The South African rowing legend, James Thompson (Tuks/HPC), ticked off one of the last must win’s in local regattas on Saturday when he won the Single Sculls Trophy at the Buffalo Regatta in East London. Thompson says: ‘To be able to say that my name will be engraved on the Silver Sculls Trophy means that I really can claim to be part of the South African rowing elite. Because of its long history, it is definitely one of the most prestigious trophies to win. Now, having won all the big regattas in South Africa at long last, I can say that I have achieved the ‘full house’.’ The Buffalo Regatta (commonly known among rowers as ‘The Grand’) began in 1879 and, except for an interruption during the war years, has been held every year since.
On Saturday it was staged for the 129th time. No wonder, therefore, that the event is held in awe by most rowers. In spite of the tricky conditions that usually prevail on race day, Thompson raced to victory with relative ease.
He won in 8 minutes 01.21 seconds. James Brittain (Tuks) was second in 8:11.45 and Christopher Mittendorf (Tuks) third in 8:16.81. Unfortunately John Smith (Tuks/HPC), Thompson’s Olympic teammate, was not able to defend his title due to an arm injury.
Roger Barrow, the national coach, decided not to risk aggravating the injury and therefore asked Smith to rather withdraw. It was very special for Thompson to team up with his Tuks teammates to win the men’s eight race. Sizwe Ndlovu, Vince Breet, Jonty Smith and David Hunt won the men’s coxless fours.
This may be the same crew that will later this year try to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio. Zimbabwe’s Olympian, Micheen Thornycroft, won the women’s singles race in 7.55.95. Kate Christowitz was second in 8:01.94 and Kirsten McCann, who qualified for the Olympic Games in Rio, third in 8:02.79.
According to McCann, she had a very tight race against Christowitch for the second place: McCann says: ‘I am satisfied because I really gave it my best, but obviously I am also disappointed that I could not catch Kate in the final sprint,in spite of gaining on her right up to the line.’
Photo credit: Reg Caldecott