Rowing Downunder: The 2012 Sydney-Melbourne Boat Races

Melbourne on left clearly leads Sydney to the finish for the Women’s Race.

The excitement for the boat race between The University of Sydney (challenger) and The University of Melbourne on Sunday, 4 November was huge and will be talked about by athletes and spectators for years to come, Louis Petrin reports from Downunder. He continues to writes:

The race was revived four years after a rest for well over 100 years. The race is modeled on the great Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race, with the difference that the Australian race also has a women’s boat race challenge on the same day as the men’s race.

Ready for racing.

The four crews featured an incredible eight Olympians, seven of whom rowed for Australia at the recent London 2012 Olympic Games.

The day started with the Women’s race starting at 8.20 with fine weather. Visitors to Sydney will know it is a busy harbor with ferries transporting people along with working boats and pleasure craft and yachts. So the challenge was to shut down all traffic for this event.

Water was calm on top with crews feeling the undertows of the river. Melbourne had won the toss and chose the favoured North (bow side) station. After a brief wait the crews were off with Melbourne taking a slight lead racing towards a sweeping 20 degree bend about 200 meters from the start. Sydney was hard pressed to come around from the outside with Melbourne continuing to press their advantage. After 500 meters, it was Melbourne in the lead heading for the finish in another 4 km.

The spectators in ferries, water taxis and boats followed creating a huge wash which fortunately did not affect the race. Cheers were loud from supporters.

Melbourne Women continued their fine race, increasing their lead as they approached an old bridge to mark the last 100 meters of the race. Sydney Women pulled hard and upped their rate but all efforts were matched. The result, another win to Melbourne Women to take the Bella Guerin Trophy for the third time in a row. Melbourne covered the 4.3km in 16 min 54 sec, with Sydney finishing 23 seconds behind.

Melbourne University Women – winners 2012

The spectators turned their boats around and headed back to the start to watch the Men’s Race. This time, Sydney had won the coin toss and chose the same South (stroke side) station that the Sydney Women had started from, which surprising many. Once again the wait was not long and at 9.20 the race was on. Sydney came out rating over 40 and came around the Melbourne to take a lead of about a canvas. The cox from Sydney steered the boat so as to push the Melbourne crew to stroke side, away from the course. Oars clashed a number of times but neither crew had any fear of pressing on their course. The Umpire was quite busy flagging both crews away at various stages. Sydney continued to take the lead steering their boat across to stroke side, forcing Melbourne to fall in behind them. As they approached the finish the boats separated so as to take their lines through separate arches of the old Pyrmont Bridge.

Sydney leads Melbourne to the finish for the Men’s Race.

With about 400 meters to go, Sydney lowered their rate to 32 to take a brief rest and save what little was left in case they had to match Melbourne who made a huge push for the finish. In the end, two boats filled with crews who have just rowed 4.5 kilometers and given everything crossed the finish Sydney University taking the Edmund Barton Trophy in a time of 14min 0.2 sec, to win by 5.35 seconds. The result gave Sydney University Men’s a clean sweep of three wins.

Sydney University Men – winners 2012

The race returns to Melbourne’s home course, the Yarra River, in late 2013.

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