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The Sydney University U23 men’s eight has just completed a three week development tour of Canada, The crew of first and second year students will have many candidates vying for selection in the SUBC Australian Boat Race crew who will clash with Melbourne University on Sydney Harbour on Sunday morning 26th October. The crew’s main aim was to compete in the U23 and Championship eights at the Canadian Henley regatta. This regatta, held at St Catherine’s, Ontario is one of the largest in North America attracting several thousand competitors.

Senior Coach Rick van Hooydonk led the team with assistant coach Tom Sacre and Captain Alex Purnell.

The crew’s main objective was the U23 Eights and after flying to Toronto the team settled in for training at the London Training Centre ( a Canadian National Team centre) while staying at the University of Western Ontario.

The warm up regatta was the Ontario state championships where due to illness our crew could only row an exhibition race. After two weeks in London the team moved to Ridley College at St Catherine’s for the Henley event.

Being a young team the crew made steady progress throughout the 10 week training campaign. Coach van Hooydonk was forced to use some novel rigging to get the best out of a crew varying backgrounds and sizes. The crew raced in a double tandem rig.

One thing learnt at the start of the racing was that we were no match for the local crews out of the start with our crew invariably falling behind early and through steady rhythm and power managing to move back into the field and into the leading group.

In the U23 eights final our crew rowed well coming through the field but could not catch a well drilled Mendota crew who won with SUBC second.

To get the maximum amount of racing the crew also entered the Championship Eights and having made the final and improving all the time put it all on the line in the final event of the regatta. Once again they fell behind early – last after 250 metres, firth at 500 metres but a sustained push took them to second place at 1000 metres gone and to the lead at 1250 metres. In the words of stroke and captain Purnell “at the 1750 we knew 1st place wasn’t going to be taken from us.” Part of Alex’s report on the race:

“Our confidence carried on to the water for the Championship Eights final, where there was a calmer vibe in the warm-up, led by the more experienced members (Frankie, Dan and Alex). Frankie/Rick had also informed the crew that our bow number was F8, or 'fate'. Maybe the belief grew a little more...

A steady start to the race, much like our previous races; saw SUBC in the back half of the field early on. However, a solid mid-race rhythm was established just before the first 500m. We were stroke-by-stroke edging our way to the front in the second 500m, and we found ourselves in 2nd place at the 1000m mark, about half-a-length behind British Columbia. Frankie called "we're putting the foot down!" and the crew lifted another gear. By the 1250m mark, we had our noses in-front and by the 1750m, we knew 1st place wasn't going to be taken from us. To say that the celebration after crossing the finish line was excessive would be the understatement of the year. But it didn't matter. Winning any race is a good feeling, but winning a race where the expectations aren't high is an unbeatable feeling. Surprised questions like 'Did that really happen?' were being thrown around, but I think we all knew that a lot of the result came down to the solid executed race from all 9 in the boat.”

Team members Nik Belonogoff, James Davies, Jake Bicknell, Tom Whitehead, Dan Whitehead, Jack Cook, Campbell Watts and Alex Purnell will all be trying for selection in the Sydney Uni 2014 Boat Race crew.

The attached photo shows our team with the Craig Swayze Trophy.