Annual University Boat Race challenge is issued

Rowers from Newcastle and Durham University Boat Clubs will meet in Baltic Square on the banks of the River Tyne on Wednesday 29th April for the traditional challenge to compete against each another in the annual University Boat Race.

In a change from its normal Sunday, this year’s race takes place on the Tyne on Saturday 9th 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 school race, between composite crews from schools in Northumberland, Newcastle and Durham.

This year is the 13th anniversary of the event, and Newcastle University Boat Club will be hoping that it won’t prove to be unlucky for them, as they prepare to try to overturn their defeat in all four of last year’s races at the hands of their Durham 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.

Mason commented: "Our preparations are going well 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 this year 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.

Olly 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."

The Senior Men’s race 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, 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 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.

Melanie Reed, Newcastle University

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