Photos Hamish Burson
It represents countless hours on the water, blistered hands, sunburned necks, aching legs, arms and backs. Early morning training, total teamwork, dedication and motivation. Each student rowing at the prestigious Aon Maadi Cup is a fine example of an athlete committed to their sport.
The Aon Maadi Cup is the final and ultimate pinnacle of the rowing season for secondary school students from around New Zealand. Held annually, the event alternates between Lake Karapiro in Cambridge (odd years) and Lake Ruataniwha near Twizel (even years).
This year the spectacular Lake Ruataniwha is the destination, with hundreds of Hamilton and Waikato students gearing up for the trip.
The Maadi Cup itself is actually the prize for the New Zealand Secondary School Boys’ Under 18 Rowing Eights. However the entire regatta, which is the New Zealand Secondary Schools Rowing Regatta, is known as the Aon Maadi Cup.
Anticipating approximately 2100 pupils from 120 schools entered in more than 1600 crews, requiring around 600 races across 52 events, the regatta is believed to be one of the largest school sports events in the Southern Hemisphere.
Participation has been trending upwards for a number of years. Ten years ago (2005), the event had 1040 rowers and 104 schools involved.
With 52 events run over the six-day event, it is non-stop action from dawn to dusk. Volunteers make up a massive portion of the team required to run such an event. The lakeside transforms into a miniature city of tents and marquees for the duration.
This year’s Maadi will be the latest date the regatta has been held since 1965 and the first time it’s been held in April in the South Island.
This late date is because Easter is at the end of March, when Maadi would usually be held. An April regatta may bring challenges with it as daylight saving will have ended, dawn arrives later and days are shorter than usual.
On the plus side it can be less windy, but there is also a greater chance of storms and it has been known to snow in April.
Waikato schools are expected to make a strong showing with several defending their titles, among them Hamilton Boys’ High School which has won the Maadi Cup 11 times, St Peter’s, St Paul’s Collegiate, Fraser High School and Waikato Diocesan, as well as many other competitive teams.