A smooth Melbourne Uni combination took out the Head of the Yarra in Melbourne on Saturday. The time of 25.33 was less than a second outside the record in what were considered slow conditions. The Open event hosted an inuagural challenge between Sydney and Melbourne University Boat Clubs – two of Australia’s oldest rowing clubs.

The Sydney Men’s crew had originally been entered as star studded team containing most of the 2009 victorious NSW Kings Cup crew. However in the final ten days leading into the challenge Sydney lost four of its top rowers. Terrence Alfred and Matt Ryan went out with recuurence of back injuries, Sam Loch broke his wrist in cycling accident and Francis Hegerty failed to recover from and operation on his Achilles tendon. Melbourne started at the Head of the Men’s Open taking this position as winners from the 2008 race. Mercantile was next with Sydney third on the start. The crew intervals were ten seconds.

Unfortunately for Sydney the Mercantile crew’s speed was below what was anticipated and the Sydney eight’s tactics in delaying their start proved wrong in those circumstances. This meant that Sydney caught Mercantile into the narrowing parts of the course and as the Mercs crew held their lines through the centre of the river the Sydney crew was held up for 3.5 kms unable to pass. The race rules hold that once the faster approaching boat’s bow is within half a length of the stern of the slower boat – that boat must yield. Eventually the unpires stepped in and made Mercs yield to Sydney and the Sydney crew were able to resume their chase of Melbourne Uni.

The Melbourne crew proved too well balanced and the took full advantage of their start position and good local knowledge of the riverto record a strong victory with Sydney second, Mercantile third and Queensland University fourth.

In the Women’s A event Sydney Uni was missing their most senior pair of Sally Kehoe and Liz Kell. This race was won by Melbourne Uni again from Mercantile with Sydney third.

The Vice Chancellors of Sydney University (Michael Spence) and Melbourne University ( Glyn Davis) were on hand at Hawthorn Rowin Club to present the winning trophies for the Head of the Yarra and the University Challenge.

It was resolved that next year’s challenge will be a head to head Boat race between Melbourne and Sydney Universities in men’s and women’s eights and will take place in Sydney.