Tense finish tipped for Great Race
A tweaking of the rules may ensure a thrilling finish to tomorrow's Great Race on the Waikato River.
In past events, the start has been highlighted as the key factor in the battle for supremacy between the competing university crew eights.
But as University of Waikato coxswain Ivan Pavich explained, the new rules have been designed to create a tense climax to the 11th Gallagher Great Race, which will see the hosts' men's and women's boats row against crews from the University of Sydney and University of Queensland.
"They've made a change from last year, which was the first race with three boats instead of two," Pavich said.
"The first two leading crews have to change lines and finish on the east bank. The leading crew then has a buoyed section where they have to come away from the bank towards the middle of the course, where the current against them is stronger.
"The second boat can stay close to the east bank, while the third crew gets the favoured west bank to finish on. So the finish may well come into it a lot more than in the past."
The Waikato women's team was a dominant force in the indoor rowing contest on Thursday night to determine the starting positions for the three crews in the Bryan Gould Cup.
They will start from the favoured west bank, with Queensland on the opposing bank and Sydney in the middle.
Sydney pipped the hosts and Queensland in a close men's erg competition and will take the west bank option, with Waikato in the middle and Queensland on the eastern side.
"We're quite happy with that," Pavich said. "That's the closest we've come in the erg contest for a few years and we won from the middle last year."
The weather forecast for tomorrow isn't promising, with the contestants expecting heavy and thundery showers and strong westerly winds.
Pavich said the conditions promised to be a tough test, but one that wouldn't change their approach: "We'll just attack it, like any other race."
"We'll have been out in those kind of conditions before, whether it's been on Karapiro or overseas. When we did the restart last year, we had to wait around for about 20 minutes and all the athletes got pretty cold and wet."
Pavich said the river water line had varied this week in training, while boats had to work around some obstacles.
"There's a few fallen trees leaning into the river, so you may not be able to get as close to the bank as you'd like going into the crossover.
"It may change how some crews look at when to cross - each crew will have to make up their own minds."
He's also expecting the traditional frenetic action at the start line of the 3.85km upstream course.
"We'd be a bit naive to think that with three boats all racing for the same line that there won't be any damage - despite the good job that the umpires do."
The men's race is expected to be a battle between the hosts and Sydney, with Waikato, seven-time winner of the Harry Mahon Trophy, boasting a crew stacked with experience and medals.
"We have a good range - there's a lot of experience in this race, too," Pavich said."It's my third; guys like Adam Tripp, Richard Harrison, Tobias Wehr-Candler and Duncan Grant have been in a few as well. And then we've got guys like Hayden Cohen coming off the world under-23 champs, so they're all good athletes."
The Waikato women's eight will start as favourites to add to a record of four wins in the past five years.
The host team will feature Olympic reserve Zoe Stevenson, world under-23 medal winners Kayla Pratt and Alyce Pulford, along with debutantes Georgia Perry and Ashleigh Hodge, who formed a dominant secondary schools combination with St Peter's School.
The women's race starts at midday, with the men's event beginning at 1pm.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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