photograph Local men lead Universities into oarsome battle

Former school mates Andrew Corrigan and Benji Dawes are set to lead their universities into battle in the 14th Annual University Boat Race on the River Tyne.

Rowers from both Newcastle and Durham University Boat Clubs will gather in Baltic Square at 12.00 noon on Wednesday 28th April to witness the traditional challenge to compete for honours in the annual clash of oars between the north east's premier rowing universities.

For the first time in the history of the University Boat Race, Newcastle University are the reigning champions. It will therefore fall to Benji, who is President of Durham University Boat Club, to challenge Andrew, as President of Newcastle University Boat Club, to defend their title when the two universities go head to head on the River Tyne on Sunday 9 May.

Andrew and Benji are former pupils of St Leonard's Comprehensive School, in Durham. Though Andrew did take up rowing for a time at school, he initially gave up the sport in favour of rugby, and only began rowing seriously at Newcastle University.

Andrew said: "This year's Boat Race is massive for us, and we will be going all out to retain the title in 2010.

"NUBC's form so far this year has been very strong. Our rowers put in some of their best performances in recent years at the Head of the River races in London in March, where the men's squad finished three places ahead of Durham and won the Halladay Trophy for the fastest British University crew at intermediate level".

Durham University Boat Club President, Benji Dawes, said: "It's difficult to put into words how much this race means. We haven't forgotten how much the loss hurt us last year, and now we have something to prove".

Colin Blackburn, chair of the Boat Race Executive Committee, said:"The standard of rowing in both universities gets better year by year, and we are expecting this year's Boat Race to be a classic.

"Durham and Newcastle are consistently placed among the top universities for rowing in the UK, which is fantastic for the two universities, their home cities and the North East region."

Alistair Baker, Communications and PR Manager for Northumbrian Water, said: "Northumbrian Water has been a proud sponsor of the University Boat Race since it began in 1997. Throughout that time, we have seen the event go from strength to strength, and it has given us a marvellous opportunity to showcase the multi-million pound investment we have put into cleaning up the River Tyne, without which it would not be possible to have high-profile events like this on the water."

Andrew Moffat, Chief Executive of the Port of Tyne said: "High on the Port of Tyne's agenda is the commitment to the safe use of the river for sporting and leisure activities, and our sponsorship of the annual University Boat Race, one of the highlights of the Newcastle and Gateshead sporting calendar, perfectly illustrates this."

The challenge will be presided over by Dave Clasper, rowing historian and great, great nephew of Tyne rowing legend, Harry Clasper. "Rowing has long been a passion of mine. The success of the University Boat Race, and the talent and commitment of Newcastle and Durham University Boat Club rowers has really put the North East back on the map in terms of rowing excellence."

published on: 5th May 2010