A race in two

Athletes competing in the boat race

This year’s Australian Boat Race between the universities of Sydney and Melbourne, to be held on Sydney Harbour on 4 November, will have an international audience, thanks to a deal which will see the event broadcast across Asia on cable television.

Chris Noel, convenor of the Boat Race and Vice-President of the University of Sydney Boat Club, has spent much of the past few months in negotiations with ESPN, Star Sports Asia and Foxsports. Thanks to his entrepreneurial efforts, the race will now be shown to an audience of millions across Asia, Australia and New Zealand three weeks after it is held.

The revived Boat Race, held in Sydney in 2010 after being first held in 1860, was over 7.3km around the harbour, which the Sydney men’s team won convincingly. “It was the longest match race in Australian rowing in more than a hundred years,” says Noel.

“The 2010 event was an unknown quantity,” he says, “and the aim was essentially to raise the profile of, and create something special between Australia’s two oldest universities, Sydney and Melbourne.”

Last year’s race in Melbourne attracted several hundred parents and alumni, and a few thousand spectators along the banks of the Yarra River, who watched the Sydney men’s eight win by just 30cm after the lead changed several times. Melbourne won the women’s eight for the second year in a row, so honours are even.

With the outstanding success of the first two years, Noel is now enticing more alumni – as well as University friends and the general public – to view and attend the event.

Although Sydney does not have as many vantage points on the water’s edge as Melbourne, the spectacular finish line in Darling Harbour is expected to draw a crowd. Alumni will also have the opportunity to follow the race on boats specially chartered for the event, and attend a harbourside brunch with crews after the race.

“The race rules ensure the crews are fully university based. Each boat is allowed two graduates and the balance of the crew must be currently enrolled students attending lectures.”