Rowing crews set for ‘clash of oars’ showdown on Sydney Harbour

Rowing crew set for clash on Sydney Harbour
The Australian Boat Race is styled in the fashion of the UK's famous Oxford v Cambridge rowing race.

University of Melbourne crew captains Sarah Banting and Jordan Smith have formally accepted the challenge set by their Sydney rivals to go head-to-head in a rowing battle on Sydney Harbour on Sunday.

It will be the eighth annual running of the Australian Boat Race, a showcase event highlighting the best of current and alumni rowing talent from the country’s two oldest universities.

Men’s and women’s eights crews, plus college teams, will race 4.3km from Woolwich to Pyrmont Bridge in Sydney on Sunday starting 8am.

On Friday, the Melbourne and Sydney crews faced off for the event’s traditional challenge, weigh-in and coin-toss at the University of Sydney’s Quadrangle Lawns, where the playful barbs flew thick and fast.

University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence, who brainstormed the race into being along with University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis, issued a hearty welcome to the visiting Melbourne crews, before helpfully warning them not to “be distracted” by Sydney’s blue waters.

“Oh, and this is called sunshine,” he joked.

Melbourne men’s captain Jordan Smith later responded by saying: “If we’re late on Sunday, it’s just ‘cause we’re really struggling to find a decent cup of coffee.”

Melbourne’s men’s crew are hoping to notch their third Australian Boat Race victory against Sydney this year, but will face a difficult task against a crew that includes Olympic silver-medallists from Rio Cameron Girdlestone and Alexander ‘Sasha” Berlonogoff.

Meanwhile Melbourne’s women’s team are looking to maintain their perfect record. They have not lost to Sydney since the Australian Boat Race began in 2009.

Their weight was announced as 579kg, to Sydney’s crew of 606kg, while the Melbourne men’s eights weighed in at a total 761kg to Sydney’s 760kg.

Smith won the coin toss for Melbourne, opting to row on the north side, as did Sydney captain Rebecca Humphris in the women’s race, which starts at 9am.