University of Melbourne students Jackson Harrison and India McKenzie have been named men’s and women’s captains for the Australian Boat Race, taking place on the Yarra River next Sunday, 22 October.
Kicking off at 9am, crews from the University of Melbourne and University of Sydney will compete for state bragging rights, racing 4.1km from Burnley to the heart of the city, with hundreds of spectators expected to line the river bank.
Making his debut for the men’s eight, Master of Teaching student Jackson Harrison says it was a wonderful surprise to be named captain.
"I’ve sat on the sideline since the inaugural event wondering if I could make such a crew. The moment the opportunity presented itself to apply for Master of Teaching and then join the team, I was sold," he says.
"These guys are not only talented oarsmen, but are tremendous leaders in their own right. It’s an absolute privilege to be recognised as captain, and something that I hold with the highest regard."
Competing for her third time, Bachelor of Environments student, India Harrison is hopeful she can lead the women’s crew to their ninth consecutive win.
"There’s a strong tradition of success with Melbourne University women’s rowing, and we’re honoured with the challenge of defending such an impressive victory streak, especially on home waters," she says.
"While we certainly feel the pressure, the key for us will be focusing on getting the process right. Continuing that tradition would be exhilarating, but it’s important not to get distracted and concentrate on the task at hand."
The University of Sydney men’s team, hoping for their fourth consecutive win, will be captained and coxed by economics student William Raven, who also serves as the Vice-President of the Sydney University Boat Club. For Raven, who will be competing in his seventh Australian Boat Race, the Melbourne event is unique not just for its longer and more winding river course, but for the competition that plays out on the water.
"The race has many undertones, with a massive rivalry not only between the universities, but also between the boat clubs and the state rowing teams, with NSW and Victoria usually fighting it out for the top spot at the interstate regatta," he says.
Bachelor of Medical Science student Dyone Bettega, who will captain Sydney’s women’s team, says the race is a classic example of putting one’s pride on the line in exchange for the honour of claiming the title.
"The event fosters friendship, teamwork and sportsmanship within each crew but more importantly, among competitors. I look forward to being a part of the tradition for another year, and I wish the crews all the best on race day," she says.
University of Melbourne Doctor of Medicine students and Rio Olympians, Sarah Banting and Josh Booth will add an extra competitive edge to the crews, ready to face off with their fellow Olympians and University of Sydney alumni Cameron Girdlestone and Alexander ’Sasha’ Belonogoff.
All the action will be streamed live at: australianboatrace.com and facebook.com/unimelb