Fresh from their performances in Rio, several Olympic rowers will take up oars for this year’s Australian Boat Race when they represent their university clubs on Sydney Harbour on Sunday 23 October.
Crews from the University of Melbourne and University of Sydney will compete for first place on a 4.3km course stretching from Woolwich to Darling Harbour.
Melbourne’s women’s crew will be looking to maintain their unbeaten record in eight meets.
“The Australian Boat race is a great opportunity to showcase what our sport and these two great universities can offer; a world-class education, competitive sporting prowess and a chance to collaborate with some of the most phenomenal people in the country,” said Melbourne alumna Jennifer Cleary, who recently competed in the women’s quadruple scull in Rio.
Fellow Olympian and Melbourne alumna Sarah Banting will be cox for the crew; she was also cox of the women’s eight in Rio.
In the men's race, University of Sydney graduate Cameron Girdlestone will be reunited with fellow Olympian and alumnus Alexander ‘Sasha’ Belonogoff. The two recently won silver at the Rio Games in the men’s quadruple scull.
“This race is about two great universities coming together to showcase world class rowing here in Australia, and there’s no better place to do it than here in Sydney, the best city in the world," Mr Girdlestone said.
“I always put my hand up for the Australian Boat Race because it's rowing in its traditional form – a head race between two boats following the course of a natural waterway,” Mr Belonogoff said.
“This setup makes for an interesting event with tactics playing a much greater part in the final outcome. The rivalry between Sydney University Boat Club and Melbourne is another reason why I love this event. There's a lot of pride on the line each time we come head-to-head and so I always know it's going to be a tough and tight race.”
The Sydney men’s crew has traditionally dominated on the Harbour course and the Melbourne side will be seeking their first win in Sydney, with Sydney looking to extend their five-one winning streak in 2016.
Based on the famous Oxford and Cambridge University Boat Race, the Australian competition is an annual event featuring current and alumni rowers from Australia’s oldest universities.
The meets began in 1860 and were a regular event by 1870. The race was revived in 2010 when University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence and Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis committed to an annual ‘match race’ between men’s eights and women’s eights from each university’s rowing clubs, alternating each year between Sydney Harbour and Melbourne’s Yarra River.
Chris Noel, convener of the Australian Boat Race 2016, invites Sydneysiders to come down to Darling Harbour to watch all the action on the big screen.
“The Australian Boat Race is an exhilarating competition, featuring some of Australia’s best rowing talent. On a beautiful Sunday morning there’s not much better than being on the water bright and early to cheer on the crews and be swept up in the atmosphere of friendly competition,” he said.
Spectators can book to follow the event on the race ferry or watch a live broadcast from three event cameras at a big screen in Cockle Bay, just near the IMAX Theatre. From this vantage point, spectators will be able to watch the whole race, with the crews finishing just metres away in Cockle Bay.
The race is particularly poignant for the Sydney crews as it one of the last times they’ll compete without a main training boatshed, after the original was destroyed by fire in 2006.
A new shed on the previous site in Burns Bay, Lane Cove, is nearing completion following financial support to rebuild from the University of Sydney, Sydney University Sport and Fitness, a Student Services and Amenities Funding Grant and alumni from the Sydney Uni Boat Club.