Home advantage counted for little in the 2019 Australian Boat Race, with the University of Melbourne finishing behind the University of Sydney in the men's and women's races.
Hundreds of spectators lined the banks of the Yarra River in the sunshine to watch the 4.1km race from Burnley to Princes Bridge in the heart of the city.
The first event of the day was the ‘novice race’, offered for the first time in 2019, where all members of the two mixed crews were in their first year of competitive rowing. Both novice crews competed valiantly, but the Sydney crew gained an early lead and won the race. The novice race was created to make university rowing more accessible to students without a rowing background.
Tension mounted during the second race of the day between women’s colleges Ormond College (Melbourne) and Wesley College (Sydney), with the Melbourne crew winning by a slim margin of 0.78 seconds. The Melbourne men’s college crew (Ormond College) won their race by default after the Sydney crew (St Andrew’s College) forfeited.
The University of Sydney men’s crew made the most of a strong start in the main men’s race and kept their lead, securing what the commentators called a “convincing win”. The commentators noted that the Sydney men’s crew had more experienced rowers than their Melbourne rivals, with six members having represented Australia in international rowing.
The final race of the day drew gasps as the two women’s crews went head to head. The Melbourne crew enjoyed an early lead but Sydney soon caught up. The two boats were side by side for several hundred metres and came so close that the rowers’ oars were overlapping, with the blades almost touching. The boats were expertly steered apart by the two coxes and Sydney took the lead, winning the race.
Chris Hargreaves, captain of the Melbourne men’s crew, said it was a great feeling to represent the University on home water. “It was a disappointing result but I’m proud of the crew’s effort. We’ve progressed a lot in a short period of time. For the younger athletes in our crew, this will motivate them for next year and beyond.”
Women’s captain Pheobe Georgakas said “It was a pretty awesome race. You’re always going to be disappointed to come second out of two teams but I’m proud of all the girls in our boat and I’d like to say a big congratulations to the Sydney crew. It was a tough race and they did well to come out on top.
“We’ll learn from this experience and we’re looking forward to seeing them again next year on Sydney Harbour.”
Vice-Chancellor Professor Duncan Maskell was there to cheer on the Melbourne crews. “It’s great to be here on a beautiful day and see fantastic young athletes competing in a friendly way,” Professor Maskell said. “It’s a shame that Melbourne lost, but it’s the sport that counts.”
Now in its 11th year as the Australian Boat Race, the on-water rivalry between the two universities stretches back to 1860, when they first raced against one another on the Yarra River.
Full gallery here.
Novice race – University of Sydney won
Men’s College race (Ormond College vs. St Andrews College) – Ormond College won (St Andrews College forfeited race)
Women’s College race (Ormond College vs. Wesley College) – Ormond College won
Men’s Australian Boat Race – University of Sydney won
Women’s Australian Boat Race – University of Sydney won