Sydney University Boat Club

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Sydney University Boat Club
Location Linley Point & Glebe Sydney, Australia
Home water Burns Bay, Lane Cove River, (men's)
Blackwattle Bay, Sydney Harbour (women's)
Affiliations NSW Rowing Association

Sydney University Boat Club is the rowing club in Sydney, Australia with the oldest charter having been formed in 1860 by the founders of the University of Sydney. It has had a boatshed presence in various locations on Sydney Harbour since 1886, excepting between 1941 and 1966. A varsity and recreational club during most of its history, the Boat Club has since the 1990s had a focus on its high performance and elite rowing programs. Supported by the University's Sports Union the Club has developed an increasing number of Olympic representative oarsmen and women in the new millennium with club members taking eleven seats in the Australian Olympic crews who represented between Athens 2004 and London 2012.


The Sherington/Georgakis reference quotes research that University archives record a meeting of officers of the SUBC and election of officeholders at point prior to 1861 and probably 1860. The University's first Chancellor Sir Charles Nicholson was named as the club's first president.[1] This reference is the basis of the club's 1860 heritage claim.

The first inter-university boat race was rowed in Melbourne in December, 1870. The Sydney University crew were all members of the then newly formed Sydney Rowing Club, being E. A. Iceton (bow), Edmund Barton, Dick Teece and Allan Yeomans (stroke).[2] In 1885 the Sydney University Boat Club's first annual general meeting was held with Barton elected chairman at that inaugural meeting. A site was obtained in Woolloomooloo near that of the Woolloomooloo Bay Rowing Club and the Sydney Rowing Club's first shed and a clubhouse was built and opened in June, 1886.[2] The Sydney Morning Herald announced the club's fifth annual general meeting in 1891, giving credence to a true 1885 start date.[3]

The club's contemporary rise to success in producing consistent national representative elite oarsmen and women has been driven by club president, Chris Noel from 1987. Noel is a boatshed alumnus from the 1960s and 1970s and was elected President of the SUBC in 1987. He became a personal financial benefactor the club; represented the club in senior positions on the University Sports Union and Senate Management committees; mentored athletes and coaches and drove a rowing sporting scholarship program. Noel was conferred a Honorary Fellowship of the University in 2007.[4]

Boatshed locations[edit]

The SU Women's boatshed at Blackwattle Bay is the 1st building along the right shoreline

The Sydney University Boat Club's first boatshed was opened in June, 1886 on Woolloomooloo Bay on Sydney Harbour. By 1902 the club became dissatisfied with the Woolloomooloo location, being too far from the University and the harbour water too rough. In 1902, the old shed was re-erected at Glebe Point and a new shed was completed in 1907 to accommodate the club's 150 odd members.

In 1940, the University's Sports Union recommended demolition of the Blackwattle Bay clubhouse which was carried out in 1941. After the end of the war, efforts to find an alternative site commenced and were not finally successful until 1966.[2]

In 1957 the University was bequeathed a property in Drummoyne, New South Wales and its suitability for a boat shed site was considered and disputed between 1957 and 1961. Work had started by 1960 but ceased by 1963. In 1964 the club shifted its attention to finding suitable land at Linley Point on Burns Bay and a lease was obtained from the Maritime Services Board. A shed and pontoon were completed in 1966 at a cost of $71,500.[5]

The SUBC’s Linley Point boatshed was destroyed by fire in 2006. It became evident from 2009 that the club was looking to build another much larger shed at Cunningham's Reach Park in Lane Cove on Crown land. This proposal was unpopular with some local residents resulting in protests and actions in 2010 & 2011. The objections were successful. In 2012 Lane Cove Council voted to submitted a rezoning request for the SUBC's prior Linley Point site to allow for development to include recreation facilities and a cafe.[6] Since the fire and during the redevelopment planning and dispute period the SUBC has borrowed facilities at the University of New South Wales' boatshed at Tarban Creek on Sydney's Parramatta River.

The Sydney University Women's Rowing Club row out of a boathouse located at the foot of Ferry Road, Glebe at Blackwattle Bay. This shed was the location of the Glebe Rowing Club for over 100 years until the 1990s.

Competition history & representative success[edit]

Intercollegiate rowing in fours was introduced in 1892 between the colleges of University of Sydney and at that same time University representative crews began competing in the club competition run by the New South Wales Rowing Association. In 1896, the SUBC supplied five rowers and the coach of the intercolonial eight. Sydney won six of the intervarsity races of the 1890s with Melbourne winning three and Adelaide one. From 1893, the race was rowed for the Oxford and Cambridge Cup presented by old Oxford and Cambridge boat race oarsmen.[2] In the first twenty-five years of intervarsity competition to 1913 the SUBC won the Cup on 14 occasions. Until 1907 both alumni and undergraduates were able to compete in the varsity competitions.

The SUBC had little success in either Association races or the intervarsity contests of the 1910s. With the competition suspended from 1915 to 1918, Melbourne University Boat Club won five of the six intervarsity races held and Adelaide won the other. Sydney trailed the field in 1920 when Queensland University competed for the first time and fared poorly throughout the 1920s winning only in 1926.[2] During the 1930s the SUBC was seen only rarely in open club races but made its mark in intervarsity competitions for the Oxford and Cambridge Cup with six wins and four seconds in the ten-year period. By the end of the 1930s decade, Sydney had scored a total of 20 wins in the competition to date against Melbourne's 17, and Adelaide University Boat Club next best with 5.

Though without a boatshed, from 1941 the Boat Club managed to be competitive after World War II beating the Sydney Rowing Club to a state championship in 1949 and beating Haberfield to the same title in 1951. SUBC men dominated the New South Wales Kings Cup crew in 1950 and had seven seats (including coxswain) in gold medal winning Australian men's VIII for the 1950 British Empire Games. The club won the Oxford and Cambridge Cup at the intervarsity competition in 1947, 1948 & 1949.[5] Club fortunes had reversed ten years later and in 1956, 1957 and 1958 the SUBC finished fourth at intervarsity and was unable to field crews for the state championships.[5]

Boat club members (and club alumni rowing at other Sydney clubs) represented at Olympic level at Helsinki 1952, Rome 1960, Mexico City 1968 and Montreal 1976 (see below). Ted O'Loughlin had a seat in the Australian men's VIII at the 1974 World Championships in Lucerne while Anthony Anisimoff and Phil Winkworth represented in a 4- at World Championships in 1979 in Bled.[5] Under the drive of club president Chris Noel the club's high-performance program began to bear fruit from 2004 and took off when Brooke Pratley became the SUBC's first world champion in 2006. Five oarsmen and women were sent to Beijing 2008 winning two silver medals and nine club members were selected for London 2012.


Notable members include:

Olympic representatives (while club-members) include:

Pain (back 4th from right) in the 1952 Olympic squad to left of Finlay & Middleton and behind Tinning (seated right)

World champions include:




  • May, Alan (1970) Sydney Rows, A History of Sydney Rowing Club (reproduced on Guerin-Foster)
  • Sherington, Geoff & Georgakis, Steve (2007), Sydney University Sport 1852-2007: more than a club, Sydney University Press.

External links[edit]