Like many, this weekend saw me glued to my laptop watching SA champs deliver nail biting finishes and results that made me proud to be a Jeppe Old Boy.
The rise of Jeppe Rowing over the past years has been nothing short of astonishing and it’s difficult to believe that only a few seasons ago, the club was hard pressed to enter crews into any race with confidence of even finishing the race. It must be said that this was not due to the resolve of the crews themselves but rather the lack of race worthy equipment putting Jeppe Rowing in a dire situation.
Fast track to Jeppe coming second overall in this year’s SA Schools Championships and the question that must be asked is, ‘what’s changed’?
My personal thought is that this is down to investment. Investment in people is paramount and throughout the years, this has been constant with the school and club investing in coaches, coaches investing in the oarsmen both as individuals and crews, and parents investing their time and money into their boys.
A key area of investment that was struggling was the need for good equipment for all age groups.
The old boy community have risen to address this, helping make it possible for Jeppe as a government school to achieve second place at SA champs. The significance of this for the school and indeed the sport cannot be overstated.
Having achieved these results, we cannot not sit back and think that the job is done, the need for financial support will always be there. Jeppe Boats and Blades is a means through which you can invest in equipment to ensure Jeppe Rowing continues to flourish.
I am pleased to announce that the results of the weekend we have already prompted a response and we have received the R2,000 needed to pay off a pair. We felt it a fitting tribute that the U19 boys finishing this year should name the boat. We still need R70k to pay off what we have already purchased, and all contributions are welcome. Section 18A tax certs are available to those who require these.
The club attended the Homestead regatta in Benoni held on the 19th of February 2022. This was a junior regatta only ( u14 and u15). Despite heavy delays due to lightning and rain, the club completed all their races and gained valuable regatta experience which will stand them in good stead with years to come. Unfortunately, there were no overall club points calculated by the officials at the regatta but the juniors achieved the following results:
U15C 1x 1st and 4th U15B 1x 2nd , 4th and 9th U14 B 2x 2nd U14 B 8X 5th U15 A 1x 10th and 12th U14 B 1x 1st, 2nd and 3rd U14 A 1x 3rd, 4th, 10th and 11th U14 C 4x 4th U14 B 4x 9th U14 A 4x 2nd and 8th U15 B 4x 1st and 6th U15 A 4x 8th U15 A 2x 3rd and 5th U15 A 8x 5th
Congrats to all the athletes and coaches on a great regatta!
SA Champs Prelude
SA Champs will be held on 4, 5, 6 March at Victoria Lake, Germiston as Roodeplaat is unfortunately still suffering from the hyacinth issue. The club is particularly excited to race the 1st SASRU SA Champs since March 2020. To put it in perspective, boys who are currently racing in the u19 age group were in u15 when they last raced at SA Schools Champs. This year we are entering 13 u14 crews, 12 u15 crews, 8 u16 crews, 4, 2nd team, and 7 1st team crews to total 44 crew entries from Jeppe. The club has shown growth compared to the 2020 SA Champs where there were 37 crews entered. With many schools having lost big rowing numbers due to COVID and therefore having fewer entries in 2022 compared to 2020, our club is especially proud that we were able to grow numbers and put bums on seats despite the COVID related difficulties. The main contributor to this was the JBB fund raising initiative which purchased additional boats and equipment, allowing the club to accommodate more athletes. We are very excited for the upcoming championship and hope to see as many Jeppe supporters on the banks of VLC as possible!
With Omicron numbers increasing at the rate of knots and South Africa experiencing one of the wettest Summers I can remember it really was touch and go as to whether this January Orkney camp would go ahead. I have never known so much about the water level of the Vaal Dam or how many sluice gates were open as I do now. Thank goodness, even though the Jetty at Orkney was under water it was decided it was still safe for the boys to train on the river. So, on Tuesday 04 January 66 boys, 9 coaches and 8 camp Moms set off to what has become hallowed ground for Jeppe Rowing.
