Interview with Sophie Deans on the Boat Race Down-Under

While the new season has only just kicked-off for our athletes in Cambridge, the students of Sydney and Melbourne universities will be taking to the water this Sunday for their annual matched race in Sydney harbour.

Jamie Brown went to find out more about the history of the Australian Boat Race and rowing in Australia…

The Australian Boat Race began informally in 1860, 31 years after the first Oxford v Cambridge Boat Race in 1829, but was not arranged with any regularity until its formal revival in 2009, when the women joined their male counterparts on the River Yarra. At the London 2012 Olympics Melbourne and Sydney contributed 18 athletes to Australian team, reflecting the international calibre of the event, and this year the Sydney men’s crew will feature Alexander Bolonogoff, who won a silver medal in the men’s quad at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

CUWBC squad member Sophie Deans, who joined the Cambridge team this September, moved to Australia with her family in 2009, the year of the Australian Boat Race’s revival.

There, Sophie enrolled in a Learn to Row programme at Queenswood School under the guidance of coach Alfie Young, who this year leads the Sydney women’s crew contesting the Bella Guerin Trophy.

‘Rowing in Australia was very formative for me’, says Sophie, who describes ‘receiving very valuable technical coaching and great racing experiences’ during her time there. Following a successful junior career rowing at Queenswood, as well as Mosman Rowing Club in the off-season, Sophie joined Yale University where she rowed for all four years of her undergraduate career.

Sophie Deans – Yale Class of 2018. Photo (C) Yale Women’s Rowing

Although winter in Ely is a far-cry from Sydney harbour, Sophie believes that ‘Cambridge itself is an incredible place to study, row and live because you are surrounded by people who are striving to be the best in their individual disciplines yet are also fully committed to working hard at rowing because they are genuinely passionate about it. Rowing brings all of us of different ages and disciplines together with a common goal.’

Drawing parallels between the two events Sophie describes how ‘each team gets to represent their own university in one of the oldest and strongest rivalries. The Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race has so much history behind it and I think anyone who gets the opportunity to participate in the race understands how special the experience is.’

The Australian Boat Race takes place over 4.3km at Sydney harbour on Sunday 14th October 2018. Sydney men lead Melbourne 7 wins to 2; Melbourne women lead Sydney 8 wins to 1.