The John Waugh Rock the Boat Regatta at Roodeplaat Dam is a very special event, because sports fans don’t often get the opportunity to test their skills against Olympian or World Champion medallists. This regatta that takes place tomorrow (6/02) is probably the only event that offers average rowers a fair chance of earning ‘bragging’ rights that they have managed to beat the likes of John Smith (Tuks/HPC), an Olympic and World Championship gold medallist, or Kirsten McCann and Ursula Grobler (Tuks/HPC crew), bronze medallists at last year’s World Championships.
All three of them, as well as all the other rowers who have qualified for the Olympic Games in Rio, will be in action Elite rowers do get beaten. Last year an under-16 girls’ crew of St Mary’s School was the overall winner and in 2013 an under-16 crew of KES won overall. In 2014 Smith and Sizwe Ndlovu, both Olympic gold medallists, successfully defended the elite rowers’ honour.
The John Waugh Rock the Boat Regatta is a concept that was brought to life by James Thompson and Matthew Brittain, two of HPC’s Olympic gold medal winners at the 2012 Olympic Games. In layman’s terms, the formula to work out who wins overall is based on working out a percentage that compares the winning time of each team to the world record of their respective age group. Thompson says: ‘This handicap system makes it possible for any age group or gender to win the coveted HPC High Performer of the Day award.’
According to the formula last year’s winning time (seven minutes 45.30 seconds) set by the St Mary’s under-16 team converted to 95.83%. Put into perspective it should be mentioned that the Olympians, John Smith (lightweight) and Shaun Keeling (heavyweight), teamed up to win their category in a time of 6:55.31. This converted to 93.52% which was only good enough for third overall.
Thompson is quite excited about the number of crews that will compete, saying: ‘We have 230 entries, which means that about 1 000 rowers will compete. This is very exciting. The whole idea of the regatta is to create awareness for rowing as a sport. As far as our top rowers are concerned there will be quite a few Olympic and World Championship medallists. The reason why the top rowers are competing is that it is one of only a few regattas where they are guaranteed to be tested to their limit. John (Smith) will be rowing in a single boat while Ursula and Kirsten will team up. The men’s pair rowers will resume their battle to earn a place in the boat that has qualified for the Olympic Games in Rio. Their problem is that only two of them will be able to go.’
Photo credit: Reg Caldecott