US boat crews to challenge Great Race hosts

IAN ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 14/07/2014

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Two elite crews from the United States will be out to take title honours off the hosts in this year's Gallagher Great Race.

A men's eight from Harvard University and a women's eight from the University of Washington will contest the annual event on the Waikato River in September. They'll be joined by men's and women's crews from Melbourne University as the visitors try and upset hosts Waikato University, who won both races last year.

Waikato University is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and it will be the 13th year of the Great Race, which sees three boats in each elite event race upstream over a 3.8km stretch of the Waikato River.

Gallagher chief executive William Gallagher will welcome his old university back, having spent time at Harvard while completing his MBA.

"It's fantastic to host such high calibre US universities that have strong rowing reputations," he said.

"It's a special, very challenging race, much different to the 2km format. It puts a premium on training hard, teamwork, determination and endurance.

"It's a true athletic contest."

Harvard were beaten by Waikato in their sole previous visit in 2007 as the host men's crew captured the Harry Mahon Memorial Trophy. Waikato have won the men's event eight times, while their women's crew have an even better strike-rate, winning the Bryan Gould Cup on 10 occasions.

They'll be out to make it five wins in a row when they meet Washington and Melbourne on Sunday, 14 September. Melbourne have won the the women's title once in five visits, back in 2006, while Washington have only previously sent a men's crew in 2005.

The hosts will be hoping to bolster their crews with some of the New Zealand senior and under-23 representatives currently in Europe. The u-23 team will contest the world under-23 champs in Varese, Italy, this month, while the senior internationals will be chasing glory at the world champs in Amsterdam in late August.

ian.anderson@fairfaxmedia.co.nz

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