Weather muddies Great Race regatta
Waikato's weather took as many twists and turns as the Great Race itself yesterday, with heavy rain, strong winds and even the odd patches of blazing sunshine marking the 12th annual rowing regatta on the Waikato River.
Although the rain held off until the women's teams had crossed the finish line, once the heavens opened it sent the crowds scrambling for a patch of dry ground under Victoria Bridge until it cleared.
"I have to say, we are really giving the visiting crews a real Waikato welcome," said Sarah Whitehall, who had come from Huntly for the regatta and found herself huddled under a stranger's shared umbrella. "People will be wanting to swap their boat shoes for gumboots that's for sure."
Others ditched their shoes altogether and enjoyed a bit of mud between their toes while they watched the rowers head up the river on their 3.85-kilometre course.
"My wife is probably going to kill me - and please don't use my name - but me and the kids have given up and are just standing here in the mud enjoying ourselves," said "John".
"I might have to dunk the kids in the river to wash them off before I put them in the car and take them home."
Waikato University won the women's race, edging out Sydney University with Queensland University coming in a distant third. Heavy rain again made an appearance for the men's event, which was won by Sydney University with Waikato University coming in second and Queensland University third.
"Our boys did well, we are very proud of them, but it just wasn't their day I am afraid," said Tom Hewitt, 78, who has watched each regatta since it started in 2002.
"They did better than this ruddy weather, that's for certain. I have been sitting here in my spot on the finish line for years and I must say, today has been quite trying. Quite trying."
By the end of the day a desire to be out in Waikato's spring weather had been swiftly replaced by a more urgent desire to be in the warm and dry confines of the nearby Ferrybank Lounge.
"Gosh, I wish I watched the race from in there," said a sodden Sebastian Jeffrey, a Canadian tourist on a family holiday.
"I just paid $10 for a pizza and half that again for a coffee," he said.
"I thought this was supposed to be a free event?"