Rock the boat race

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TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT: The rowing teams from the University of Pretoria (Tuks), foreground, and University of Cape Town, collided at the dogleg on the Kowie River during the Men’s B finals of the Universities Boat Race last year.
TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT: The rowing teams from the University of Pretoria (Tuks), foreground, and University of Cape Town, collided at the dogleg on the Kowie River during the Men’s B finals of the Universities Boat Race last year.

THE Halyards Hotel will be the host of this year’s Universities Boat Race, which will be taking place from Wednesday September 7 to Saturday September 10. Financial constraints have made it impossible for the races to be hosted by the Port Alfred Ski-boat Club, as had been done for the last 35 years.

In this, the 36th annual Universities Boat Race, the venue will be at jetties specifically set up at the Halyards Hotel and the small boat harbour. “We usually begin our meetings in May and June each year but, over the last few years, the Ski-boat Club has had little involvement,” one of the race’s trustees, Derek Sinclair, said.

“The trustees, as well as the other institutions involved, did not think the amount being charged was fair and, as we were uncertain as to a main sponsor for the event, we had to look around for an alternative venue.”

There were various meetings held between the Ski-boat Club and Rhodes University where club management expressed concerns as to the problems with having so many students at the facility. They informed the university that the amount they normally charged was insufficient and, according to Sinclair, said it had to be increased substantially.

Although the club did drop its initial asking price, this was still too much for the trustees and the university and an alternative venue was sought.

Fortunately, Halyards Hotel and the Small Boat Harbour Company stepped in and offered their facilities to host the races. “But there is still so much work to do,” Sinclair explained. For example, setting up the judging tent along the pier leading to the old Spur building, and fixing the ablution facilities to accommodate an estimated 3 000 people who will arrive over the four-day period.

Of more concern to Sinclair is the set-up of the floating jetties and the rearranging of boats to accommodate the 28 boats that will take to the river, some many times, over the period. “We really don’t want to lose the boat races,” said Sinclair, referring to both the Universities Boat Race and the Inter-School Boat Race that will take place later in the year. “This represents a big chunk of money for the town, specifically the businesses, food outlets and guest houses and other accommodation facilities. It would be disastrous if this were to happen. We are very grateful to the Ski-boat Club for all they have done in looking after us all these years. But we are very grateful to the Halyards Hotel and the Small Boat Harbour Company for all their help under trying circumstances”.

“Specific thanks must go to Sunshine Coast Tourism manager Sandy Birch who has shown us great support, as well as Gary McKay for his help in accommodating the students. Also to Rand Merchant Bank for their support in this year’s event,” Sinclair said.

Sinclair said there would be 28 crews competing in two divisions, 14 men’s teams and 14 women’s. There would be a total of 350 rowers taking part along with 50 coaches and another 30 to 50 officials. Many family members and friends are also expected.

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