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The Melbourne University women’s eight and the Sydney University men’s eight are the winners after a wonderful morning of competition at The 2012 Australian Boat Race on Sydney’s Inner Harbour. Blessed with light winds and a partially sunny and partially overcast morning the harbour was at its calmest as the four crews warmed up on the Lane Cove River.

The women’s eights we first up and Melbourne was favoured having won convincingly in the two match races so far in 2010 and 2011. On board was Phoebe Stanley who most recently stroked the Australian Women’s eight at the London Olympics. Melbourne had won the toss and chosen the northern station. The crews tucked into the Woolwich shoreline under the direction of umpire Barbara Ramjan who dropped the flag at 8.20 am and the crews were away. Both crews started strongly and after 400 metres rounded Greenwich Point neck and neck. In the run across to Long Nose Point Melbourne seemed to have a smoother ryhthmn and pulled out to a length lead. Across Snails Bay Melbourne increased their advantage to hold out to four lengths by Simmons Point at East Balmain. Just after East Balmain the Sydney women pushed hard and cut the lead of Melbourne slightly but were not able to get close enough to really challenge.

Melbourne’s steady stroking and good technical work brought them into the final southerly reach to Darling Harbour well ahead and they maintained and improved their lead through to the finish at Cockle Bay marina to record a six length victory. The Sydney team made up ground on the 2011 result but have a lot of improvement to if they are to aspire to victory on the Yarra in 2013.

The New South Wales Minister for Sport, Mr Graham Annesley presented the Bella Guerin trophy to Monica McGauran the crew captain of Melbourne University while Sydney University’s Vice Chancellor Dr Michael Spence presented Australian Boat Race medals to both crews.

Next up was the men. This event had been a titanic struggle in 2011 on the Yarra with the lead changing several times and Sydney prevailing by just “inches”. On paper Melbourne had an improved crew for 2012 filled with national senior and U23 oarsmen. Both crews played a waiting game in the start area with neither wanting to be the first to approach the starter as they warmed up. Finally at 9.17 the crews moved into the start zone and umpire Greg Smith began the line-up. Running a minute behind schedule the flag was dropped at 9.21 am and a fierce battle for “king of the harbour” ensued.

Initially Melbourne held the slightest of advantages on the northern station. As the crews passed the Greenwich buoy they were almost level and the noise from blade clashes was clear about the din of the following flotilla as Sydney cox Raven seemed to try and hold Melbourne close to the Greenwich shore. As the crews crossed from Greenwich to Birchgrove there were further clashes and some harsh words exchanged between boats as umpire Smith was called in to separate the crews with some stern words of his own.

Conditions were smooth and becoming sunny as the 2 km mark approached with Sydney slowly gaining an advantage of a quarter of a length. It seemed that the tempo set by Pragnell (stroke) and Lloyd (seven) was consistent, rhythmical and strong allowing the Sydney crew to move further out. By East Balmain they had a clear water lead of one and a quarter lengths and were looking hard to beat. Melbourne attacked a number of times in the final five minutes with each attack countered by Sydney. The crews passed under Pyrmont Bridge with Sydney five seconds ahead and they held this to the line as Federal Minister for Sport, Hon Senator Kate Lundy dropped the flag to signal the finish of the 2012 Australian Boat Race.

Medals were presented to the crews by the Vice Chancellor of Melbourne University, Professor Glyn Davis and the Edmund Barton Trophy was handed to Sydney captain Fergus Pragnell by Minister Kat Lundy.