After a 2.5-hour bus drive in the heat, the boys hit the ground running and made short work of setting up their tents, had a quick lunch and it was straight into a very intense 1km or 2km erg trial. Let’s just say that not everyone managed to hold onto their lunch, but I am told that this is normal and had nothing to do with my cooking abilities. This level of intense training continued throughout the next few days with water sessions starting at 5am and some finishing only at 7pm. If they were not on the water, they were on the ergo only stopping to consume 10kgs of bacon and 150 eggs for breakfast and 20kgs of meat for dinner. And not to mention the numerous blisters that needed to be lanced and cleaned.
I now understand where the brotherhood in this club starts, it is at Orkney. Even though the training was next level there was still time for the seniors to make sure the traditions were passed onto the juniors and to make sure that they felt part of this great club. The induction ceremony for the new U14 rowers brought all the Mom’s and even some of the Dad’s to tears. It is an incredibly special and touching tradition, and it is I believe the foundation of the Jeppe Rowing Club.
Last but by no means least I got to experience firsthand the passion and dedication of Simon Moore and his amazing team of coaches, they went above and beyond to make sure that these boys were not only physically prepared for the season but that they become one team from the youngest academy rower to the oldest senior rower. Never has the term “you are only as strong as your weakest link” been more apt as in one short camp, I could see lifelong bonds being formed.
The entire experience for a spectator was amazing but for the boys involved it was life changing and I have no doubt it will form the basis of many a story that is shared in the future. I must admit that I enjoyed every minute and if they will have me, I will definitely be back next year. However, one of my favorite moments was the Coaches vs 1st 8 race on the Saturday evening. Below is the link to the video of the race that sparked very many debates but all I kept hearing was “a win is a win.”
If you’ve watched any of the interviews we have done as Boats and Blades, you will know that one of the key questions we ask is: ‘What impact has rowing had on your adult life’? Without exception, we have heard the positive life lessons people have learnt as oarsmen.
With 2021 drawing to an end, many will be feeling battered after a tough year. Using the analogy of a race, I want to share a life lesson that rowing taught me and hope it will encourage you. The life lesson I want to share is Finishing Strong.
As oarsmen, we know the feeling of being at the starting line, anxiously awaiting the umpire’s starting orders. This is followed by an explosion of power as you work on getting the boat moving. In a very short period of time, every part of your body testifies to the fact that you are now racing, and there is no thought of pausing until you cross that finish line.
Regardless of the distance, or how many pushes you’ve had over the course of the race, it is often the last 300 meters (only 30 strokes) that determine the outcome of your race. With this in mind, coxswains the world over know that no-matter how tough the race has been, the crew would rather give more, than regret being pipped at the post. So, regardless of the pain, every oarsman responds to the call for the final push, and no matter what the outcome, there is a deep satisfaction that comes from knowing that you gave it your all.
This is as true in life as it is in rowing, and I am grateful that even in the hard times I can draw on this analogy.
As testimony to finishing strong, I want to thank everyone who has been a part of the JBB story over the past 2 years. We are seeing and hearing that the success of the JBB initiative is getting attention from the wider rowing community. What it speaks of is the fact that when a group of like-minded people come together, there is very little that can stand in their way.
Many will already know that it is our mission to make Jeppe Rowing a leading force in school rowing and making it possible for every boy at Jeppe to experience the sport through the provision of good equipment and support. If this year has shown us anything, it is that everyone’s contribution counts, no matter the amount.
If 2021 was a race, the result is one we can be proud of. In the context of JBB, we have funds and commitments that have allowed us to pay back over 65% of the loan for the 13 boats purchased at the end of 2020, we have seen the community grow in terms of numbers and engagement and are well on the way to having a keepsake coffee table book that will represent the collective experience of Jeppe Rowing over the decades.
