Australian Boat Race returns to Yarra River as Sydney takes on Melbourne to defend the trophy

9 October 2023
Cheer on our University of Sydney student rowers this Saturday as they race against Melbourne University on the Yarra River.
On October 14, the University of Sydney and the University of Melbourne will meet at the Australian Boat Race, continuing the 160-year-old rivalry between the two institutions. We chat to three of our inspirational athletes from the Sydney University Boat Club ahead of the race.

After Sydney hosted the first Australian Boat Race in 2022 following a two-year pandemic hiatus, the longstanding tradition returns to Melbourne this year. The Women’s Eight and Men’s Eight teams will battle it out on the challenging four-kilometre course along the Yarra River.

In its 12-race history, Sydney currently holds ten wins and Melbourne two for the Men's Eight Edmund Barton Trophy. The Women’s Eight compete for the Bella Guerin Trophy, where Sydney has championed four times and Melbourne eight.

While simultaneously fostering academic pursuits, the elite athlete programs offered by the University of Sydney and Melbourne University have produced some of the world’s best rowers who have gone on to compete on the global stage. Athletes balance their rowing commitments with their studies, a tough feat made possible by grit, determination, and a passion for the sport.

We chat with USYD students Jaime Ford and Sophia Wightman from the Women’s Eight and Wyatt Batt from the Men’s Eight on what it’s like to prepare for and compete in the iconic Australian Boat Race.

What does the tradition of the Australian Boat Race mean to you?

Jaime: I’m always proud to represent our club and University. Being part of such a great tradition is always exciting, especially when you look back on the calibre of crews that both Sydney and Melbourne have boated throughout the years. 

Sophia: The longstanding tradition of the race makes for fierce competition between Melbourne and Sydney. It also brings a great friendly rivalry – there’s always a bit of banter in the lead up and on race day. 

What does the training schedule look like, and how gruelling is it?

Wyatt: We typically train six days a week. Training starts at 5:45 am and the first session is about 20 kilometres on the water. We usually do a second session which is either on the ergometer or in the gym. Fitting in the training program around full-time study and part-time work is quite the challenge, but it keeps you busy.

What has been your favourite part of preparation in the lead up to the event?

Sophia: The team camaraderie and excitement that is shared between everyone. The Boat Race is a really special event where we all come together and take pride in wearing our University colours.

Wyatt: I really enjoyed competing at the Uni Sport Nationals recently in the lead up to the Australian Boat Race. It was a great opportunity for most of the squad to race against other university crews, and perfect preparation for the Boat Race. We had a great result there – winning both the Men’s and Women's VIII.

USYD student rowers at the 2023 UniSport Nationals on the Gold Coast.

How do you feel about racing in Melbourne this year?

Sophia: I’m super keen to race on the Yarra. I have never raced there before, but my mum and sister have both competed in Head of the Yarra races and they say it’s a very difficult course. There are a couple of nerves heading into the race, but I have full trust in the crew that we will be able to tackle anything that comes our way.

Jaime: I’m really excited to head back down to the Yarra River after four years away due to the pandemic. It’s a great city to race in and the Melbourne crew will no doubt be ready to put on a good show.

Tune in to the livestream of the event on 14 October via the Australian Boat Race website to witness the tough competition and brilliant display of athleticism between two of Australia's most successful rowing clubs, and cheer on our USYD teams as they charge through the stunning landscape of the Yarra River.

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