Rowing crews share 2016 Boat Race honours

The University of Melbourne remains undefeated in the women’s eight of the Australian Boat Race after beating their rowing rivals on the waters of Darling Harbour on Sunday.

They have now won all eight races against the University of Sydney since the start of the Australian Boat Race’s ‘modern era’ in 2009.

But it was a day for shared spoils, with the University of Sydney also enjoying a comprehensive victory in the men’s race despite tough conditions.

The Australian Boat Race is an annual rowing event between the nation's two oldest and most prestigious universities, showcasing the very best of their current and alumni rowing talent.

It’s styled in the same fashion as the famous Oxford versus Cambridge race in the United Kingdom.

On Sunday, hundreds of spectators watched on as the crews raced 4.3km from Woolwich to Darling Harbour in choppy waters.

In the women’s race, the visitors pulled away in the middle stages of the race to storm home clear victors and ensure the Bella Guerin Trophy stays in Melbourne for at least another year.

Captain Sarah Banting, fresh from her appearance in the women’s eight at the Rio Olympics in August, said the team had been intent on extending its undefeated record.

“We put a little bit of (pressure) on ourselves, but the wind and cold we get all the time down in Melbourne, so we were probably more in our natural habitat than the Sydneysiders,” the 22-year-old medical student said.

Fellow Rio Olympian and teammate Jen Cleary said: “We knew it was going to be tough, but we just wanted to be really relaxed and I think we handled that really well.”

Sydney captain Rebecca Humphris said she was proud of the way her team overcame the difficult conditions.

"Congratulations to Melbourne - they're awesome racers. We had moments that were tricky but we were able to recover. We did all we could."

Meanwhile, Sydney’s men’s crew proved too strong for the visitors, buoyed by their Rio Olympians Cameron Girdlestone and Alexander ‘Sasha’ Belonogoff.

The pair won silver as part of Australia’s quadruple sculls crew.

Mr Girdlestone said it was an honour to row with his Sydney teammates again.

"I thought Rio had the toughest conditions Sasha and I had ever faced, but this took the cake. To give them credit, Melbourne really stuck it to us. It was more like a race of survival rather than a race of the fittest and the strongest."

Melbourne captain Jordan Smith paid tribute to the strength and experience of the Sydney outfit, which has now won six out of eight Boat Races and retains their hold on the Edmund Barton Trophy.

“The boys did their best,” he said.

“We knew we would struggle in the tough conditions and Sydney handled it a lot better us.”

In the college races, Sydney and Melbourne again shared line honours, with Ormond college winning the women's race and St Andrew's crossing the finish line first for the locals in the men's.

The on-water rivalry between the two sandstone universities stretches back to 1860 when they first raced against one another – also on the Yarra (Melbourne won this first event).

Photos and vision from the 2016 Australian Boat Race are available for media on request.