two of Australia’s great Universities and the magnificent cities of Sydney and Melbourne.

The 2018 Australian Boat Race squads were:

University of Sydney

Men’s Eight: William Raven, Coxswain; Will O’Shannessey, Stroke; Leon Chambers; Alexander (Sasha) Belonogoff; Andrew Judge; David Bartholot; Jordan Duff; Morgan Brooking and Marcus Britt, Bow. Reserves: Devlin Walsh and Andrew Le, Coxswain. Coaches: Don McLachlan and Chris Holliday.

Women’s Eight: Talia Barnet-Hepples, Coxswain; Wallis Russell, Stroke; Dyone Bettega; Lauren Graham; Harriet Hudson; Jaime Ford; Carina Simpson; Georgia Masters; Tara Rigney, Bow. Reserves: Lizzy Treloar and Michaela Franz. Coaches: Alfie Young and Debbie Fox. 

University of Melbourne

Men’s Eight: Sarah Ben-David, Coxswain; Robert Corden-McKinley, Stroke; Carl Tomczak; Josh Booth; Max Fisher; Edward Walmsley; Carl Doedens; Thomas Page; James Heath, Bow. Reserves: Joel Cain and Chris Hargreaves. Coaches: Michael Poulter and Matt Ryan.

Women’s Eight: Phoebe Georgakas, Coxswain; Ria Thompson, Stroke; Jacqueline Hart; Brigid McKeagney-Douglas; Jennifer Cleary; Eleanor Price; Kate Duggan; Charlotte Wirtz; Milla Marston, Bow. Reserve: Bianca Litchfield. Coach: James Smith.