And counting: Lucy Stephan OAM celebrates Victoria’s Queen’s Cup title and her 10th time in a winning boat Photo: Delly Carr

Rupert Guinness at Champion Lakes Regatta Centre

Dual Olympian Lucy Stephan OAM etched her name into Australian rowing history on Sunday, with the Victorian great becoming the first rower to race 10 times in a winning Queen’s Cup Women’s Coxed Eight crew at the Interstate Championships.

Stephan, a Gold Medallist in the Coxless Four at the Tokyo Olympics, stroked Victoria to an emphatic back-to-back victory at the Champion Lakes Regatta Centre in the event that became an eight-oared race in 1999. 

The Victorians won the Cup race in a time of 6:14.30s, ahead of arch-rivals NSW (6.23s back) and Queensland, who took Bronze 9.39s behind the winner.

“I mean I’m not going to lie. The thought was there at the start line … ‘If this is my 10th and if I do it, I’ll break the record’,” Stephan said. “But it goes without saying that when you are from the Big White V, you’ve got years and years of amazing girls and pedigree before me. I wouldn’t be able to do it without them for sure.”

Asked what the secret to success in a Queen’s Cup is, Stephan said: “I don’t want to give away secrets …  but I think it’s going out there rowing, rowing hard and the belief you can do it. It also goes without saying you have amazing clubs down in Victoria and we push one another to go fast.”

Stephan’s record of rowing in 10 winning Queen’s Cup eight-oared crews includes seven wins from 2012 to 2018, with more titles in 2021, 2022 and now 2023. 

This latest win is another laurel in her stellar resumé that includes two World Rowing Championships Gold Medals in the Women’s Four (2019 and 2017,) a World Silver (2018) and Bronze (2013) in the same boat.

The Queen’s Cup is one of two blue riband events in the Interstate Championships, along with the King’s Cup for Men’s Coxed Eights that on Sunday was won by defending champions NSW over Victoria, followed by Queensland.

With Stephan in the stroke seat, the Alistair Matthews-coached crew (from bow) of Georgie Gleeson, Ria Thompson, Katrina Werry, Amanda Bateman, Sarah Hawe, Paige Barr, Jessica Morrison OAM and cox Hayley Verbunt set a fierce early pace.

Racing in lane four and with a cross tailwind, Victoria took the lead early after hauling in a fast-starting Queensland crewin lane seven. At 500m, Victoria led the race by 0.91s over Queensland, while NSW, in lane five, was third at 1.22s.

From there, Victoria rowed away to get clear water on their rivals who had no answer to the defending champions.

In the King’s Cup, NSW turned in a commanding row to win in 5:36.60s, with the Victorians 3.15s away in second and Queensland 7.30s back in third. 

In the NSW crew, from bow to stroke, were: Sam Hardy, Jackson Kench, Alex Nichol, George Finlayson, Spencer Turrin OAM, William O’Shannessy, Jack Hargreaves OAM, Alex Purnell OAM and Cox Kendall Brodie. Coaches were Jason Baker OAM and Dan Noonan.

“It was a good race,” Hardy said while recovering afterwards. “We found our race rhythm and then grinded it out. It was the only way you could do it. You had to be on every stroke.”

Racing in lane three and furthest away from the grandstand to the three other crews, the Victorians, stroked by Angus Widdicombe, flew out of the start to take an early lead. 

However, at 500m the Victorian advantage was only 0.19s over NSW, who were racing in lane six and closest of the field to the grandstand, and 2.5s on Queensland third in lane five.

The second 500m is where NSW really set up their victory. They responded to the gauntlet thrown down by Victoria with a big push at 40 strokes per minute to take the lead.

In the third 500m, NSW put the hammer down to surge away from Victoria and by the finish at 2000m were well ahead of Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia in that order.

The states, including the Australian Rowing Team members will draw battle again at the 2024 Australian Rowing Championships from March 18-24 at the Sydney International Regatta, just months before state versus state becomes country versus country at the Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.