South Africa’s Answer to the Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race
Every September the top rowing teams from across South Africa’s universities come to the coastal town of Port Alfred in the Eastern Cape to compete in this prestigious event. The Kowie River is the setting for the events with spectators able to watch and cheer from along the river bank. Thousands of students from the competing South African universities come along to cheer on their respective teams with Rhodes University from Grahamstown making up the largest contingent of students. The students that come along to watch all dress up in their respective colours creating a wonderful spectacle. Fans paint their faces and dye their hair and generally have a great time letting their hair down in the many bars that stay open late for them in the evenings.
The rowing starts on the Thursday, around the 10th to 12th September, with heats to eliminate the various teams with the Finals taking place on the Saturday. Many parents come along to watch their children compete and to enjoy sitting at the restaurants along the river bank while the teams row past. The atmosphere is extremely good natured with plenty of high spirits among the students. As you can imagine with students on either side of the river bank it is not long before some of them decide to swim across the river between races. Fortunately the NSRI are close by to ensure that no one gets into any trouble and play an important part in providing a safe event across the 3 days. The mens and womens eights finals generally take place after 3pm on the Saturday with large crowds watching from the sides.
If you are thinking of going to the event it is important to try and book your accommodation early as the guest houses and hotels get booked up very quickly. Port Alfred sits along the coast of the Eastern Cape with the Indian Ocean on your doorstep. Wonderful endless sandy beaches and huge sand dunes make this a great holiday destination.