Universities Boat Race back in Kowie

Who will be taking home the Cambridge Rudder and the Isis Blade?

Rumours that last year’s Universities Boat Race was to be the last of its kind were dispelled by the announcement the boat race would be back again this year, with Rand Merchant Bank as title sponsor.

Taking place on the Kowie River, the RMB Universities Boat Race marks the end of the university rowing season, with teams from 11 universities arriving for registration today (September 11).

The regatta, hosted by Halyards Hotel, will see teams battle it out on the Kowie River from September 12 to 14.

The Universities Boat Race is a regatta steeped in history that dates back to the 1930s when there was a boat race between University of Cape Town and Rhodes University, modelled on the prestigious Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race.

The RMB Universities Boat Race involves the South African university rowing clubs and offers something different than the traditional 2,000m Olympic style racing. The crews must navigate their eights around a variety of 90-degree corners and avoid numerous sandbanks to complete their 6km (men) and 4km (women) races.

University Sports South Africa (USSA) Rowing president Cole Barnard said: “University Rowing would like to extend its thanks and appreciation to RMB who are the title sponsor this year’s Universities Boat Race. RMB truly embody the ethos that is rowing and their slogan ‘Thinking. Pulling. Together.’ is shared by all athletes and coaches in their pursuit for success.”

The Cambridge Rudder, awarded to the winning Men’s A crew, is an actual rudder obtained from the Lady Margaret Boat Club VII, decorated in Cambridge with the crests of University of the Witwatersrand and University of Cape Town. The rudder was first presented by the Cambridge University Engineers Association in 1980 to Wits University men’s crew, winners of the first South African University Boat Race between the University of Wits and UCT.

Last year’s winners were the University of Pretoria (Tuks), with Rhodes second and UCT third.

The Isis Blade, awarded to the winning Women’s A crew, is part of an Oxford oar obtained from Oxford University Boat Club, decorated with the crests of Oxford University and that of the combined South African universities. The blade was presented by Martin Kennard, stroke and crew member of the Oxford crew from 1966-1968, to the winning Wits women’s crew in 1988.

Tuks women won it last year, with UCT second and Rhodes third.

The participating universities this year are: Nelson Mandela University, Rhodes University, Stellenbosch University, University of Cape Town, University of Fort Hare, University of Johannesburg, University of KwaZulu-Natal PMB, University of Pretoria, University of Western Cape, University of Witwatersrand and Walter Sisulu University.

Alison Badenhorst, head of marketing and communications at RMB said: “RMB believes that our partnership with RowSA is a winning collaboration. Whether you’re in a boat or in a bank, sustainable success can only be achieved when the best talent harnesses their individual strengths and work as a team to achieve their goal.

“We trust that our support of this collaborative sport not only enables national athletes to compete internationally, but also benefits various initiatives at school and university level that feed South Africa’s rowing talent pipeline. We are delighted to welcome the rowing talent from 11 universities to this year’s RMB Universities Boat Race, the last of our five annual regattas hosted across the country this year.”

Good luck to the athletes, coaches, support crew and clubs as they take to the Kowie River.

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