An insight into Australian
After looking at university rowing in the
USA in its previous issue, World Rowing
e-Magazine looks down under to Australia
where university rowing also has a long
tradition and plays a key role in bringing
new athletes to rowing.
In 1870, Melbourne University invited Sydney
University to its home stretch of water for the
first Australian intervarsity boat race. Racing in
four-oared gigs, the Melbourne crew was victorious
over Sydney on the three-mile Yarra River course.
Nearly two decades later, on 6 October 1888, the
Melbourne and Sydney universities were joined by
Adelaide University to contest the first eight-oared
university rowing race in Australia, again contested
on the Yarra River.
© John Dominis/Time Life Pictures/Getty Images
Compared to only two universities and 10 com-
petitors in 1870, the 2009 Championships were
contested by over 300 athletes from 19 universities.
Crews rowing on the Yarra River,
Melbourne, in 1956.
Over 100 years later, university rowing still reaches
its peak in Australia in mid-Spring at the annual
Australian University Championships. Evolving from
the one-race show of the late 19th century, the
21st century university championships programme
comprises racing in seven boat classes, and
includes male, female and mixed racing.
Sanctioned by Australian University Sport, and
facilitated by Rowing Australia and its state
associations, the Australian University Championships
are the only intervarsity regatta in Australia. It is a
melting pot of elite performers and fresh-faced
novices. Despite its tradition, it is a Championship
without pretention: no selection policies, no
qualifying standards. It is racing plain and simple.
“What we’ve observed is that there are not
many really high quality racing experiences in
Australia. This championship provides one,” says
Rowing Australia High Performance Director
Andrew Matheson. “From a talent identification
perspective, university sport provides a huge
platform for attracting new and exciting talent
to rowing. A really important part as to why we
want to strengthen the relationship with university
rowing is that often it is a starting point for many
athletes that might not have come through the