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Holly Bennett
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University of Melbourne rowers are ready to face their University of Sydney counterparts in the annual Australian Boat Race on the Yarra River this Sunday, 22 October. 

Based on the famous Cambridge v Oxford University Boat Race, the men’s and women’s eights crews will compete in the gruelling 4.1km race from Burnley to the Melbourne University Boat Club on Boathouse Drive.

Rio Olympians and medical students Sarah Banting and Josh Booth are competing for their fourth and fifth time respectively.

With fellow Olympians Cameron Girdlestone and Alexander ‘Sasha’ Belonogoff headlining the Sydney crew, Mr Booth says it’s important focus on the task at hand and not get distracted. 

“Often the most challenging part of competing is managing expectations around results and outcomes. This can become distracting, and the best strategy is to focus on the nuts and bolts of rowing well and fast,” he says.

 As cox for the women’s eight, Ms Banting says her crew will be maximising their home ground advantage.

“Head racing is always really fun as a coxswain, with a few extra tactics required with steering and managing a longer race,” she says.

“There are a lot more unknowns and this always adds a little bit more excitement and nerves to the atmosphere. Particularly with the rivalry between the two states and universities, this race is really great to be involved in.”

 Jackson Harrison, this year’s men’s eight captain is making his Australian Boat Race debut. 

“I’m looking forward to that first stroke come race day, when the nerves dissipate and it’s just us and Sydney competing for bragging rights,” says the Master of Teaching student.

 Fellow captain of the undefeated women’s eight and Bachelor of Environments student, India McKenzie, agrees.

“There is so much excitement and anticipation around this event and there is mounting pressure of winning each year but the clarity of the start line is something that will never lose its potency,” she says.

Starting at 9am on the Yarra River, all the action will be streamed live at: australianboatrace.com and facebook.com/unimelb