The 2011 Australian Boat Race was held for the first time on the Yarra this Sunday 30 th October. Using part of the old King’s Cup Course crews from Melbourne and Sydney University raced over 4.2 kms from Victoria Dock eastwards into the city and finished opposite Melbourne University Boat Club. The women’s eights at 12 noon saw a star-studded Melbourne crew dominate the race from the start. With national senior A reps Kim Crow, Sarah Tait, Robyn Selby-Smith and Alice McNamara on board the Melbourne crew took an early lead and extended it throughout the race to win by a large margin.
The cold south westerly winds that were up to 30 knots in the morning had abated by race time and the conditions west of Bolte Bridge were choppy but quite rowable. The men’s crews appeared more evenly matched and this proved to be the case as the crowd of the hospitality boats and on the land were treated to a classic match race – the outcome of which was not decided till the final stroke.
Sydney had won the toss and taken the northern station – both crews started close to the southern bank no doubt looking for shelter from the south westerly. Sydney took the early lead as both crews started well in the 40′s – after the first kilometre Melbourne fought back and grabbed the lead but Sydney continued to press them hard towards the southern bank. At the second bridge Sydney moved sharply towards the left as they sought to straighten their run across the turn and at the same time bought their rate back up and grabbed the lead again. As the 2 km mark approached Melbourne again attacked Sydney’s lead and moved out to nearly a length clear. Sydney, who had been rating above Melbourne were able to settle into a better rhythm and with 1.2 kms to go caught Melbourne and established a half length advantage as the crews passed Crown Casino. Sydney were now looking winners as the last bridge – Princes – was approached. Both crews were again close into the south bank as the they began their final fun past boathouse row to the line – Sydney on the outside and Melbourne on the southern bank cutting back their lead with every stroke.
On the line Sydney held on by the narrowest of margins – about one foot – in the imperial system – to take out what was an epic race in which the lead changed three times and in which the two crews gave no quarter and attacked every stroke of the race. We could run this race for a hundred years and it is hard to imagine a tougher struggle between two so well- matched crews.
Sydney had national A reps Fergus Pragnell and Nick Hudson in their boat with Cam McKenzie McHarg and James Marburg adding their class to the Melbourne Boat.
The winning crews were presented with magnificent newly commissioned trophies featuring the “Nike” figure of Melbourne University and the “Lion” of Sydney University. The “Belinda Guerin” Trophy for the Women’s eight and the “Edmund Barton” Trophy for the men’s eights.