Mon, 17 Sep, 2012
The Rhodes women’s B crew emerged as the only Rhodes team to win gold in this year’s Mutual Federal Universities Boat Race on the Kowie River in Port Alfred this past weekend.
Thirteen-times Boat Race winners, the Rhodes women’s A crew came second to the University of Pretoria in the main A final on Saturday. The last time they won the regatta was in 2007 and the B crew last came out tops in 2009.
Unable to keep up with their female counterparts, the Rhodes men’s crews didn’t claim any honours this year.
Rhodes University sports officer Sanelisiwe Sobahle attributes this to the fact that many of the men’s crew had never rowed before coming to university and are young. But she isn’t worried, she said, because seven of the current A crew eight will be at Rhodes in 2013 and they are looking to build them up for next year’s events.
Rhodes rowing chairperson Sam Vosper said that it is always a cycle of building up the rowing club because many school pupils who go to Rhodes don’t come from rowing backgrounds. Vosper also pointed out that the size of the competition, in relation to Olympic and world championship rowers who were part of this year’s boat race, has increased.
Bad weather conditions and wind speeds in excess of 50km/h also affected many of the races, he said. Before the start of the women’s A final, the winds caused a rudder to snap on the Rhodes A crew boat as they rounded a corner.
Tuks (Pretoria University) suffered a similar break about 100 metres before the end of the final, but still managed to beat Rhodes to the finish line. In the main men’s final Tuks also took the winners’ laurels, beating the University of Cape Town team who landed in second place.
According to head of sport at Rhodes Mandla Gagayi Saturday’s windy conditions were the worst in 17 years. Although Gagayi felt the event had gone well, in terms of spectators this was the smallest event he had seen.
The boat race usually attracts between 3 000 and 5 000 spectators but this year under 2 000 showed up, he said. The University boat races cover the same distance as the Oxford/Cambridge race - 6.2km for men and 4.8km for women - but the local version of the regatta is said to be more challenging due to the Kowie’s serpentine curves and sandbank obstacles.
The boat race, which also serves as the University Sports South Africa championships, began with the heads races last Thursday. Since the event’s inception 31 years ago the Rhodes men’s crew had previously dominated the event and still hold the record for the most consecutive wins – 10 times from 1990-1999.
They last won in 2007, when both the men’s and women’s Rhodes teams won the A final. The 2012 winners of the Men’s and Women’s categories are: Men’s A 1st – University of Pretoria 2nd – University of Cape Town 3rd - University of Johannesburg Women’s A 1st – University of Pretoria 2nd – Rhodes University 3rd – University of Cape Town Men’s B 1st – University of Cape Town Women’s B 1st – Rhodes University Novice Race 1st Place – Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU).