The Sydney University women’s eight crew produced a breathtaking finish to capture rowing’s ‘Great Race’ in New Zealand last Sunday. ‘The Great Race’, held as part of ‘The Gallagher Great Race Festival’, is a rowing race held upstream on a 4.2km course through the New Zealand city of Hamilton. There is a race held for men and women. Sydney Uni, who was invited to compete for the second year running, faced the might of the University of Waikato and despite giving them just over half a length with 200m remaining, came over the top of the New Zealand crew to win by half a length.

The crew of Sally Kehoe, Sarah Cook, Elizabeth Kell, Charlotte Walters, Emma Costello, Alisa Tremayne, Ashleigh Peppernell and Emma Cook, coxed by Ali Williams, won the toss of the coin prior to the race which gave them the option of finishing or starting in the current.

Coach Phil Bourguignon says this is where tactics came into play.

“We had to decide whether to finish in the current or start upstream and we chose to give ourselves the tougher start after winning the toss,” Bourguignon said. “The whole race is one of tactics and we just believed we had the fitness to come over Waikato in the latter stages of the race, which we were able to do.

“We were about three boat lengths down at the halfway point of the race but the crew upped the rate and hit the lead in the last ten strokes. They did a fantastic job.”

It was a good result for Sydney Uni, who was beaten in the same race in 2008, albeit with a crew with less experience. In the men’s race, Waikato secured victory over Oxford University.