Many people in the Jeppe Rowing Community will be aware of the opportunity given to name the 4+ that was paid for through their contributions. This is the first 4+ in the fleet that has been paid for through collective contributions and at R40,000 (R10,000 a seat) this is a significant achievement.
For the boat naming challenge, a total of 14 great options were submitted. The votes determined that the boat is be named Sgian-dubh after the small, single-edged knife worn as part of traditional Scottish Highland dress. The blade is traditionally tucked into the top of the kilt hose with only the upper portion of the hilt visible and is normally worn on the same side as the dominant hand.
It’s not the first time a Jeppe boat has been named Sgian-dubh and there are fond memories of the first John Waugh, J Shape scull that was purchased in the 1995/96 season that bore the same name. The name also serves as a reminder of the strong connection that Jeppe Rowing has with the Jeppe Pipe Band.
Looking at the boat Barometer below you will note that the community are now also well on the way to paying for the first seat of a pair (silver seat shown on the boat barometer). We are putting out a challenge to raise R12,000 to pay for this boat by Christmas. Once paid for, the pair will also be put forward for naming.
In my pre-Gauteng champs’ article, I spoke about the steady rise of Jeppe Rowing (read here) and spoke about the clubs quest for podium position.
The crews delivered this result at the Gauteng Champs held last weekend where the boy’s school table placed Jeppe second overall:
St Benedict’s (602 points)
Jeppe (292 points)
St Stithians (270 points)
St John’s (261 points)
St Albans (190 points)
KES (184 points)
Parktown (138 points)
There are several remarkable achievements here. The first being that with St Benedict’s domination of the sport over recent years through the number of crews they are able to put on the water. It would be fair to say that second overall place is really the new first place with competition being for this position. Having achieved second place, Jeppe are not only on the podium at this point in the season but are also in a leading position.
The other notable achievement is the fact that the club has shown that government schools are still a force to be reckoned with.
A further encouragement is the way the global Jeppe Rowing Community is supporting the club. Simon Moore’s (Director of Jeppe Rowing) reporting and pictures from the water edge via the WhatsApp group is invaluable in keeping the community up to date with real time results. This is being responded to with active engagement from Old Boys going from strength to strength.
Evidence of the impact that the community’s contribution to equipment is making is that of the 292 points awarded to Jeppe, 95 points came from boats acquired through the JBB initiative. Here are the details:
No of placements
You will note that there is an unnamed pair that did very well. This boat is still up for adoption and naming. If you would like more info on the adoption process or how you can get involved, please get in touch with us at email@example.com
With the announcement of the GSRF U16 / U19 Regatta to be held at VLC this weekend, the stage is set for Damascus to race in her first event. This is a moment of great excitement for everyone who has been involved, particularly the current 1st 8 who will have the opportunity to officially compete in Damascus. This further cements the bond between the Jeppe Rowing Club and the wider community of older oarsmen and supporters who came together to make this possible.
In light of this, I am again sharing the ‘Damascus story. It is a good news story that took place at a time where all of our worlds were shaken by Coronavirus and reflects the courage and resilience that is so ingrained in the Jeppe ethos. The determination of so many to be part of something that is bigger than them resulted in a story that we can all be proud of.
In addition to this, the event looks to be a good one for Jeppe as a Club who will be racing in 15 of the 23 races, with 26 boats competing.
For those who are on the Jeppe Rowing Old Boys WhatsApp group, there will be regular updates and photos that will be shared over the weekend. Should you want to be added to the group please let us know. You can email your details to firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook, Text or WhatsApp.
Looking forward to a brilliant season and we wish all the Jeppe oarsmen every success.
A few days ago, Simon Moore, Director of Rowing at Jeppe, shared the ’21 – ’22 Schools Rowing Calendar. Like many, I was excited at the prospect that we could look forward to the season and see the schools back on the water. It also meant that we would finally see the 14 boats we secured last year in action.
