by Matt Kelly
“We want bragging rights on this beach. We want to be able to tell people we’re the best.”
That was the message from North Bondi captain Scott Thompson ahead of the 70th annual Stan Mac Relay Race between Bondi and North Bondi Lifesaving Clubs held on the 18th of March 2012.
“Forget the footy. Sydney’s biggest rivalry is Bondi versus North Bondi. There’s no holding back,” he said.
The race, named in honour of Bondi club stalwart Stan McDonald, a champion lifesaver from the 1920s through to the mid-sixties, is always highly anticipated and this year was no different.
“It’s one of those days on the calendar we all look forward to,” Scott Thompson said.
Swimmers from both 20-person teams were faced with the challenge of a 300-metre swim in smooth two-foot swells.
“We fight for the same cause, protecting the swimmers at Bondi. That’s not to say we don’t get white line fever. In competition, friendship goes out the window,” Scott said. “It’s good for health, good for community spirit and we get to race on the world’s best beach.”
With this year marking the platinum jubilee of the relay, both lifesaving clubs were motivated to claim victory.
“There’s a great deal of history between both these clubs,” said North Bondi president Grant McMah. “It’s been hotly contested. We won it quite a few times and then they hit back over the last couple of years.”
As predicted, the race was a close one, with Bondi getting away through the middle stages and holding on for victory.
“The waves were good. It’s been pretty flat all week. Fortunately it picked up for today’s event,” said Bondi competitor Leon Hay. “You can hear the crowd as you get closer to the foreshore. It just helps you push that little bit harder.”
Having won the last three Stan Mac Relays, Bondi’s win closes the gap on North Bondi who have a 37-33 lead over their rivals. But it’s not all bad news for the ‘Northerners.’
“We had a much younger team. I thought they swam really well. There’s always next year when we’ll be back to do it all over again,” Scott Thompson said. “For now however, I think a cold drink’s in order.”