The Oxford and Cambridge Cup

2017+AUG+SUBC+Team (1).jpg

The Oxford and Cambridge Cup 2017 - won for the 39th time by Sydney University

Few trophies in Australian sport combine the history, provenance, the beauty and the scale of the Oxford and Cambridge Cup.

This magnificently crafted trophy was donated in 1893 by Old Blues of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge for competition between the men's eights of Australian Universities. The cup has been "back awarded" to 1888 -the year in which the intervarsity competition changed from men's fours to eights.

The original university boat race was conducted over a "Thames Putney Mortlake" equivalent course, which varied between 2 miles and 3½ miles depending on location and conditions. This was changed in 1969 to the standard internationl distance of 2,000 metres.

The trophy was organised by Dr Edmond Warre, Headmaster of Eton College and former President of the Oxford University Boat Club. He suggested to the Old Blues of Oxford and Cambridge that a trophy be donated for Inter-University Eight competition in order to foster a continuing interest in the young competition. In an 1890 letter to Frederick Halcomb (Captain of the Adelaide University Boat Club0 he states that “the idea was accepted by them with alacrity” and that they were “proud of the opportunity afforded them of showing their brotherhood, goodwill and interest in the welfare of their kinsmen in the antipodes”. The cup was sent out to Australia in time for the 1893 competition, where it was competed for and won by Melbourne.

The cup features scenes in bas-relief of Oxford and Cambridge crews on one side and relief of colleges of Oxford and Cambridge on the other together with the floral emblems of the countries of England, Scotland and Wales. The Angel on the top is pictured in the traditional pose of the Toast to Rowing. This long-standing and traditional toast is afforded the winners of the Grand Challenge Cup.

The trophy with base is on a grand scale - over a metre in height.

Since 1888 the race has been run every year except during WWI and WWII and in 1965.

There has been one dead heat - between Sydney and Melbourne in 1951 on the Huon River in Tasmania.

Melbourne and Sydney lead the number of wins with Melbourne on 41 and a half and Sydney on 40 and a half. In recent years since 2000 Sydney has cut Melbourne's lead in the "number of wins" from 7 to 2 with Sydney having won 8 races of the 18 races since ( an including ) 2000.

University           Wins            Runner Up              First Win     Last Win

Melbourne           41.5                  35                        1888               2011

Sydney                 40.5                 37                        1890               2018

Adelaide               18                    24                        1889                2016

Queensland           8                     8                          1922                2008

Western Aus          6                      5                         1927                1998

Monash                  6                      4                          1971                1989

Tasmania                5                      4                          1925               1994

Uni Tech Syd          3                       1                           1996               2003

The 1993 Sydney University team at Wellington Dam, W.A with the Oxford and Cambridge Cup

The 1993 Sydney University team at Wellington Dam, W.A with the Oxford and Cambridge Cup

Sydney Uni Boat Club's Role in the Women's Gold Cup


The magnificent new Women's Gold Cup - designed and made by sculptor Jennifer Mann. Presented to St Ignatius College for presenttion to the winning women;s eight at the annula Gold Cup Regatta. 

The magnificent new Women's Gold Cup - designed and made by sculptor Jennifer Mann. Presented to St Ignatius College for presenttion to the winning women;s eight at the annula Gold Cup Regatta. 


The 2015 Gold Cup Regatta will be remembered as a historic occasion. The day on which a new Women’s Gold Cup was presented to St Ignatius College for the Women’s Eights and a day on which the Women’s Eights (now only 6 years old at this regatta) would stand on equal footing with the men’s eights event.

The new Riverview Women’s Challenge God Cup was manufactured by Melbourne sculptor Jennifer Mann and commissioned on behalf of approximately 35 donors by the leaders of this project and Rowing NSW.

The project to create a trophy for the women's eight at the Gold Cup regatta was conceived at a meeting of the Gold Cup Regatta Committee in 2012 and was led by Chris Noel - a former President and Vice President of Sydney Uni Boat Club. Chris arranged the design and commissioned the trohy and solicited donations from across the New South Wales Rowing Community.

The Headmaster of St Ignatius College presents the Women's Gold Cup for the first time at the 2015 Gold Cup Regatta. Mosman Rowing Club eight were the inaugural winners.

The Headmaster of St Ignatius College presents the Women's Gold Cup for the first time at the 2015 Gold Cup Regatta. Mosman Rowing Club eight were the inaugural winners.


The cup acknowledges the style and size of the original Gold Cup which was donated to St Ignatius and the Regatta by subscription of residents of Lane Cove in 1893.

Fayette the women’s eights the head of Women’s Gold Cup project, Chris Noel made a speech about the motivations of the donors and the hopes they this trophy would inspire the same traditions as the original Gold Cup. Julia Bell, representing the 2001 Australian Women’s eight (the crew is etched on the trophy) spoke of her hopes for this trophy and on behalf of the donors presented the cup to Dr. Paul Hine, the Headmaster of St Ignatius College.

The first race for this trophy saw a great battle between the UTS and Mosman crews with UTS leading around the pile but Mosman finishing strongly over the final 200 meters to take victory by only 0.22 seconds.

                        The Sydney Uni Women's Eight managed to win the new cup in 2017

                        The Sydney Uni Women's Eight managed to win the new cup in 2017

The speech at the presentation is printed below along with the donors who made this possible.


Speech for Presenting Women’s Gold Cup to St Ignatius College                Sat 21st February 2015

Headmaster Dr Paul Hine, Rowers, Parents and Friends of Rowing

Traditions are a great thing when they promote something worthwhile and great traditions only stay great when they are honoured, continued and renewed.

What a great tradition is the Gold Cup Regatta.

For many rowers – including myself – rowing in the Gold Cup Eights is among the really cherished memories of a rowing career.

Six years ago the then Headmaster Shane Hogan suggested and the regatta committee introduced the women’s open eight to the program with the aim of encouraging more women’s participation in the Gold Cup.

In 2012 The Regatta Committee thought it would be a good idea to have a suitable trophy for this event that reflected the importance of creating a tradition for the women’s eights that the men’s race has enjoyed for over 120 years.

In the spirit of the original Gold Cup we wanted to raise funds for this trophy by donation subscription just as happened with the citizens of Lane Cove subscribing to the original Gold Cup. Around 35 rowing clubs, school rowing committees and individuals have contributed to make this trophy possible. They are listed in the program – I thank all of them for supporting this trophy and a new tradition. Many of them are with me here around the beach.

On behalf of all those donors we sincerely hope that in 120 years this new trophy will develop the same traditions of the original Gold Cup.

The trophy itself draws on the style of the original cup – we were cognizant of the small size and unique design of the original and accordingly commissioned Jennifer Mann – a well-known sculptor from Melbourne – to design a gold – plated cup that had some unique points but complements the existing men’s cup. The trophy is titled “The Riverview Women’s Challenge Cup” and the handles are decorated with gold waratahs – our state’s flower. On the body of the cup is an etching of the 2001 Australian Women’s Eight – World Champions that year - and on the base the inscription reads – “Presented to St Ignatius College for the Annual Gold Cup Regatta by the Rowing Community of New South Wales”.

Finally could I thank Rowing NSW CEO Tony Blower and Office Administrator Melissa McCormack who registered this project with the ASF, promoted it on the Rowing NSW website and processed donations. I would also like to thank Deanna Fekete who worked with me in rounding up donations.

St Ignatius College – you have been an excellent custodian of the original Gold Cup. We – the donors- know that this new trophy will be looked after by St Ignatius College in the same way as the original.  I will now ask Julia Bell (Wilson when she rowed) to say a few words and present the trophy to Dr Hine.

DONORS: Mosman Rowing Club, Sydney Rowing Club, Sydney University Boat Club, NSW Union of Rowers, Loreto Kirribilli Rowing, Old Ignatians Rowing Club, Chris Noel, Phillip Sharp, Ann Koutts, John Croll, Bernard Smith, Will Liley, Jenny and Graeme Allen, Alison and Paul Gotch, Jim Busteed, Rob Scott, Lionel Robberds, NSW Union of Oarswomen, John Coates, Paul and Lisa Lee, Adam Vine- Hall, Terry and Jane O’Hanlon, Deana Fekete, PLC Sydney, Ellen Randell, Debbie Fox, Anthony Blower, Gillian Campbell, Stephen Donnelly. Ann Stormon, Phil Rossi, Thea Wheatley, Freya Wheatley,      Linda McDonald.

The original Gold Cup for men's eights with the new Women's Gold Cup Trophy in the foreground.

The original Gold Cup for men's eights with the new Women's Gold Cup Trophy in the foreground.

             The Modern Australian Boat Race - A short history of its start

The Modern Australian Boat Race - A short history of its start

The first Boat Race between Sydney and Melbourne Universities occurred in May 1860. Following a challenge by Melbourne University Boat Club the Sydney University crew travelled by rail and horse coach to Melbourne where they raced on the Yarra River.

This Boat Race was held a number of times in the 1860’s and eventually transformed into a Universities Race including initially, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide Universities. The first of these races was also held on the Yarra in fours in 1870 and this event soon became the Annual Intervarsity Rowing Competition.

In the 1870 event Australia’s, later to be, first Prime Minister, Edmund Barton rowed in the two seat of the Sydney University four.

At the 2008 National Championships Chris Noel of Sydney University and Peter Antonie of Melbourne University Boat Clubs talked about the possibility of re-introducing the head to head Boat Race as had originally happened in 1860 and on other occasions through the 1860’s.

In 2009 Melbourne University Boat Club celebrated their 150th Anniversary, and launch of their club history, with a party at Government House in Melbourne. They were kind enough to invite the President and Vice President of Sydney University Boat Club to this occasion and Chris Noel and Tom McCann attended.

In a conversation with Melbourne University Deputy Vice Chancellor, John Dewar, Chris Noel mentioned the idea which he a Peter Antonie had discussed in 2008 for an Australian Boat Race between Sydney and Melbourne Universities.

John then introduced Chris to the Melbourne University Vice Chancellor Prof Glyn Davis and as a result of discussions on the night with Professor Davis and Peter Antonie it was decided to try and make this concept a reality.

Professor Davis contacted his counterpart at Sydney University, Vice Chancellor Dr Michael Spence and Chris Noel also contacted Dr Spence. The result of a short period of discussion was that Melbourne University agreed to invite Sydney University crews to Melbourne that year for a Boat Race between Men’s and Women’s eights from the Universities Boat Clubs.

The organizers decided to make the races part of the Head of the Yarra, an annual time trial event run by the Hawthorn Rowing Club. The original idea was that the university crews would run within this regatta as a separate event – however late in the organization  Hawthorn Rowing Club refused to accommodate this arrangement  meaning that the both universities had to enter the senior eights time trial with nothing distinguishing this as a race other than the trial times.  As the crews had to enter within this regatta's rules Sydney (not having entered before) had to start at the rear of the field for their class – a major disadvantage in a time trial. In this event both Melbourne University crews recorded better times.

The Sydney University Vice Chancellor attended and indicated that he had in mind a head to head event and wanted to see this happen.

The following year, 2010, Sydney University hosted and the event became a head to head Boat race. The course was from Leichhardt Rowing Club in Iron Cove across the inner harbour of Sydney and down the Lane Cove River to Riverview Wharf at St Ignatius College – a distance of about seven kilometres.

                            The Course of the 2010 Australian Boat Race - Leichhardt Rowing Club to Riverview Wharf

                            The Course of the 2010 Australian Boat Race - Leichhardt Rowing Club to Riverview Wharf

The same year the Universities signed a memorandum of Understanding to hold the Australian Boat Race for a period of three years initially.

In the first Boat Race on Sydney Harbour the men’s event went to Sydney and the Women’s to Melbourne University.

A video made around this initial head to head race can be seen at this link:

In 2011 the race went back to the Yarra River, this time as a Boat Race over 4.5 kilometres using part of the old King’s Cup course starting down river near the Bolte Bridge and racing up river through the Docklands, past the city and Casino and finishing at Melbourne University Boat Club.

The results were the same with Sydney winning the men’s and Melbourne the women’s race. While Melbourne women had a comfortable win the Sydney men only prevailed by the narrowest of margins in a thrilling race which saw the lead change between the two crews on a least three occasions.

You can see the video production of this race at:

In 2011 with the event coming back to Sydney and being broadcast it was decided by the Sydney organizers to seek a more scenic route and after negotiations between Sydney University Boat Club and the Roads and Maritime Services it was agreed we could use a new course from Woolwich heading to the city area and swinging south to finish in Cockle Bay, Darling Harbour.

Sydney on the right and Melbourne on the left in the 2012 Australian Boat Race - heading past east Balmain during the first use of the main harbour course in Sydney

Sydney on the right and Melbourne on the left in the 2012 Australian Boat Race - heading past east Balmain during the first use of the main harbour course in Sydney

“to be continued”

Classic and Historic 2008 King's Cup Win by New South Wales - Revisited

The 2008 King's Cup Race was a Classic Race and a Turning Point for New South Wales. After only winning two King's Cups in the 30 years since 1978, 2008 saw the first of a record (for NSW) seven wins in a row.

Five SUBC rowers were in this crew that just beat Victoria and SUBC and Sydney Rowing Club stalwarts Chris Noel and Steve Handley were involved in overhauling and updating the selection and support processes for the NSW State crews. This year also saw the first King's and Queen's Cup Lunch held for our State crews.

This report below was written just after the 2008 race:

Sydney International Regatta Centre

Sunday 9th March 2008

The 2008 National Regatta was marked by fantastic conditions and in the final race, the King's Cup, one of the most spectacular finishes in the recent history of interstate rowing.

Breakthrough 2008  KC8 celebrating victory (1).jpg

 Breakthrough -2008 New South Wales KC 8 crew hears they have victory by just 0.21 seconds

They say if you want victory or power you must grab it in a most uncompromising way - that is exactly what the Sky Blues of the NSW Men's Eight did today in the Kings Cup. A narrow, tenacious victory in a race where the three leading crews competed with passion, determination and a ruthlessness that brought the emotions of both competitors and supporters out in the open.