The ‘post COVID’ proviso was that schools would cover the cost of a regatta, but that Gauteng Rowing Association would run these events at Roodeplaat Dam. The fact that no spectators were allowed was disappointing, but expected and the crews geared up for the U16 and U19 GSRF Regatta scheduled to take place on Saturday, 18 September.
Drawing from Robert Burns, we too have become accustomed to the fact that “the best laid plans often go awry”. On the 14th of September, it was announced that due to a very bad e-coli reading at Roodeplaat Dam (more than 100 times a reasonable limit), RowSA were alerted and the Regatta cancelled.
As always, there is a silver lining with the hope that the season will still happen, and regattas take place. In line with this is the news that the Homestead Regatta (16 and 17 October) will still go ahead.
I firmly believe that we should always expect and hope for the best outcome, but cognisant of the fact that life will always throw some curve balls. I find this apt given these events and would encourage everyone, especially the oarsmen who are looking forward to the season, to remain strong and focussed no matter what comes our way. Let’s keep looking to those silver linings with anticipation.
The big day arrives and with great excitement and a fair measure of anticipation, we said our goodbyes to our parents and headed off to the airport terminals as one big green and gold unit. We were amped and ready for the long flights (via Doha, via Bucharest, via Sofia) to Plovdiv to compete in the World Junior Rowing Championships.
The weather in Sofia was very different to the cold we experienced in Johannesburg and we were blasted with a very hot 36 degree heat. This did not dampen our excitement as we piled into a bus and headed to our hotel in Plovdiv. I was focusing on what the food was going to be like and I was totally caught off guard by the mob of American rowers that seemed gigantic as they towered above as at an average of 1.9m tall. Whilst I was intimidated, I could not wait to go out and compete against the best junior rowers in the world. On inspecting the course, my double sculls partner, Jordan Craig and I were confused and worried about how fast the other crews were moving on the water and debated if they were really fast or if we were just slow. Nonetheless, we set up the new Filippi double (transported directly from Italy) and headed to the water – ready to see what we were capable of. Getting used to a different boat, in a different dam, in a heat wave, did come with a few wobbles.
Once we had gotten the hang of it on the next day, the boat felt like it was moving as if we were gliding over the water. The stories of the rowing canal having ‘fast water’ was true! Both Jordan and I were relieved that the crews we had seen earlier were not as out-of-reach as we had initially thought. In the final push before the races began, we trained on what seemed like a new level for us.
Day one of the championship arrived and coach Chris reminded us that we must not be distracted by everything around us as we could get lost and feel overwhelmed with pressure and lose our nerve. Initially we thought he was just being cautious, but we underestimated what the atmosphere of the world’s best junior rowers preparing to sell their souls for a win for their country would do to us.
At the start line I did not feel any pressure – it felt like another race at Roodeplaat Dam, but when the siren went off, I was slapped with a reawakening seeing the other doubles leap ahead of us and having to fight to stay with the pack. Only once we crossed the finish line, could I take in what had just happened and I realized the difference between national and international rowing. We did not make the direct progressing to the A/B semi-final and our next race was the repechage. This was going to be a very important race for us, as we needed to finish top 3 to make the semi-final.
Day two of racing and we were more mentally ready for the race and prepared to sit in the hurt-locker and fight for the positions we needed. The competition was very strong and we were nervous. During our warm-up we felt that we understood what was needed to reach our goal. Off the block, firm and aggressive starting strokes put us into a second-place position and we found a new and comfortable rhythm at rate 37 and above. The boat lifted out of the water with every stroke and we actually felt like competitors in the race. At 1 500m mark, we had dropped into fourth place with the Americans half a boat-length ahead of us. With only 350m left of the race and needing to come 3rd, I looked to see where the American boat was and then saw Coach Chris in the background showing me a thumbs up that indicated us to take it up and ‘throw the kitchen sink’ and go-for-home. This gave us a new burst of energy that allowed us to step onto a new gear and move past the American boat with a rate of 40+ to take us to a third-place finish only 0.65 seconds off second place and setting a new personal best. This was by far the most important race for us, as it secured our spot in the A/B finals. We were exhausted but had achieved what we had worked so hard for.
