The Wits University Boat Club hopes to reach even bigger heights in upcoming regattas

The Wits University Boat Club (WUBC) rowed down the Kowie River, improving on their past performance, in the RMB Universities’ Boat Race from September 12-14 in Port Alfred.

Rain de Jager, WUBC president, said it had been several years since the women’s A team qualified for the B final in the A Division at the Rand Merchant Bank-sponsored regatta.

“[In the past] we did not qualify for anything higher than the C final, so it really does speak to the process of building the club and slowly getting the club back on its feet,” De Jager said.

The women’s A team came fourth, losing third place to the University of Johannesburg, after placing fifth in 2018. The Wits women’s first team also scooped the Most Improved Women’s Crew award for their performance.

“By winning this award, it gets our name out there and starts to show school athletes as well as the Wits Sports Council themselves,  that Wits is serious about their rowing, despite being a very fun and relaxed club as well.  Therefore, this will hopefully aid in the future growth of the club as well as our club being more supported,” said Lauren Soll, the women’s team captain.

“With over 20 active athletes on the women’s side of the club, there has been a lot of positive competition,” said women’s coach Andrew Edwards.

The Wits women’s B team came third in their division, while the men’s A team came fifth and the men’s B team placed fourth in their divisions.

Overall, the WUBC placed sixth. The Witsies competed against eleven other local university teams including tournament host Rhodes University. The University of Pretoria retained its position as boat race champion in the tournament where women rowers had to navigate the winding  Kowie River for 4km, and the men for 6km.

De Jager said there were only six women rowers in 2016 in the Wits club, short of two women who would make a complete team. “We had to try and find extra girls to come and help us out,” she said. This year, WUBC sent down two full women and two full men teams to compete in the tournament.

De Jager attributed the club’s growth to “committed’ captains who seek to advance the sport. This years’ captains are Soll, a fourth year occupational therapy student, for the women’s team and Luca Bezzi, an honours construction science student, captains the men’s side.

“I think the reason this means so much to everyone but especially to me, is because Wits has recently been viewed as sort-of “underdogs” and I think the team and I are here to prove that we are greater than that,” said Scroll

At this year’s boat race, the Wits team had several rowers who competed at the boat race for the first time.

Men’s A team rower, Malose Makwea, said the future looked “good” with the novices on board.

“We managed to close in on a lot of universities that have better funding than us and that have better equipment and programmes.

“[The club is] becoming more competitive and this only bodes well for the future,” Makwea said.

FEATURED IMAGE: The Wits University Boat Club improved on last year’s boat race performance. Photo: Provided