The University of Melbourne and the University of Sydney have shared the spoils at this year’s Australian Boat Race, with Melbourne’s women’s and Sydney’s men’s teams proving the victors on Sunday morning.
Melbourne’s women’s eight, undefeated since the start of the Australian Boat Race’s ‘modern era’ in 2010, continued their record-setting run, to steam home almost 10 lengths in front of the Sydney crew. It’s now their sixth win from six races.
While in the men’s, Sydney also clearly dominated, leading from the start of the race to push their streak out to five-one.
The Australian Boat Race has become one of the highlights of the rowing calendar and showcases the very best of current and alumni talents from both universities.
Hundreds of spectators lined the banks of the Yarra this morning to watch the spectacle. The 4.6km course followed the winding Yarra from Burnley to the heart of the city, finishing near the University of Melbourne Boat Club.
Alice McNamara, a two-time world champion rower, led Melbourne’s women to victory as captain. It was her fifth Australian Boat Race for the University of Melbourne, where she is studying a Doctor of Medicine.
“I’m just very, very satisfied and happy with our Melbourne crew,” the 29-year-old said after the win.
“We just went out 110 per cent through that first corner and I think once we were through that first corner slightly in front, we knew our speed was superior.
“We have got fantastic experience in the club and I’m just soaking up the atmosphere now – it’s just a fantastic day.”
Meanwhile, Sydney’s men’s captain Alexander “Sasha” Belonogoff said the win was sweet after the disappointment of their last unsuccessful visit to Melbourne in 2013.
“We showed that we are a new crew and a stronger crew and that strength has emerged from the disappointment two years ago,” said Belonogoff, who graduated this year with a Bachelor of Applied Science (Exercise and Sport Science).
Belonogoff, 25, is a likely starter for the Rio Olympics next year after helping qualify Australia in the men’s double scull, while fellow teammate Cameron Girdlestone is also a contender for the men’s quad.
“Cam and I have had a lot of time to build our combination and build our rhythm and the six blokes behind us did a great job of just backing that up today.
“That’s where the race was won.”
The Edmund Barton Trophy will now head back to Sydney, while Melbourne’s women’s crew get to keep their hold on the Bella Guerin Trophy – named after the first female graduate from the University of Melbourne.
The Australian Boat Race has been an annual tradition between the universities since 2009, although the first year was a time-trial event held on the Yarra and not the head-to-head format as seen today.
The on-water rivalry between the pair – Australian’s two oldest universities – stretches back to 1860 when they first raced against one another, also on the Yarra (Melbourne won this first event).
Now in its sixth year, the crews attract the cream of the rowing crop, with multiple Olympians and Olympic hopefuls dotted through the crews of both sides this year.
University of Melbourne: David Crawshay (2008 Beijing double scull gold medallist), James Marburg (2008 Beijing cox less four silver medallist, Josh Booth, Phoebe Stanley (2012 London Olympics), Jennifer Cleary and skipper Alice McNamara (2016 Rio contenders)
University of Sydney: Elizabeth Kell (2008 Beijing Games), Alexander “Sasha” Belonogoff and Cameron Girdlestone (2016 Rio contenders)