Melbourne wins men’s and women’s coin toss as crews finalised ahead of 2017 Australian Boat Race

Melbourne will row out of the South station and Sydney out of the North station in both men’s and women’s races following the Australian Boat Race traditional coin toss this morning.

Meeting in front of the boathouses between MUBC and Yarra Yarra, the first coin toss decided stations (lanes) for the men’s Australian Boat Race. As is custom, the visitors had the opportunity to call heads or tails and Sydney Captain Will Raven chose heads. With Melbourne men’s representative Edward Walmsely looking on, the coin came down tails and it was the home crew’s choice for stations. Melbourne chose South.

Next up, Sydney’s women’s Captain Dyone Bettega had to decide if she’d follow Will Raven’s call of heads, or take the chance on tails. She chose heads as well, and much to the delight of Melbourne’s Captain India McKenzie, the coin again fell tails. Another coin toss in favour of the hosts and the Melbourne women will also row out of South station.

Melbourne coach Franz Imfeld was equally pleased with the little bit of luck that was the coin toss.

“North or South, it doesn’t really matter. Each has its advantages at different parts of the river. It’s good to have an early win under our belts – even if it’s only the coin toss” said the debutant Australian Boat Race coach.

It had also been agreed pre-coin toss that the Melbourne and Sydney College crews would row out of the same stations as their respective Australian Boat Race crews. Hence, Melbourne’s Ormond College crews will row out of South station and Sydney’s St Andrews (men’s) and Wesley (women’s) will row out of North station.

With the coin toss completed, both Universities have now locked down their crews for Sunday’s showdown.

India McKenzie and Dyone Bettega will captain the Melbourne and Sydney women’s crews respectively, whilst Jackson Harrison and William Raven lead the men’s crews.

Olympic experience includes Melbourne’s Sarah Banting and Josh Booth, whilst Sydney boasts Cameron Girdlestone and Alexander ‘Sasha’ Belonogoff.

The 2017 Australian Boat Race is on this Sunday 22 October with racing starting from 9.00am.

Captains named for Australian Boat Race

University of Melbourne students Jackson Harrison and India McKenzie have been named men’s and women’s captains for the Australian Boat Race, taking place on the Yarra River next Sunday, 22 October.

“I’ve sat on the sideline since the inaugural event wondering if I could make such a crew. The moment the opportunity presented itself to apply for Master of Teaching and then join the team, I was sold,” he says.

“These guys are not only talented oarsmen, but are tremendous leaders in their own right. It’s an absolute privilege to be recognised as captain, and something that I hold with the highest regard.”

Competing for her third time, Bachelor of Environments student, India McKenzie is hopeful she can lead the women’s crew to their ninth consecutive win.

“There’s a strong tradition of success with Melbourne University women’s rowing and we’re honoured with the challenge of defending such an impressive victory streak, especially on home waters,” she says.

“While we certainly feel the pressure, the key for us will be focusing on getting the process right. Continuing that tradition would be exhilarating, but it’s important not to get distracted and concentrate on the task at hand.”

The University of Sydney men’s team, hoping for their fourth consecutive win, will be captained and coxed by economics student William Raven, who also serves as the Vice-President of the Sydney University Boat Club. For Raven, who will be competing in his seventh Australian Boat Race, the event is unique not just for its longer and more winding river course, but for the competition that plays out on the water.

“The race has many undertones, with a massive rivalry not only between the universities, but also between the boat clubs and the state rowing teams, with NSW and Victoria usually fighting it out for the top spot at the interstate regatta,” he says.

Bachelor of Medical Science student Dyone Bettega, who will captain the women’s team, says the race is a classic example of putting one’s pride on the line in exchange for the honour of claiming the title.

“The event fosters friendship, teamwork and sportsmanship within each crew but more importantly, among competitors. I look forward to being a part of the tradition for another year and I wish the crews all the best on race day,” she says.

University of Melbourne Doctor of Medicine students and Rio Olympians, Sarah Banting and Josh Booth will add an extra competitive edge to the crews, ready to face off with their fellow Olympians and University of Sydney alumni Cameron Girdlestone and Alexander ‘Sasha’ Belonogoff.

