UFH - Rowing - Women - Asekho Jara 2 (FSC)

It was mission accomplished for the University of Fore Hare’s rowing team after displaying solid early-season form at the Eastern Cape Championships ahead of this weekend’s iconic Buffalo Regatta.

While the event was noted for the absence of some of the province’s best teams, Fort Hare coach Lunga Mcetywa was satisfied that his charges were starting to find their rhythm on the water.

There was a win for UFH’s women in the fours to go with a second-place finish in the eights, while the men registered a victory in the fours and silver medals in the eights and singles.

Notably, the men beat the established Buffalo Rowing Club’s masters outfit in the fours.

Mcetywa said several of their expected opponents did not pitch, leaving Fort Hare a few strides short of the racing preparation they had craved.

It was also not ideal that some age categories were grouped together to make the racing more of a spectacle, a concession usually not associated with the Buffalo Regatta.

Placing second to a school like Makhanda’s St Andrew’s College served as a timely reminder that they were still searching for their best form.

With the athletes going home to various parts of the country during the holidays to enjoy leisure time with family and friends, the conditioning programme their coach had designed for them proved a tough assignment to ace.

UFH - Rowing - Women - Asekho Jara 2 (FSC)

Rower Asekho Jara was an inspiration for Fort Hare’s women’s team at the Eastern Cape Championships in East London at the weekend. Photo: Full Stop Communications

Group training had also started late as student registration was underway.

However, Mcetywa was pleased that the new squad members were starting to gel with their teammates and getting a grip on Fort Hare’s strategies.

At this past weekend’s build-up event, experienced rowers were placed alongside greenhorns so that they could learn without the pressure of the results depending solely on them.

“They picked it up quickly,” their mentor said.

Coming into the event UFH had spent a lot of time rowing up and downstream, training that paid off handsomely. Mcetywa felt that spending time on the river was the best way to identify mistakes.

All in all, he believed the championships were a good first outing that gave them a clear indication of where their strengths and weaknesses lay.

The Buffalo Regatta on Saturday will demand far greater intensity as it attracts the biggest names in the sport. Therefore this week’s preparations have focused less on endurance and strength and more on technique – most notably their starts.

It will be the 136th running of the event, having been staged annually since 1881 save for the world war periods and 2021 due to Covid.

Mcetywa said there would obviously be nerves among his rowers given the prestige of the event, but he had encouraged them to take it in their stride.

“Everyone will be trying to win so I’ve told them to just go there for the experience. We can move forward from there.”