This pair of crossed oars decorated with illuminated text, commemorates the wins of the Sydney University Boat Club (SUBC) at the inter-university boat races of 1894 in Melbourne and 1895 in Adelaide. They are inscribed with the names and weights of the winning eight crews of both races. Founded in 1860, the SUBC is one of the oldest clubs at Sydney University, and one of the oldest rowing clubs in Australia. The year of its inception also saw the first rowing race held against Melbourne University Boat Club.
Rowing was promoted in independent schools and university colleges in England and Australia as an athletic practice to improve the mind as well as the body, and promote the ideal of amateurism in sport—doing the task for its own sake rather than for monetary rewards. This fostered the notion of the gentleman rower and intensified divisions along religious and class lines where manual labourer amateurs (watermen) were excluded from competitions for a long time. Rowing Eights represented the most difficult form of crew rowing requiring intensive training, coordination and stamina.
The English Head of the River Race, a professional race for eights, is rowed from Mortlake to Putney on the Thames River. In Australia, Head of the River Regatta races for schools are held in all states. In New South Wales races were initially held on the Parramatta River and then shifted to the Nepean River so crews could race abreast.