An awesome 2006 Gallagher Great Race was witnessed by all
More than 20,000 people flocked to the banks of the Waikato River along the 4.8km course as the Waikato University rowing crew challenged the Cambridge University in the annual Harry Mahon Memorial Trophy.
Before the main race the banks of the river were filled with children's entertainment, food and drink stalls, corporate hosting, street theatre, displays, competitions and markets.
On the water, rowing started at 9am with corporate and secondary school races. The inaugural Environment Waikato Great Kayak Race kicked off the day of river-based entertainment.
The curtain raiser for the Gallagher Great Race is the Waikato University Senior Women's Eight racing against Melbourne University. The local girls narrowly going down in a great battle with their Trans Tasman partners.
Before the Great Race a haka was performed on the boat ramp and a waka lead the two crews to the start line. A 40sq m screen helped spectators view the action and yachting commentator Peter Montgomery provided the commentary.
The key to the win would have to be a powerful start, a start that was delayed as the two crews jockeyed for position, neither wanting to give any ground.
Waikato coxswain Paul Hartley said the plan, once they had lost the toss with Cambridge choosing the east side, was to push across to Cambridge's side as far as possible to get out of the current.
Then once the hooter sounded, Waikato gave it everything, rating about 45 strokes per minute to get the jump on Cambridge and then cut across ahead on the first corner.
"We'd talked about that all week, going out in the first minute we just wanted aggression to get in front and dominate the race," Hartley said.
"Waikato University did a great job at the start," Cambridge captain and German international Sebastian Thormann said.
Once the Waikato eight blitzed Cambridge University at the start to take a lead they never looked like relinquishing along the 4.9km course, winning by a comfortable four boat lengths on Saturday to go 2-1 up against Cambridge crews.
For Waikato it was sweet revenge after Cambridge became the first and only crew to defeat them in the Harry Mahon Trophy two years ago.
"This is probably the best because Cambridge are the only ones who have beaten us and they brought over a strong crew," McCowan said.
Credit: The Waikato Times
04 September 2006