The NSW crew had been steadily building their momentum since pushing the champions, Victoria, at Nagambie in 2007.

The crew was boated with Athen's bronze medallist Steve Stewart changing sides to stroke on bowside and newcomer Terrence Alfred in the seven seat. Backing up in six was Stewart’s fellow UTS stalwart James Chapman and immediately behind in the engine room was NSW’s biggest gun, Tom Laurich from Mosman. In 4, 3 and 2 were Alfred’s fellow SUBC club mates – Fergus Pragnell, Francis Hegerty and Matt Ryan. The bow position was brilliantly handled by Sam Loch who returned to Australia in 2006 from Princeton and achieved selection this year in the Olympic eight. Fergus Pragnell and fellow crew members joked that with an athlete of Sam’s ability in the bow they had invented a “front wheel drive” boat.

Steering was 2008 Olympic cox Marty Rabjohns. Marty who recently, after a team bonding session, has entered the windscreen repair business, but was on this occasion working in a field in which he had greater expertise.

Although all members of the crew and reserve Nick Baxter were competing against each other for positions in the Australian Men’s Olympic Eight over the last 12 months they never lost connection with their desire to claim this prestigious trophy which has been rarely in NSW hands in the past twenty years.

The draw which saw the most favoured crews NSW and Victoria in Lanes 1 and 6 , on opposite sides of the course, was always going to affect how the race was run but ultimately heightened the tension of an incredibly close finish.

The West Aussies started like an express train in the following conditions and knocked over the first 500 in 1.21.25 taking a 2.5 sec lead over NSW with the Vics only 0.17 behind.  The Sandgropers were trying to steal the race but the Light Blues and the Navy Blues of NSW and Victoria stayed calm believing their race tactics would bring them through WA as the event progressed.

In the second 500 NSW cut 1.2 secs from the WA lead and the Victorians a little less. At the 1000 it was WA by 1.32 secs and Victoria only 0.4 behind NSW. At the 1500 it was still WA but just into the last 500 NSW made a dramatic move, sliced the lead quickly and shot ahead of WA with around 350 to go BUT the Victorians were also now swamping the former leaders. The Vics were now attacking and cox Rabjohns and stroke Stewart were covering their effort and holding an advantage of about 0.45 with only 250 to run to the bubble line.

                     2008 Nearing the finish with victory uncertain

                     2008 Nearing the finish with victory uncertain

The Vics with their legends, Tomkins, Ginn and Crawshay on board unwound their traditional blistering finish. A finish, which, in most of the past twenty years, has destroyed the hopes of other contenders.  A finish which is exciting and which brought the crowd to its feet. The Victorian supporters were hoping for the usual effect. The New South Wales crowd were willing their team to hold out the big V.

The crowd noise was drowning out the commentary and the NSW crew rose to the occasion, and despite some erratic movements in the boat’s course as the Vic’s applied the pressure, it looked like NSW may have just held on in a photo for first.

A minute of tension for the crowd and then the announcement of the photo – NSW Kings Cup winners over Victoria by 0.21 with WA 3.14 back in third.

The passion for this race was evident in the crew and the supporters of NSW and just as poignantly on the faces of the Victorian eight. It was obvious in the crowd as parents of the winning and losing athletes cried tears of joy, elation and sadness for their sons. For this correspondent one of the moments of memory will be being offered gracious congratulation for NSW's victory by the mother of one of Australia’s greatest ever rowers while the disappointment for her son was so evident on her face.

The emotions of the crews and the crowd combined with a thrilling race made this one of the most memorable of all Kings Cups.

The NSW crew wore black armbands to honour the memory of Francis Hegerty’s grandmother who passed away only two days before.

After the race a magnanimous Rowing Victoria President, Andrew Guerin, presented the traditional slab of beer to the winners and the crew posed for photos before returning to the boatsheds to catch up with family and friends.

To all members of the NSW Eight our club offers congratulations. To our club members of the winning boat for 2008 , Francis Hegerty, Matt Ryan, Fergus Pragnell and Terrence Alfred and cox Marty Rabjohns- well done and thanks for flying the colours of our State and club so high today.

To quote some of the NSW athletes after the race:

James Chapman (UTS) No 6: “We treated this race with seriousness it deserves from day one and it is all worth it now."

Steve Stewart (UTS) Stroke “The boat seemed to be bouncing around in the conditions and felt unstable as the pressure of the finish came on. I was concentrating on covering Victoria’s moves.”

Terrence Alfred (SUBC) No 6. (Terrence was 7 on stroke side and so was “facing” away from all the other crews.  “I thought we were in a struggle with the Vics for second when we crossed the line. Marty was calling off the Vics and I was following Steve- I didn’t realize we had passed WA.”

Francis Hegerty (SUBC) “I looked across to the Victorians and saw them slumped in the boat and said “YESSS !!”