Early History of the Event
The following early history of this event is related in John Lang's Book The Victorian Oarsman, published in 1919:
In October 1877, the year in which eight-oared boats may be said to have first come into general use in many of the rowing centres in Australia, a challenge was sent by the Victorian Rowing Association to the Sydney and Mercantile [now Mosman] Clubs in New South Wales. This was taken up with spirit by the last-named club, and the first eight-oared race took place on the 6th March 1878, over about four miles on the Lower Yarra, from Stony Creek up around what is now "The Old River" to the Gas Works.
"For about two-thirds of the distance, the race was exciting. At a quarter-mile, Victoria was leading by a half-length. At the Sugar Works, Victoria led by a clear length. Rounding the bend at the junction of the Saltwater River, the New South Wales crew came up like a racehorse and looked as if they would go right away. Victoria spurted, and for half a mile, the boats rowed level. After that, the Victorians went gradually ahead, the pace having told more on the other crew. The New South Wales men pressed Victoria again half a mile from the finish but could not catch up, and Victoria won by two lengths; no official or reliable time was taken.