Sydney University Boat Club Men’s eight competed in the 2018 International Universities Rowing Regatta, coming away with three silver medals over the three race format of the regatta. The unique and most pleasing aspect of this tour was that four of the SUBC eight were novices to the sport, having only been in a boat for three months, with this marking their first competitive regatta.
The SUBC crew was made up of a mixture of youth and experience, so as to fast track the skills of the new members of the crew. The crew was stroked by experienced rowers and ex national team reps Sasha Belonogoff (Rio Olympic Silver Medallist) and Ben Morley (U23 World Championship Bronze Medallist), with the middle four being novices to the sport after transitioning from Surf Boats, Kris Martyn, Richard Ledger, Nic Lesiuk and Brady Holland. The bow pair were first year students having come out the 2017 St Ignatius College, Riverview first VIII, returning to still water after a season in surf boats.
The regatta format was made up of a heat and final over 1km, followed directly by a 6km time trial in Nanchang, the regatta then moved cities to Yangzhou where rowers competed in a 6km race, followed by an informal dragon boat race.
The 1km racing saw SUBC win their heat by clear water, progressing directly to the a-final. This race marked the first race for the middle four of the crew on a buoyed course as part of a regatta, so was pleasing to see them taste success. Following the form in the heat, the crew came up against strong competition, with the University of British Columbia (Canada) proving too strong for the young SUBC crew. Sydney Uni finished in second only a length down on UBC, well clear of the rest of the competitors, with crews from Boston College, Harvard, Tokyo, Oxford and Cambridge being represented in the race.
With only an hour’s gap between the racing and time trial, SUBC rallied and again produced an impressive performance given the lack of experience in the crew to claim another silver behind UBC. A clear determination from the crew in the early stages set them up well for the long distance race, starting in 10thposition the crew charged through the field pushing past a number of high profile universities to claim the second fastest time.
With the 1km’s and 6km under their belt, the focus moved to the gala dinner to conclude proceedings in Nanchang. With each crew represented required to present a cultural performance the SUBC crew decided to give the locals a taste of our signing talents. With Sasha on guitar the crew belted out a memorable rendition of Waltzing Matilda, much to the pleasure of the crowd.
The following day saw all crews pack up and take the bullet train across China to Yangzhou, were the final 6km was to be completed. Yangzhou is host to the newest facility in a number of training centres set up as part of the Deep Dive Rowing Club. The facilities here were world class with a newly built seven bay boat house, along with a buoyed 2km course, 8 story finish tower, along with a gym and large meeting and rest rooms above the shed. With this being one of the top facilities in the world, what was also impressive was the new housing they had built forming a small gated community for the athletes to train and live in. Prior to racing in Yangzhou, a large forum was held, with each university presenting a short summary of the university and rowing program they are part of, along with a well-informed Q and A, where athletes discussed what rowing meant to them, and what benefits rowing has had on their lives outside of the boat.
The racing in Yangzhou saw the start order based off the previous regatta with SUBC starting in second behind UBC, the crew took a slightly different approach to racing looking for more length and sustainable speed, especially given the 39-degree heat and extremely high humidity. The crew performed well with the margins being similar to those in Nanchang. An interesting aspect of this race was the inclusion of the Chinese crews over the last 2km, as each international university came through the 2km to go mark, a local Chinese crew would start, and attempt to hold onto the internationals over the closing stages of such a long event. The SUBC crew took this on well, and charged past all local entries.
Post 6km saw composites form to race over a few hundred metre in dragon boats, to end the formalities with a bit of a fun challenge.
Whilst on tour along with the important aspects of the racing and the cultural rowing forum, many other activities were thrown into a jam packed week, including a trip to the Bund in Shanghai, a historic temple in Nanchang and an opera performance in Yangzhou, along with many more cultural experiences.
Overall the trip was a great success, the university was represented with pride, the crew performed well and learnt a great deal from the racing, and the ties the club has with the Chinese regatta organisers, crews and international competitors has been yet again strengthened.
The SUBC crew was:
Cox: Andrew Le
Stroke: Sasha Belonogoff
7: Ben Morley
6: Kris Martyn
5: Richard Ledger
4: Nic Lesiuk
3: Brady Holland
2: Dan Johnston
Bow: Ben Sullivan
Reserve: Tom Flower
Coach: Will Raven
International Universities who competed:
University of British Columbia (Canada)
Boston College (US)
University of Tokyo (Japan)