This rowing race is the blue-ribbon event in the annual sporting calendar of the Associated Public Schools of Victoria. Sometimes known as the Boatrace, the Head of the River is the title of a one-day regatta, currently rowed over 2 km in March or April, and is the accolade accorded the winning First VIII crew.
First rowed in 1868 the Head of the River is the oldest school rowing regatta in Australia. Between 1919 and 1957 it was rowed on the Henley course on the Yarra River for two out of every three years, and on the Barwon River, Geelong, in the third year. This pattern of 'choice of water' reflected the location of the six boys' schools then comprising the Associated Public Schools, four in Melbourne and two in Geelong. From 1958 to 2000 the race was held on the Barwon River, and from 2001 on Lake Nagambie. Since 1981 there has also been a Head of the River for girl crews.
The regatta is an occasion for fierce and traditional rivalry between the schools and their old scholars. The heyday of the Head of the River was between the two world wars when it was reported extensively by the daily newspapers and rivalled the Melbourne Cup in importance on the city's social calendar. It continues to attract great public interest.