Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Oxford and Cambridge may have a long history of competitive rowing dating back to 1829, but did you know that we have a race that’s just as exciting, right here in Port Alfred’s waters?

The annual Universities Boat Race has seen South African rowing teams competing for the past 30 years. This year will be the 31st of this prestigious challenge that was started in 1980 when the University of Cape Town challenged Wits rowers to a six-and-a-half-kilometre race down the Vaal River. Four years later, Rhodes and the University of Pietermaritzburg had joined in the fun and it became Port Alfred’s time to shine as the race was moved down south to the coastal town’s Kowie River due to the Vaal’s altitude favouring inland rowers. In 1988, women’s teams were introduced to the races, making it an all-inclusive event.

Nowadays, there are nine universities participating, with supporters travelling from around the country to support their favourites. Port Alfred’s riverbanks are turned into a student party of bursting proportions, where parents and other supporters join in the fun for three days of outdoor reveling. Even a campsite is established on the riverbank for the event! Students cheer from the banks donning crazy, colourful hairstyles matching their university team colours, while more sophisticated supporters applaud rowers as they pass by Port Alfred’s riverside restaurants.

Spanning the same distance as the Oxford/Cambridge race (6.2km for men and 4.8km for women), the local version of the regatta is said to be more challenging due to the Kowie’s serpentine curves and sandbank obstacles. Last year’s winners – University of Pretoria (men) and University of Johannesburg (women) – will be looking to hold onto their titles, while individual members of all teams will be hoping to make the national rowing team.

Oxford and Cambridge, you can have your Thames; the Kowie’s much more fun anyway!

Join in the fun from 8-10 September 2011. Visit our website for more information about the area and other exciting things to do during your stay.

Trophy Talk

Men’s trophy: Cambridge Rudder
Made from the Lady Margaret Boat Club VIII rudder, this trophy was presented at the first race in 1980 by the Cambridge University Engineers Association.

Women’s trophy: Isis Blade
This trophy was fashioned from an Oxford University Boat Club oar, and was donated to the local race by Martin Kennard who rowed for Oxford from 1966-1968.


Need an extended weekend? A lucky fan of Green Fountain Farm Resort could win a four-day weekend away with three of their friends at this magical resort just outside Port Alfred during the duration of the Universities Boat Race. To enter the competition, and stand a chance to enjoy a Thursday to Sunday getaway, email a 100-word motivation about why you love Port Alfred to

Competition Rules:

  • Entries must be written in English
  • Only one entry per person
  • All work must be original
  • The word limit is 100 words, please aim to keep within this
  • We reserve the right to use entries for publication or promotional purposes
  • Emails need to reach us no later than the 1st September 2011.
  • Winner will be notified by Email on the 3rd September 2011
  • Individuals will be notified by email in the event of their entry being selected for publication
  • Judges decision is final and no correspondence will be entered into
  • Late entries will not be accepted
  • Entries received on paper or via post will not be accepted
  • Please make sure your contact details are correct – this is to make sure we can contact you if your entry is chosen as a winner or for publication
  • All meals, travel arrangements and extra activities are for the winners account.
  • Accommodation for four people for a 4 day and 4 night stay in one of our luxury holiday homes will be complimentary.