SEATTLE – The University of Washington women’s rowing program announced today that they have been invited to participate in The Gallagher Great Race on the Waikato River, the largest river in New Zealand, on Sept. 14, 2014. The Washington women are the first American university women’s crew to ever be invited to participate in the Great Race.
Head women’s coach Bob Ernst could not be more excited.
“For the Husky women’s crew to have stepped up to the level that they have the possibility to be the first women’s crew form the US to be invited to the Great Race in Hamilton, New Zealand is just a dream come true in a way, because it is so thrilling,” Ernst said.
The Washington men’s team also had the honor of being the first American men’s crew to travel to the other side of the globe to participate in this unique event in 2005.
“I was able to take the men’s team in 2005, and it is an international spectacle much the same scale as Windermere Cup. It’s live on national TV there and there are thousands and thousands of fans that come to watch the races in person,” Ernst described.
Much like the Windermere Cup, the Great Race, which began in 2002, will sometimes sponsor crews from other parts of the world to make it possible to share the incredible experience with new teams, but this will be the first year a women’s team will earn that distinction.
Ernst continued, “We’re not only the first American crew of women to get to go to the race, but we’re the first funded crew of women to get to go to this race, period. It’s really cool.”
The opportunity is especially exciting for those girls on the Husky team that hail from New Zealand, including graduating senior Kirstyn Goodger.
“I think it’s amazing that the UW women have been invited to an international event like this. It really shows how far we have come as a team in the past few years and how we have not only made a name for ourselves in the Pac-12 and NCAA but also on an international level,” Goodger said.
“For me, personally, I think it would be awesome to race as a Husky in my home country. I just really want to show my teammates how awesome New Zealand is!”
The specific course that the race takes place on makes the adventure even greater.
The course clocks in at 3.85 kilometers, nearly double the typical racing season length of a course. This length is much like the head racing the teams compete on in the fall and features some turns to steer through. Unlike those races, however, the Great Race has the crews rowing up-stream.
“You race up the Waikato River in a little town called Hamilton. It’s in the bottom of a gorge and the water is flowing at three-meters per-second, so it’s kind of more like a street-fight than it is the Olympic games. It’s a great spectacle,” Ernst explained.
“I think this race is going to be a challenge, but potentially a great way to kick of the 2014-2015 season for the girls. The course is up a river with complicated current and weed patches, it helps to have experience rowing on a river like this especially for a coxswain,” Goodger further.
“They have also changed a lot of rules so there is some strategy to the race. The girls will also be rowing in boat that none of them have probably ever seen before. I think this race will be a true testament of our ability to adapt. I'm sure we are up to the challenge and am excited to see what we can do.”
Three women’s crews will race in September for the Bryan Gould Cup. This trophy is named after a politician and former Vice Chancellor of the University of Waikato who retired in 2004. Gould, who is a New Zealand native, played a major role in developing the Gallagher Great Race Festival.
For more information about the race and its history, visit http://www.thegreatrace.co.nz/.