• Eastern Cape Rising Sun

EL hosts rowing tourney ahead of Olympics


The Rhodes University Rowing team competes in the 2019 Buffalo Regatta. Photo by Bruce Viaene

The East London Boating Association (ELBA) will host the oldest running sporting event in the country, the RMB Buffalo Regatta which was selected as the key race in preparation for Tokyo 2020. The iconic sporting event, which marks 133 years, will take place from February 13 to 15.


The Buffalo Regatta consists of six-lane sprints racing over 1 000 and 2 000 meters and has evolved from being a single-morning event, hosting a dozen races, to a three-day event incorporating over 1 000 competitors and 200 events. The event, televised by SuperSport attracts participants from rowing universities, clubs and schools across the country and up to 2 000 visitors and spectators.


“We are very fortunate to have the support of the Eastern Cape Development Corporation and the Department of Sport Recreation Arts & Culture who are committed to promoting the Eastern Cape as a destination of choice for both Investment and the hosting of major sporting events,” said Jacques Buchner, Chairperson of the ELBA; founded in 1881 when the Buffalo Regatta began and remains the proud host.


The competition is said to be cut-throat, and two of the events, the Silver Sculls (for Senior A Single Sculls) and Grand Challenge (for Senior A Coxless Fours) are highly coveted races that every oarsman aspires to win for the two magnificent trophies at stake commonly regarded as the most valuable trophies in South Africa.


This is a special year as the Buffalo Regatta falls on an Olympic year making it an important training, racing and selection regatta for the South African national squad. Roger Barrow, coach of the South African Men’s National Rowing team is bringing the Men’s squad to race the Grand Challenge, the Men’s Pairs and the Silver Sculls. The team has been training hard and the rowing community is in for a treat to watch these athletes’ race at their peaks.


The squad also includes Rio Olympians, Lawrence Brittain, Jake Green, and David Hunt. The racing will add to the selection data being collected by the coaches to select a men’s pair and a men’s four for the Tokyo Games. The Men’s pair is the only boat to have qualified for the games thus far while the Men’s Four and a Women’s Lightweight Double are hoping to qualify through the Late Qualification Regatta in Luzern in May this year. Spectators will be treated to some serious racing as the squad fights it out for a chance to race at the Tokyo Olympics.


“There is a huge benefit for our local economy as a result of the hosting of the RMB Buffalo Regatta. The sport is known to attract South Africa’s typical LSM 7-10 consumers, which means many of East London’s businesses will benefit from the event with the supporters booking hotels, hire cars, eating at restaurants and visiting our shopping centres,” said Buchner.


Buchner estimates that at least R8 million will be spent in the city.


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