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The Madibaz Rowing Club will strive to back up its recent growth in personnel with strong performances at the Universities Boat Race in Port Alfred this week.


The Madibaz women’s crew that competed at the annual intervarsity last month are ready to row at the Universities Boat Race on the Kowie River in Port Alfred from 7 to 9 September. 

The prestigious event on the Kowie traditionally sees the top crews from around the country go head-to-head, with the young team from Gqeberha hoping to hold their own.

Although coach Alisdair Macphail expected choppy waters for his charges, he confirmed that Mandela University would compete in both the men’s and women’s A races from Thursday to Saturday.

At last month’s intervarsity – which also involved Rhodes, Walter Sisulu and Fort Hare – the Madibaz’s lack of experience came to the fore. However, their mentor felt that the lessons learnt would stand them in good stead for the universities race.

There they will have another chance to measure themselves against their Eastern Cape neighbours, while going line astern with South Africa’s traditional rowing powerhouses.

“Most of our athletes are novices,” Macphail explained. “Our goal is to do our very best and then to build on the results we do achieve.”

The logistics of preparing out at Redhouse on the Swartkops River proved a challenge but Macphail said they had persevered and declared his teams ready to race.

The Madibaz were unable to field a full women’s crew last year but the spurt in members of late will see complete women’s and men’s teams on the start line in 2023.

“We have had a lot of internal success over the past 12 months, especially in terms of growing the club. This is a huge accomplishment on its own,” a proud Macphail proclaimed.

The course is a long and testing one with tactics more often than not dictated by the tide and weather.

“Each stretch of water poses exciting and potentially race-ending problems. This is what makes this regatta so brilliant to race and watch,” the coach explained.

While his team may be green in terms of experience and race craft, being exposed to “good, old-fashioned racing” is no doubt an opportunity to build confidence on the water.

“It is massively important for us to participate in this regatta given the exposure it provides,” Macphail, who believed that the sport was as much mentally taxing as it was physically, said.

“After months of sacrifice, winning, or even just finishing a race well, makes you feel alive.”

Rhodes, UP-Tuks, University of Johannesburg and UCT have tended to float to the top of the leaderboard over the past decade and Macphail predicted a close tussle between the latter three in the men’s and women’s events this week.

Contact information
Mr Riaan Osman
Deputy Director
Tel: 041 504 2170