Harry Mahon

Harold Thomas Mahon OBE

15 January 1942 – 19 May 2001

New Zealand

Growing up in Whanganui, New Zealand, Harry played rugby and was a lightweight rower at school.

He studied geography at Victoria University and then moved to Hamilton where he taught at Melville High School.

In 1966, he joined Waikato Rowing Club where he coached juniors.

1969 Canada

In 1969, Harry moved to Canada to teach and coach rowing at Ridley College, St. Catharines, Ontario.

1974 New Zealand

Returning to New Zealand in 1974, he rejoined Waikato Rowing Club and established a period of club dominance, with his crews winning numerous national Red Coat titles.

1986 Switzerland

In 1986, Harry moved to Switzerland to coach professionally and over 6 years he fine-tuned his coaching philosophy.

1992 Great Britain

In 1992, he accepted a coaching role with Cambridge University Boat Club  and moved to the United Kingdom. Here, he blossomed as a rowing coach due to the personal support, great affection and respect shown to him by the Cambridge and Great Britain coaches and rowers.

Every crew he engaged with now went fast. Working closely with coaching teams, he said often that he was ‘not a one-man band’.

Cambridge University had 8 Boat Race victories and just one loss from 1993 to 2001.

The 1994 Cambridge University eight, Harry believed, was one of the finest and fastest crews he ever coached. 

The British men’s sculling squad also progressed under Harry’s tutelage and Greg Searle (1992 Olympic Champion in the coxed pair) won bronze in the single scull at the 1997 World Championships at Lac d’Aiguebelette.

Travelling the world

Harry travelled widely now, coaching all over the world for brief periods.

Schoolboy crews from Radley College in Oxfordshire, England, enjoyed a golden period with coach Donald Legget getting Harry involved.

He coached at Saint Kentigern College, Auckland, and King’s College School, Wimbledon, London.

During this time, Harry was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. Yet, in 1999 he ran the London Marathon.

In 2000, he realised his long-held dream when, coaching alongside Martin McElroy, the British men’s eight won gold at the Sydney Olympic Games.


1977 World Championships (Amsterdam) New Zealand 4-  Silver

1978 World Championships (Lake Karapiro) New Zealand 8+ Bronze

1979 Trans Tasman New Zealand Colts 8+ 1st

1980 Olympic Games (Moscow) New Zealand 4+ – NZ rowers did not attend

1981 World Championships (Munich) New Zealand 8+ 7th

1982 World Championships (Lucerne) New Zealand 8+  Gold

1983 World Championships (Duisburg) New Zealand 8+  Gold

1984 Olympic Games (Los Angeles) New Zealand 8+ 4th

1986 World Championships (Nottingham) New Zealand 4+  Silver

1988 Olympic Games (Seoul) New Zealand W2-  Bronze

1988 Olympic Games (Seoul) Switzerland 2x Silver

2000 Olympic Games (Sydney) New Zealand 1x Gold

2000 Olympic Games (Sydney) Great Britain 8+ Gold.

The Boat Race

Cambridge University Boat Club

1993 – won

1994 – won

1995 – won

1996 – won

1997 – won

1998 – won

1999 – won

2000 – lost

2001 – won.

The Magic
of Harry

He could watch a boat and he could tell you how it felt, and it was right. And a lot of coaches can't do that - they coach what they see but they can't necessarily tell you how it feels or how it should feel.