Annual University Boat Race challenge is issued
(27 April 2009)
Rowers from Durham and Newcastle University meet this week for the traditional challenge to compete against each another in the annual University Boat Race.
The challenge between the University Boat Clubs takes place in Baltic Square on the banks of the River Tyne this Wednesday (29 April). In a change from its normal Sunday, this year's University Boat Race takes place on the Tyne on Saturday 9 May, with races between the University freshmen's and freshwomen's eights, and men's and women's first (senior) eights being battled out over an 1,800 metre course from Dunston Staithes to the finish line under the Gateshead Millennium Bridge. The event also includes a schools' race, between composite crews from schools in Northumberland, Newcastle and Durham. This year is the 13th anniversary of the event, and Durham University Boat Club are hoping the event won't prove to be unlucky for them, as they prepare to try to maintain their victory from last year when they won all four races against their Newcastle arch-rivals. Dave Clasper, rowing historian and great great nephew of Tyne rowing legend, Harry Clasper, will preside as Mason Durant, President of Newcastle University Boat Club issues the challenge to Olly Offord, President of Durham University Boat Club, by handing over the ceremonial oar blade. Offord said: "After last year's remarkable achievements, we're really excited about the coming race. The team has some of the strongest athletes yet and has worked incredibly hard. Newcastle always provides stiff competition but we are determined to uphold our reputation and are expecting another victorious year." Mason commented: 'Our preparations are going well for the Boat Race this year. The senior men's eight have had a change of crew since earlier races in the year and have found some extra speed. "I wouldn't say we are a superstitious club, but we do feel that we have a very good chance as a club this year at the Boat Race as we have good novice men and women's squads. We will race the eights at the BUCS (British Universities & Colleges Sport) regatta in Nottingham this weekend against some of the other top universities in the country, which will give us some valuable racing experience", he added. The Senior Men's Eights compete for a trophy which is named in honour of Harry Clasper. Mr Clasper said: 'It is more than 140 years since Harry Clasper took part in his last competitive event on the River Tyne, in 1867. Back in the mid 1800s, when a major race was taking place on the, crowds of upwards of 100,000 would gather on the Quayside. Thanks to the University Boat Race, and the commitment of all of the outstanding young athletes in both University Boat Clubs, the North East is steadily regaining the reputation for rowing excellence it once enjoyed. I am sure with the support and backing that these races are now receiving, we can move on to recreate those times,' he added. The resurgence of rowing on the Tyne is set to continue this summer, with the 175th Tyne Regatta on 7th June, when the two universities will be in action again competing in the Championship of the Tyne events alongside club crews. The Tyne Regatta, which began in 1834, is the second oldest regatta in the country.