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History of Australian University Championships Rowing

Australian University Championships

History of these Championships


John Lang in his 1919 history of Victorian rowing The Victorian Oarsman, provides the following early history of the event. 

The early races between two of the Australian Universities, in four-oar string-test gigs, were rowed in 1870 and 1871, and were both won by Melbourne University against the University of Sydney. 

The revival of boat racing contests between the Universities was due to a suggestion made by Dr. W. Fleming Hopkins, a member of the Melbourne University Boat Club. Dr. Hopkins was deputed by Mr. C. H. Freeman (Hon. Secretary of the M.U.B.C.) to speak to the Adelaide University rowing men on the subject of sending Melbourne a challenge to row a race. This challenge for a race in eight-oar boats on the Yarra was received from Adelaide University by Melbourne University rowing men, bearing date 27th January, 1888. Sydney University Boat Club was approached, and decided also to send a crew. The first eight-oar race was rowed on the Yarra on 6th October, 1888, and resulted in a win for Melbourne, Adelaide being second and Sydney third.

The rules for the races were agreed to by the three Universities after the 1890 race, and they prescribed that members of the respective boat clubs of the three Universities should be eligible to compete, provided that not more than eight years had elapsed from the date of their matriculation at the date of the race. Under these rules graduates were eligible for a place in the crew. 

On the occasion of the 1907 race, the rules were amended, and it was agreed that Sydney and Melbourne oarsmen in the race should be men proceeding to a degree, diploma, license, or certificate granted by the respective Universities, and that they should be attending lectures. Adelaide University Boat Club was, however, to be at liberty to row graduates in their crew, provided more than eight years had not elapsed between the date of the race and the matriculation of a member of the crew. 

The Sports Union of the respective Universities in 1910 adopted a general qualification rule for eligibility of competitors in contests between Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide Universities, which is very similar to the rule adopted by the boat clubs in 1907. The Sports Union rules probably supersede the club rules of 1907.

In the year 1893 the Oxford and Cambridge Challenge Cup was first competed for. This fine trophy was presented by Old Blues of Oxford and Cambridge Universities Boat Clubs. Dr. Warre, late headmaster of Eton College, was mainly responsible for securing the handsome and interesting trophy, which is held as a perpetual trophy for the race, and is kept by the winning boat club for the year in which it is Head of the River. The boat race was not rowed during the Great War.

Post WWI

Following the Great War, new events were created. They were in order of appearance:

1927 - Men's Sculling Championships
1963 - Men's Lightweight Four
1968 - Women's Scull
1968 - Women's Pair
1968 - Women's Four
1969 - Men's Pair
1978 - Centenary Cup
1978 - Women's Lightweight Four/Quad
1978 - Women's Eight
1985 - Men's Four
1992 - Men's Double Scull
1992 - Women's Double Scull
1995 - Men's Lightweight Scull
1995 - Women's Lightweight Scull
1998 - Amanda Young Trophy
2003 - Change of Women's Lightweight Four to Quad
2003 - Change of Men's Lightweight four to Coxless
2004 - Mixed Fours
2004 - Mixed Eights
2008 - Bill Webb Trophy


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