Sydney's men and Melbourne's women take victory in Australian Boat Race

4 November 2012

The University of Sydney men's eight celebrate with the Edmund Barton Trophy.
The University of Sydney men's eight celebrate with the Edmund Barton Trophy.

Sydney and Melbourne universities divided the spoils of victory for the third year running on Sunday morning as the Australian Boat Race returned to Sydney Harbour.

The University of Melbourne's women's eight repeated last year's comprehensive victory over their University of Sydney counterparts, while in the men's race Sydney weathered some early skirmishes to move clear in the second half of the 4.3-kilometre course and win by 5.3 seconds.

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

Sydney men's skipper Fergus Pragnell had taken a calculated gamble in choosing the southern station at the start of the race after winning the toss on Friday, meaning Melbourne would have the advantage of the first turn as the crews emerged from the mouth of the Lane Cove River at Woolwich.

"We knew that we had to be pretty courageous to hold Melbourne round the first turn, but it probably panned out better for us than what we'd hoped for," said Pragnell, an Australian Olympian.

"When we were only a couple of seats down after a good start we were really confident."

After the early close-quarters competition, Pragnell said Sydney's mid-race rhythm enabled the crew to establish an advantage and move into a race-winning lead that was much more comfortable than last year's nailbiting finish on Melbourne's Yarra River.

Melbourne's women's eight take a convincing early lead.
Melbourne's women's eight take a convincing early lead.

In the 2012 women's race, the presence in the Sydney eight of London Olympian Bronwen Watson wasn't enough to stop Melbourne notching up a convincing victory.

The Melbourne crew established an early lead that they never looked like giving up as they rowed into Darling Harbour to retain their title in decisive fashion.

Melbourne's women have won all three races since the Australian Boat Race tradition was revived in 2010, a record they share with Sydney's men.

The 2010 race was the first time in 150 years that the boat clubs from Australia's two oldest universities had met head-to-head. When Melbourne won a race on the Yarra in 1860, the Sydney team included a young Edmund Barton, who went on to become Australia's first prime minister.

At Sunday's presentation ceremony, federal Minister for Sport Senator Kate Lundy said the event was becoming a great Australian sporting occasion that had already surpassed the Oxford-Cambridge boat race by giving equal prominence to the men's and women's crews.

Earlier this year, it was announced that the British women's competition will be staged on the same day and course as the men's race from 2015.

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