Historic Melbourne-Sydney rivalry continues on the Yarra River

Original story available here: https://sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2019/10/10/historic-melbourne-sydney-rivalry-continues-on-the-yarra-river.html

Both highly trained athletes and novice rowers will take to the Yarra River on Saturday 12 October in the fiercely contested annual rowing race between the Universities of Melbourne and Sydney.

Now in its eleventh year, the 2019 Australian Boat Race is proudly hosted by the University of Melbourne. Kicking off at midday, crews from the two universities will once again compete for state bragging rights, racing 4.1km from Burnley to the heart of the city, with hundreds of spectators expected to line the river banks.

The two rowing clubs first met informally on the Yarra River in 1860. A decade later the competition had become a regular feature of university life, in the spirit of the famous Boat Race between the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. The tradition was revitalised in 2009, heralding a new chapter in the 150-year-old rivalry between Australia’s two oldest universities.

University of Sydney rowers

Andrew Le, the cox of the University of Sydney’s men’s crew, will be the first rower from an Asian background to participate in the Australian Boat Race.

His father, a refugee from Vietnam who came over to Australia by boat, is one of his biggest fans.

“Dad didn’t know anything about rowing when I first started in Year 7, and now he knows more about what is going on than I do,” Andrew says.

“The sport is really unique because it grabs the tallest and biggest guys and puts them in the hands of someone who isn’t as tall or as big as them. I think that’s really cool because not a lot of sports do that.”

University of Sydney civil engineering student, 21-year-old Marcus Britt, will captain the men’s crew for the second time this year, continuing a family tradition his father Rob started when he captained the University of Sydney Boat Club in 1983. A third-generation rower, Marcus represented Australia at the under 23 World Rowing Championships.

“My father introduced me to rowing when I was 11 years old and he has been supportive of me ever since. In the last ten years of my rowing career, I think he has been to just about every race,” says Marcus.

Fourth-year Bachelor of Chemical Engineering (Honours) student Kate Rowan will be competing in the Australian Boat Race for the first time for the Sydney women’s crew after moving here from Queensland.

“I moved to Sydney University because I wanted to be a part of the great culture that the boat club has built. The exceptional standard of the coaches as well as the opportunities for racing provided by the club has produced many world-class athletes.

“I’ve always loved the atmosphere around rowing. Working in a team every day and improving as a unit is something that is fun no matter what level I’ve been at in the sport.”

Novice race and new scholarship

A new feature of this year’s race is the ‘novice race’, which will see mixed teams from both universities competing. Each member is in their first year of competitive rowing. The race was created to make university rowing more accessible to students without a rowing background.

Alongside the races, the University of Melbourne is celebrating the launch of the inaugural Jopling Family Rowing Scholarship, Australia’s preeminent university rowing scholarship. Created to attract the best and brightest rowers to study and row at the University of Melbourne, the scholarship will provide financial support of up to $25,000 per year (plus further in-kind support) for up to four years. From 2020, the scholarship will be awarded to students who have demonstrated community leadership, a strong academic record, and rowing talent.

Next year the Universities of Melbourne and Sydney will celebrate the 150th anniversary of intervarsity sport in Australia.

All the action will be streamed live at: www.australianboatrace.com and www.facebook.com/unimelb.

Follow the hashtag #AusBoatRace on Instagram and Twitter.

Media enquiries:

Sam Burt (University of Melbourne), +61 466 808 788, sam.burt@unimelb.edu.au
Sally Sitou (University of Sydney) +61 29351 8647, +61 481 012 597,