Starting in the middle lane after a half length win over Melbourne Uni in their heat the Sydney University eight went out at 48 in the opening stanza of the 2004 Oxford and Cambridge Cup. On a foggy, slightly drizzly and overcast day Lake Barrington was at its stillest with the only disturbance to the mirror like water being the splash of blades and the light rain.
The start yielded a seat or two lead over archrivals Melbourne and the vastly improved Adelaide eights. At 250 -300 metres gone Sydney Uni increased the tempo maintaining 40 rating to try and break the other teams early and over the next 500 metres moved to a boat length lead over Melbourne with Adelaide just astern in third and Queensland fourth.
This being the “hallmark” trophy of IV rowing neither Melbourne or Adelaide yielded and stayed with Sydney from this point on but the Sydney crew were determined to bring back the trophy after a ten year “drought” and to avenge their earlier loss to Melbourne in the fours.
The crews passed the 1000 metre with Sydney holding a steady but high tempo at 38.4 strokes with Melbourne at 37.4 and Adelaide a touch lower but with good boat run.
The trailling crews were making efforts through the third five hundred but Sydney ensured they held their lead. In the final 250 metres a fresher Adelaide crew were able to produce enough to slide past a Melbourne crew who had some extra racing prior to the final and claim second.
No doubt about the winners this time. After close seconds in 2001 and 2003 Sydney were the elated victors by about 1.25 lengths and the joy showed as the crew crossed first.
The night before the race heavyweight coach Randell had told the crew ” that athletes make coaches – not coaches make athletes” – that it was up to the crew to take team and personal responsibility for their performance and that they had prepared well, had the balance needed in a big crew boat. The boys were reminded of the importance and prestige of this event and rowed with confidence and belief in themselves.
Head Coach Marty Rabjohns, now a Commerce student at Sydney Uni steered the crew to victory achieving a rare “double” in 2004 having earlier the year coxed NSW to their first Kings Cup victory in 20 years.
Stroke, Mike Valli along with No 5 Fergus Pragnell backed up from winning gold in August at the 2004 U23 Worlds in the coxed four, while Francis Hegerty our 2003 King Cup rep led the bow side strongly in the 7 seat. Chris Clyne was in 4 seat, his second IV. Six seat was Andrew Wilson who just missed U23 sculling selection in 2004 and in the first final of the day had earlier teamed with Nick Hudson to win the Men’s Double Sculls. Three was Damon Hietbrink who along with Pat Wilson in 2 had won the fours and pair at the 2004 Interstate Youth Cup held in Adelaide in July. Bow was freshman, Mark Flower from the 2003 St Ignatius crew, first man across the line in his first intervarsity eights final.
The boats were packed, the promo girls from Red Bull gave the boys a case of their product as a party starter and the crew spent the afternoon in the spa (with the Cup), drinking (with the Cup) sleeping with and cuddling the Cup and generally basking in their win for a few hours before heading to the Sheffield RSL where Sydney Uni joined with a a couple of hundred uni rowers from around Australia to celebrate.
The team arrived back in Sydney on Sunday. The Oxford and Cambridge Cup will be on display at the Annual Dinner at the boatshed on Friday 22nd October.
Congratulations to the 2004 Men’s Eight – Winners of the Oxford and Cambridge Cup. See the selection of IV photos in the gallery section of the website.