Fergus Pragnell and Sasha Belonogoff both returned from the 2014 World Rowing Championships in Amsterdam with bronze medals – Fergus in the men’s four and Sasha in the men’s double scull. Both, with help from their crew, were able to reverse last year’s result on the Yarra and take Sydney Uni men to gold. Fergus came into his familiar stroke seat and while Sasha moved from sculling to sweep in the five seat of the Sydney University men’s eight. Fergus has extensive experience in the stern big boats – he has won seven consecutive Kings Cups for New South Wales and always in stroke or seven. He had stroked the Sydney men’s crew in the Australian Boat Race in 2011, 12 and 13. Earlier this year Sasha had won both the national men’s single scull championship and the President’s Cup single scull in the Interstate regatta.
Joining Fergus and Sasha were national senior representative scullers Nick Hudson and Cam Girdlestone in seven and two respectively. Alex Purnell (Australian U 21 rep was bow) and three first year students from the eight that won the Championship event at Canadian Henley in August rounded out the crew – Campbell Watts in six, Tom Whitehead in four and Jake Bicknell in three. Experienced cox Will Raven took the coxens seat.
Sydney won the toss and chose the southern lane which they felt would suit their plan to push through the mid part of the 4.4 km course. Melbourne’s situation was not helped when their captain, Josh Booth, was ruled out on medical grounds just as he was about the board a flight to Sydney on Thursday.
Fergus Pragnell: “The conditions were challenging, more challenging certainly than when it was last held on Sydney Harbour a few years ago. We got away to a good start. We won the coin toss and elected to start from the southern lane, knowing it would be a disadvantage early. But it was a risk worth take and it paid off. We wanted to be fast, but also efficient, but not use up all our energy early.”
Cam Girdlestone: “The water got very lumpy into the race – especially around Goat Island – and we had to keep up the tempo and the work but make sure we worked as cleanly as possible in the conditions.”
Sydney pushed hard around the kilometre mark and from 1 to 2 kms were able to push out to a solid lead.
The final result was Sydney in 14 mins 13 seconds ahead of Melbourne 14 mins 26 seconds