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history of australians competing in the boat race

Australians who have raced in The Boat Race
(Oxford University v Cambridge University)

In this chapter you will find details of Australians who have raced in this event and the results over time.

Australians who have competed in this event

A brief history and Results

Initially it appears that most of the Australians who competed in this event were undergraduates at one of these great universities. Over time, it then appears that most of these Australian rowers were undertaking post graduate study at these universities.

Steve Fairbairn

Steve Fairbairn who competed on four occasions

Photo from The Story of Rowing by Christopher Dodd 1992

Some of these post graduate Australians were Rhodes Scholars and included:

  • Charles W B Littlejohn
  • Hugh K Ward
  • William W Woodward
  • James A Gobbo
  • James G McLeod
  • Philip A V Roff
  • Ashton Calvert
  • Michael Magarey
  • Andrew Michelmore
  • Graham Jones
  • David Rose

1983 Oxford

1983 Oxford crew with Graham Jones in the six seat

More recently in 2003-4, Kris Coventry was a Gates Scholarship holder.

Cambridge Blue Patrick Moore has offered a scholarship to Cambridge and the details of it can be found on this link to the Patrick Moore Cambridge Scholarship for masters through course work.

In each of 1954 and 1955, four Australians raced in the Oxford crew - the most in any one year. Three Australians raced in the 1956 Oxford crew.


The four Australians in the 1954 Oxford crew

left to right: J A Gobbo, E V Vine, E O G Pain and J G McLeod


The five Australians trying out for the 1955 Oxford crew warming up in the snow

left to right: E O G Pain, E V Vine, J G McLeod, R H Carnegie and J A Gobbo

Until 2023 when Anna O'Hanlon coxed the Oxford Blue Boat, T D Warner in 1868 appears to be the only other Australian to have coxed a crew in this event. 

There are of course many Australians who raced for these universities but did get to race in the event.

There are also English rowers who have competed in The Boat Race and have subsequently worked or live in Australia. Those known to the author are:

  • Duncan Clegg
  • John Reddaway

Chris Dodd in his book The Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race London, Stanley Paul, 1983 makes it clear that the Australians at Oxford usually have made an influence much greater than the numerical strength would indicate.

He devotes a whole chapter to Stuart Mackenzie's brief and sensational career as coach at Oxford. Steve Fairbairn who revolutionised English rowing in the 1920 and '30s is of course prominent. Rod Carnegie's re-organisation of OUBC in the mid 1950s is mentioned as is the Presidency of OUBC of Andrew Michelmore.

Hylton Cleaver in his book A History of Rowing also mentions Carnegie as follows: In 1957 R H Carnegie revolutionized Oxford's rowing policy and came very close to a victory over Cambridge. This involved the introduction of shovel style blades well before other crews. Unfortunately for Carnegie, one of his crew found the race too much for him and required the other seven to row most of the course without this rower. The picture below shows Oxford after the finish with Carnegie in the seven seat with hand on chin contemplating what might have been.

1957 finish

1957 finish with Carnegie in the seven seat

Photo from A History of Rowing by Hylton Cleaver, 1957

To the knowledge of the author, the following Australians were elected President of their respective boat club:

  • 1929 Hurtle C Morphett - President OUBC
  • 1937 J S Lewes - President of OUBC but did not row
  • 1951 Brian Lloyd - President of CUBC
  • 1955 James A Gobbo - President of OUBC
  • 1957 Roderick Carnegie - President of OUBC
  • 1970 Ashton Calvert - President of OUBC
  • 1978 Andrew Michelmore - President of OUBC
  • 1984 Graham Jones - President of OUBC
  • 2004 Samuel McLennan - President of OUBC (although he did not row in the blue boat)
  • 2005 Kate Hillier - President of CUWBC
  • 2006 Tom Edwards - President of CUBC
  • 2012 David Nelson - President of CUBC

1951 Cambridge

His Majesty King George VI shakes hands with members of the Cambridge crew. Cambridge President Brian Lloyd walks behind the King.

Another notable Australian who competed for Cambridge was former Prime Minister Stanley Bruce in 1904. Bruce also coached the Cambridge University crew which competed for the King's Cup at 1919 Henley Peace Regatta, a race won by the Australian No 1 AIF crew. When he presented the King's Cup in 1928 to the winning WA crew, he noted that it was most appropriate that he hands over the trophy which he had previously fought to have won by Cambridge.

As mentioned above, Stuart Mackenzie coached at Oxford. More recently Tim McLaren has been prominent in the coaching team for Cambridge and Michael McKay has assisted Oxford.

The conclusion is that there is a continuing interest in this event in Australia.

Women's Boat Race

The following history comes from The Boat Race website:

Founded in 1927 but only raced intermittently until the mid-1960’s, the first women's race was held on the Isis in Oxford, with (according to The Times) “large and hostile crowds gathered on the towpath” as the men objected to women rowing.

The first few races were not decided in a side-by-side contest but were judged on “time and style"; the two crews were not allowed on the river at the same time!

From 1935 the races became proper contests over 1000 yards or a 1/2 mile, on either the Cam, the Isis or on one occasion on the Tideway at Barnes.

Initially the Cambridge rowers always came from Newnham College, at that time exclusively female. Later, with the official founding of CUWBC they were also joined by students from Girton. However it was Oxford who enjoyed early success, winning the six races held between 1930-41.

The next page list all those Australians who have competed in the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race and a further page provides a list of results for this event since 1829.

Last updated May 2023

Photo Gallery Photo gallery

> next Australians in The Boat Race


  • The Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race by Christopher Dodd published by Stanley Paul Co Ltd 1983
  • Subsidiary references included The Boat Race by G C Drinkwater published by Blackie & Son Ltd 1939, The Boat Race  - The story of the first hundred races between Oxford and Cambridge by Gordon Ross published by Hodder & Stoughton 1954, and Boat Race - the Oxford Revival by Daniel Topolski published by Willow Books 1985, a History of Rowing by Hylton Cleaver, published by Herbert Jenkins1957
  • Interviews with some participants
  • Author's own records and records of some participants

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