Two-time Olympic champion Mahe Drysdale has entered the Billy Webb Challenge with only four days to spare.
Drysdale has been a regular attraction in the 5K feature sculling race before injury prevented him from attending last year.
"After a disruptive 2020 I am looking forward to my first regatta since February last year," Drysdale said.
"The Billy Webb Challenge is a regatta close to my heart and after missing the event for the first time last year through injury, I am glad to be back and have it as the kickstart to the 2021 season, which will hopefully end in racing the postponed 2020 Olympics in July 2021. Looking forward to bringing the family for another visit to Whanganui."
Rowing alongside Drysdale will be Amy Robson, last year's fastest woman in the single-scull competition and a fellow member of Auckland-based West End Rowing Club. When finding out about Drysdale's entry, Robson said they might both be able to pull off a "West End win".
Aside from that, Robson thinks it's fantastic that Drysdale is back this year.
"The nature of the race gives young rowers the opportunity to get far more up close and personal than what the regular domestic season does and being in a race with an Olympic champion is always going to inspire. It's the sort of small interaction that can flick a switch and propel the next wave of elite champions."
President of Whanganui Rowing Association Philippa Baker Hogan said she is absolutely stoked to have one of the greatest rowers of all time, the evergreen current and twice Olympic single-sculling champion Drysdale honour the association and Whanganui with his entry.
"Mahe's legacy and commitment to this event is legendary and I know Whanganui will honour and respect him by turning up in droves to our awa on Sunday morning."
The Billy Webb Challenge commemorates New Zealand's first professional single sculling world champion William "Billy" Webb's defence of his world title on the Whanganui River in 1908, in front of 25,000 spectators.
Relatives of the rowing great still attend the race and descendent Mark Webb and his engineering company Rigtec are sponsors, contributing towards the cash prizes.
Whanganui Rowing Association has organised the event since 2008. Crewed categories have been added to broaden entries and make the race more exciting. Sunday's race, which is now one of Bayleys Whanganui Vintage Weekend's headlining events, starts at 11.15am just down from the Union Boat Club.
Billy Webb Challenge event manager Heather Cox said that she was delighted to receive a call from Drysdale on Wednesday, the last day to enter.
"This exciting race just got more exciting."