Buffalo Regatta mania

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Brittain brothers, Keeling big draws at iconic event

ROWERS from all around the country, including Olympic silver medallists, will storm East London this weekend for the Buffalo Regatta.

One of South Africa’s oldest and most prestigious national sporting events, it celebrates its 130th anniversary this year.

Starting out 130 years ago as a Saturday morning regatta comprising of only a dozen races, it is nowadays one of the biggest highlights on the South African rowing calendar. The event now spans three days and attracts over 1000 competitors participating in more than 200 races.

Participants from all over South Africa’s rowing universities, schools and clubs will be competing for the prestigious trophies, namely the Buffalo Grand Challenge (for Senior A Coxless Fours) and the Silver Sculls (for Senior A Single Sculls).

“The two trophies are popularly regarded as the most valuable trophies in South Africa and are always keenly contested by our national squad.

“We are privileged and honoured to have both women and men of the national squad compe- ting every year,” East London Boating Associa- tion (ELBA) chairperson Phillip King said.

2016 Rio Olympics silver medallists Lawrence Brittain and Shaun Keeling will both be rowing in this year’s event, as will 2012 Lon- don Olympic gold medal winner Matthew Brittain.

The exciting news, however, is that for the first time ever the entire Brittain family will be rowing together in the Buffalo Regatta.

IN SYNC: The four Brittain brothers, from left, Lawrence, Charles, Matt and James, training in their South African kit for the Buffalo Regatta. The brothers will be rowing in the Grand Challenge event (Men’s Four) as a team for the first time

The four brothers, Lawrence, Charles, Matthew and James, have all excelled at rowing individually and now plan to combine their talents and wow East London with their skills and finesse.

“They have all done so well and have such inner strength and resilience. I am immensely proud of them,” mother and crew doctor Danielle Brittain said.

The eldest of the Brit- tain brothers, Matthew, will be making his comeback at the Buffalo Regatta, after winning gold in 2012. “The last time Matt raced he brought the country to a standstill by storming through the London Olympic final to rip the gold medal from the Brits and Danes in that fantastic sprint,” Lawrence said.

The Brittain brothers met and rowed together in preparation for the regatta for the first time in December. They have, however been training separately as well.

“Matt has been training hard in London, mostly on the ergo (rowing machine).

“Lawrence, James and Charles have been training with the national squad since January,” Danielle said

“They have not had much preparation as a crew, but they should manage to put together a good race. I have confidence in them,” she said. “The trophy alone is something spectacular.

“The story goes that the original trophy was destroyed in a fire when the price of silver was incredibly low. So when insurance paid out, the new trophy was 10 times the size and nearly as big as the rowers competing for it,” Lawrence said.

The prestigious trophies: the Buffalo Grand Challenge (for Senior A Coxless Fours) and the Silver Sculls (for Senior A Single Sculls), to be presented to the winning crews Picture: PHOTOQUIP/DAMIEN BRADSHAW

The Brittain brothers are fierce competition, but our local school crews from Clarendon High School for Girls and Selborne College are ready for the challenge.

“It’s a very competitive race and we’ve been working very hard training the girls for this event,” Clarendon rowing coach Bill Godfrey said.

“We don’t have as much racing experience as our opposing teams so it’s going to be a tough race, but we’re hoping to make a name for ourselves.

“We’re really grateful for the opportunity to race in such a prestigious event. We are so lucky to have the biggest rowing event right in our backyard,” he said.

Selborne rowing coach Kevin Taylor reiterates that the regatta is a demanding and difficult challenge.

“The coaches have been hard at work honing the skills of their crews but it will be the first full distance 200m race for the U16s and seniors in the Buffalo Regatta, so it will be very testing,” he said.

The premier events for our local school crews are the First Eights race for Selborne College and the First Quads race for Clarendon High School.

“Wins in a regatta of this magnitude will be worthy prizes as the best crews in the country are competing,” Taylor said.

So go on down to the Buffalo River to support as the cream of the country’s rowing crop literally grace our shores.

IN SYNC: The four Brittain brothers, from left, James, Matthew, Charles and Lawrence, training in the colours of University of Pretoria in December for the Buffalo Regatta. The brothers will be rowing in the Grand Challenge event (Men’s Four) as a team for the first time

 

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