World single scull champion Kim Crow has picked up one habit from spending so many hours alone in the boat she may have to hold back when she races in a coxed-eight crew for Melbourne University in their annual challenge against long-time rivals Sydney University on Sunday.
“You spend a whole season in a single scull and you end up talking to yourself because you are out there by yourself. Then all of a sudden you are in a crew with seven other rowers and a cox,” Crow, 28, said with a laugh of her return to the coxed eight for the Australian Boat Race.
The challenge, including a men's coxed-eight event, will be held on the Yarra River (Sydney Harbour was the venue last year). Melbourne Uni are favourites to win the women's race as they have done the past three years; it's a tougher call in the men's race, despite Sydney University having also won three on the trot.
The course has been changed from when the challenge was last held in Melbourne and includes more bends and currents. In 2011, the course went upstream from Bolte Bridge to the rowing sheds near Princes Bridge. This year it will start on the Upper Yarra at Loys Paddock and head downstream to the Princes Bridge finish.
“We are used to rowing at that end of the river. It's where we train and we are used to racing there,” Crow said. “There are lots of turns and streams if we get rain. There are a lot of factors that can make it more of a tactical race. So you have to be a lot more responsive and on your toes.”
Crow said she regarded this part of the rowing year as “the fun stuff”. But the Melbourne Uni crew, including stroke and Crow's former pair partner Phoebe Stanley, will not allow the underdog Sydney University crew any easy breaks.
"You go into anything knowing you are going to have to put out your best performance to get the best results,” she said. “It would be pretty naive to go into any race thinking you are better on paper. The number of rowing races that are won by crews that are not better on paper is phenomenal.”
Crow said the race would “kick-start the season proper” for her.