Arch earns World Championship silver

University of Melbourne rower Alice Arch will return home shortly with a shiny new keepsake – a silver medal from last month’s World Rowing Championships in Sarasota, Florida.

It has been a breakthrough year for the Bachelor of Science (Honours) student as she’s forced her way into the Australian senior women’s Lightweight Quad Sculls’ crew. Having previously represented Australia at the World University Championships and at U23 level, Arch was invited to Rowing Australia’s National Training Centre in Penrith, NSW at the start of 2017 where she’s made the jump into senior ranks.

Arch and her Australians team-mates (Amy James, Georgia Miansarow and Georgia Nesbitt) entered the World Championships as one of the form crews, having won the gold medal in the previous World Cup #3 in a World Best Time. The race for the gold medal was a battle between Australia, Italy and China and it was the Italians that eventually held off a fast-finishing Australian crew to win the World title.

Alice Arch, in speaking to Rowing Australia post-race said, “I’m stoked. We are obviously disappointed that we didn’t get gold as that was our goal, but we’re really happy as a crew to have won silver today.”

While Arch hasn’t been able to train with her University team-mates so far this year, her World Championship success and experience will certainly be a valuable addition to the Melbourne women’s crew as they look to maintain their eight-year unbeaten streak in the Australian Boat Race on the Yarra River later this month.

Former Olympian James Marburg named Australian Boat Race ambassador

Olympic silver medallist and former Australian Boat Race competitor James Marburg has been named as ambassador for this year’s event, to be held on the Yarra River on Sunday 22 October.

Marburg, who won silver in the coxless four in Beijing in 2008 and reached the final in the men’s pair in London in 2012, was a five-time competitor at the Australian Boat Race.

He was part of the University of Melbourne’s men’s team that won in 2013 when he was a law student, and competed the following year as an alumnus.

Marburg is now a lawyer at firm Gilbert + Tobin but his passion for the Australian Boat Race sees him renew his involvement in the event in an off-water role.

“(The Boat Race) is something I’m really passionate about and want to see continue. It highlights the talent coming through both University of Melbourne and University of Sydney in terms of elite rowing,” Marburg says.

“I’m a big supporter of rowing and a big supporter of the University of Melbourne, and I think it’s important for anyone doing sport at that level to stick to an academic program as well.”

Marburg, 34, says sport was a great outlet to counterbalance both the pressures of studying when he was a student, and now work.

He has competed for Torquay in surfboat rowing since his retirement from elite rowing.

“(Rowing and studying) are two things that complement each other really well. Sport is a great escape,” he says.

“I see rowing as an example for what other sports can do, and Melbourne and Sydney as an example for what other universities can do.”

The Australian Boat Race takes place on the Yarra River, with the spectators’ area in front of Melbourne University Boat Club on Boathouse Drive.

The event features college races from 9am before the Universities of Melbourne and Sydney show down in both men’s and women’s races from 9.45am.

Crews for all boats will be announced soon.

History repeats as Sydney and Melbourne share rowing honours

In an amazing déjà vu experience, the results of the 2016 Australian Boat Race mirror those of the last two editions of this time-honoured rowing grudge match.

The victory tally now stands at seven-nil Melbourne’s way for the Women’s Eight, and six-one to Sydney in the Men’s at the close of the seventh edition of the annual Australian Boat Race, held on a blustery Sydney Harbour this morning, October 23, 2016.

The University of Sydney Men’s Eight, captained by Rio silver medallist, Cameron Girdlestone out-rowed the University of Melbourne Men’s Eight to retain the Edmund Barton Trophy, while this result was reversed in the Women’s Eights as Melbourne preserved their unbeaten status with an unyielding grip on the Bella Guerin Trophy.

History has repeated results but the rowing conditions today were decidedly different with challenging cross winds generating choppy water and wash. All crews had their nerve tested and the blade work of all rowers was impressive in the conditions. Perhaps it was all part of the strategy to make the visiting Melbournians feel more at home.

The women’s race saw the USYD crew, starting on the favoured northern side, steal a slender half-a-boat lead. Given the turbulent water this seemed a smart strategy to go out quick and hold the margin as long as possible. Melbourne responded though and was not going to concede Sydney any advantage. Neck and neck, the two boats came perilously close at times with oars not far from clashing. The Melbourne boat was pressuring Sydney for space and the guile of Melbourne and Rio Olympic Women’s Eights, Coxswain and Captain, Sarah Banting was on full display. Indeed the stern of the Melbourne boat was formidable with Banting sitting closest to fellow Rio Olympian, Jennifer Cleary, in the Stroke seat. Sydney never relented, however Melbourne pulled away gradually over the 4.3 kilometre course to win by approximately eight boat lengths. Despite the loss, those in the know commented that the USYD crew had improved from last year and the margin between the boats is diminishing.

While the women’s crews faced testing wind, swell and waves at times, the weather deteriorated markedly by the time the men’s crews squared off on the start line. Gushes of spray flew off the blades making the risk of sinking a possibility with the amount of water flying in the air. Melbourne, having won the coin toss, started from the preffered northern side, however it was Sydney who captured a slight two-seat lead on a very exposed part of the course. Both crews could have been forgiven for reverting to survival mode, yet they ploughed on as oarsmen do in the midst of a match race. Later, Master of Ceremonies and Sydney University Blue, John Boultbee AM, would quip the men’s contest resembled a, “surf boat race,” such were the conditions and at times the water looked like the surf at Bondi, whipped up by a fresh nor’easter.  The crews did find a little reprieve as they steered closer to land. Sydney, slowly and surely, gained ascendancy to win by approximately four boat lengths.

In an incredible statistic Rio silver medallist and Sydney oarsman, Sasha Belonogoff has now won every Australian Boat Race he has contested, that is six wins from six starts. The Melbourne men’s crew were valiant in defeat pushing hard right to the end, as you never know what can happen in such conditions.

Despite the elements, the racing attracted a large flotilla of spectator craft and it made for great vision to see all of these vessels in seeming pursuit of the powerful rowing boats, against a backdrop of the magnificent Sydney Harbour and the iconic Harbour Bridge.

The Sydney crews wore black-arm bands as a mark of respect for the late esteemed journalist, Rebecca Wilson, who was a keen supporter of Sydney University Boat Club (SUBC) and rowing generally.

In the earlier College races, which proved an omen for the main event, University of Sydney’s St. Andrew’s Men’s Eight secured an impressive win over Ormond College, from the University of Melbourne. The winner of the ‘Taste the Race’ rowing challenge at the University of Sydney during the week, Tom Whitehead, was a key member of the St Andrew’s crew. The tables were turned though in the Women’s Eights with Ormond prevailing by just one boat length in the tightest finish of the four races on the programme.  The College races featuring the winning Intercollegial crews from both Universities and there was tremendous tactical skill shown by both cox as they sought the best line over the shorter course.

At the presentation for the College races, Ormond Women’s captain, Kate Meggit accepted the trophy and St Andrew’s Men’s captain, Jack Cook did similarly on behalf of his crew.

Before a large crowd, University of Sydney Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Dr Michael Spence presented the medals to both Women’s crews in the Australian Boat Race. The Bella Guerin Trophy was bestowed to Melbourne by SUBC stalwart, Jane Spring. Spring was Sydney University Women’s Rowing Club President for a phenomenal 24 years and in 2010 was awarded for a Lifetime of Service to Rowing.

The Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Melbourne, Dr Glyn Davis presented the Australian Boat Race medals to the men’s crews, with the Edmund Barton Trophy handed to Sydney by the President and Chairman of Australian Rowing, Rob Scott, himself an Olympic silver medallist.

While there is a fierce rivalry between the respective Colleges and Universities, the annual Australian Boat Race is renowned for the wonderful spirit and camaraderie displayed by all competitors and coaches, who enjoyed brunch together afterwards at Dockside, Darling Harbour.

Huge congratulations go to all competing crews, coaches and support staff. Special mention to the irrepressible SUBC Australian Boat Race, Event Convenor, Chris Noel and SUBC Men’s Head Coach Mark Prater, who leaves a legacy of success and big shoes to fill as he takes up a coaching appointment at the Reinhold Batschi Men’s National Training Centre in Canberra with Rowing Australia.

The Australian Boat Race goes from strength to strength each year as an event and the final order of business was Dr Davis issuing the challenge to the University of Sydney to battle on the Yarra River against the University of Melbourne in one years’ time.