Harry Mahon

Harold Thomas Mahon OBE (15 January 1942 – 19 May 2001) grew up in Wanganui, New Zealand, played rugby and was a lightweight rower at school. Later he studied geography at Victoria University then moved to Hamilton and taught at Melville High School. He joined the Waikato rowing club in 1966 and coached juniors. In 1969 he moved to Ridley College, Ontario, Canada to teach and coach rowing. Harry returned to New Zealand in 1974, rejoined the Waikato club and established a period of club dominance with his crews winning numerous national ‘red coat’ titles . He moved to Switzerland in 1986 to coach professionally and during a six year period here, he fine tuned his coaching philosophy. In 1993 he accepted a coaching role with Cambridge University and moved to the United Kingdom. Harry now blossomed as a rowing coach due to the personal support, great affection and respect shown to him by the G.B. and Cambridge coaches and rowers. Every crew he engaged with now went fast. He worked closely within coaching teams and said often that he was not ‘a one man band’. Eight Boat Race victories followed with just one loss from 1993 to 2001. The 1994 Cambridge Eight he believed was one of the finest and fastest crews he had ever coached. Radley College crews enjoyed a golden period with Donald Legget and Harry’s involvement. The G.B sculling squad progressed and Greg Searle won a bronze in the 1x at the 1997 World Championships. Harry travelled widely now, coaching all over the world for brief periods and during this time he was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. In 1999 he ran the London marathon. In 2000, he achieved his long held dream when coaching alongside Martin McElroy, the G.B. Eight won gold at the Sydney Olympics. Harry Mahon was named the New Zealander of the Year in 2001.

He coached International crews from New Zealand, Switzerland, South Africa and Great Britain to success at World Championships and Olympic Games.

He coached Cambridge University Boat Club to repeated successes in The Boat Race, 1993 to 2001.

He also coached successfully at Ridley College, Waikato Rowing Club, Saint Kentigern College, King’s College School Wimbledon and Radley College. 


  • 1977 New Zealand 4- World Championships – 2nd
  • 1978 New Zealand 8+ World Championships – 3rd
  • 1979 New Zealand Colts 8+ Trans Tasman – 1st
  • 1980 New Zealand 4+ Moscow Olympics – Boycott – NZ rowers did not attend.
  • 1981 New Zealand 8+ World Championships – 7th
  • 1982 & 1983 New Zealand 8+ World Championships – 1st
  • 1984 New Zealand 8+ Olympics – 4th
  • 1986 New Zealand 4+ World Championships – 2nd 
  • 1988 New Zealand W2- 3rd & Swiss 2x 2nd – Olympics 
  • 1997 Great Britain 1x World Championships – 3rd
  • 2000 Great Britain 8+ 1st & New Zealand 1x 1st – Olympics
  • 1993 to 1999 & 2001 Boat Race wins – Cambridge


“I just start with a crew. I’m tapping into the program I’ve built over 35 years. I have a very definite idea of what the rowing stroke should look like and how to achieve it”

“The arms are the weakest of the muscle groups. The real power comes from legs, back and backside. 

It is about understanding what is efficient and what’s inefficient, about timing during the drive and then a recovery phase, so when you have done your work, you let the boat do its work.