Totally oar-some!

“It’s really just a big party for everyone involved.”

That’s how Stevan Johnson of the Wits rowing club describes varsity regattas.

“You don’t row the whole day, so you socialize with other universities… Everybody is just chilled…And then they switch on as soon as they get on the water, they get serious…and they do their thing.”

The Wits rowers “did their thing” at the University Sports South Africa sprint regatta, which was held at the Vanderkloof Dam in the Northern Cape on April 23 and 24.

Five Witsies were picked for the blues and grudge crews, made up of the top 16 rowers in the competition. The blues crew is the elite group, and they are challenged to a race by the grudge crew, which is the next best group of rowers.

In the women’s section, Maxine Pinto, Claudia Hazelwood and Jen Brensted-Smith all made the grudge crew.

Pinto said she was honoured to have been chosen.

“Many incredibly talented rowers put in enormous amounts of effort and time to try and make the blues and grudge selections.”


Fun-loving Witsies Graham Rex (left) and Mike Marshall proved that they are among the best varsity rowers in South Africa.

Work hard, play hard

In the men’s section, Graham Rex was chosen for the blues crew.

“My first year, I wasn’t chosen for a top crew. My second year and third year, I made grudge, and this year I was chosen for blues. So I’m quite chuffed with myself.”

He rewarded himself after the regatta.

“We had a good party that night. We really celebrated!”

Selection for blues and grudge is based on results during the regatta, as well as a rower’s performance during the ergo rowing machine time trials held before the regatta. Mike Marshall, who will row for the grudge crew, said he had done very well in the trials at the University of Johannesburg earlier this year.

The blues and grudge race normally takes place at the end of the regatta, but it was postponed, due to failing light and stormy weather. The race will now be held at the South African championships in East London early next month.

Tough times

The Wits team competed against 10 universities – including UJ, UCT, UKZN, Rhodes, Stellenbosch and Tuks – in races in different divisions.

Overall, the men’s team came fifth. The women’s team came fourth, missing the third-place position by just two points.

The rowers Vuvuzela spoke to felt that they could have done better if they had had a coach.

“We can’t look for a full-time professional coach because we just don’t have enough money.”

The club hopes to have a coach soon, since a Johannesburg advocate has expressed interested in coaching them on a voluntary basis.


Row SA

FISA, the international rowing federation 

London Youth Rowing charity