Held annually each September, the Gallagher Great Race pits home town favourites from Waikato University against teams from a world-class international university (previously Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, Washington, Melbourne and Sydney Universities) in action-packed races on New Zealand’s longest river – the Waikato River.
The Gallagher Great Race Festival
The Gallagher Great Race festival also includes free family fun and entertainment throughout the day including street theatre, food and drink, competitions, and more. The day culminates in the two finals – the women’s crews racing for the Bryan Gould Cup and the men’s crews racing in the actual “Great Race” for the coveted Harry Mahon Trophy.
The Main Event
Beginning at Ann St Reserve and finishing at Ferry Bank Park in Grantham St, the 4.2km Gallagher Great Race course features four significant bends which play a key part in the tactical warfare and physical endurance needed to emerge victorious.
The effect of a bend is to alter the course of the river current from one side of the river to the other. Adding to the challenge the course is ‘against the flow’ meaning the crews must row into a current which is difficult. To counteract this, the racing crews are constantly trying to find the “slack water”, often changing course in order to do so, which makes for great spectator entertainment.