The A/B semi-final was very exciting and we raced against very strong and feared competitors like Germany and Italy. We ended 5th in the race and therefore progressed to the B finals on Sunday.
For our final race in Bulgaria, our game plan was to enjoy the experience, push ourselves as hard as we could, and leave without any regrets. We came 5th in the final securing a 11th spot overall.
After the prize giving, it was finally time to have some fun with the squad and we travelled to old town Plovdiv and explored the architecture, little stores and ruins in the area. The sun sets very late at night (about 21:45) so it was really great because it made our last evening feel a little longer and we had the opportunity to socialise with some of the other countries too. Seeing the squad relaxed and happy about their achievements during the past week was amazing.
We left Bulgaria at midday on Monday after some last-minute go-carting (I won) and returned to Johannesburg on Tuesday morning, to a crowd of happy supporters (moms and dads that missed us).
I am really proud of what I was able to achieve through this amazing experience and am so thankful to my coach and rowing partner for giving their everything to make it possible for us to compete against the best junior rowers in the world. The organisation of the tour and the support from the rowing community, friends and family was exceptional and this is something that I will never forget. Only regret – having to come home so soon!
Competing at the 2021 World Rowing Junior Championships – A parent’s perspective
10 August 2021 – the day before race one. What an adventure this has been! From the onset of the trials for the Junior World’s Squad, we knew that this was going to be a long journey – and had been warned by previous parents who have been on this path, that this would be all consuming and remarkably rewarding…. and it’s a fact – it has been nothing short of AMAZING (and stressful).
It all started in the middle of January when our four Jeppe boys – Nic, Aidan, Darian and Josh were invited to join the National Junior Training Squad. Training commenced with the squad training in sculls at VLC or Roodeplaat and the assessments started immediately. Scull boat training evolved into a multiple selection of boats and the revised training squad competed at SA Champs Regatta in April achieving fantastic results against the Varsity crews. Coach Chris Paynter and previous Jeppe MIC Devin Cripwell were both very active in the training programs and formed part of the coaching team.
With the first milestone achieved, the preliminary squad set their sights on qualifying the boats for World’s. The exact criteria remains a mystery to me (assessments, prognostics, weekly improvement etc etc). All we knew was that the boats had to achieve a certain prognostic (as compared to the world record times for their specific boat) and it was going to be a very tough race. We were warned that it is gruelling and that the boat / athletes would be eliminated immediately if they were not successful. Four junior boats (JM2x, JW2x, JW4+ and JM4+) competed against 2 of the National U23 SA crews namely Katherine Williams in a skull and Masutha/Pienaar in the pair and after a race full of suspense and absolute awe for these athletes, all four the junior boats qualified! The squad was announced soon after, with Nic and Jordan selected to row the JM2x with Chris Paynter as their coach.
One would think that it would be smooth sailing from here (well, for the parents at least), but it got tricky – thanks to Covid. As a start, we were not sure if the Championship would continue in Plovdiv and had to wait for that confirmation. The squad continued to train despite this uncertainty and confirmation was received on 10 May! The next hurdle (and arguably the most important) was to receive an invite from the Bulgarian Department of Sport to allow the squad to enter as South Africa is still considered a ‘red country’ for travel entry. This letter was expected at the end of June and eventually received at the end of July. The objective of the organising committee did not waiver and with the parent‘s buy-in, the objective was clear – get the squad to Plovdiv!
The squad also missed out on the traditional two-week intensive training camp in Tzaneen due to the local travel restrictions but were fortunate enough to continue training at Roodeplaat – under strict covid regulations and team ‘bubbles’. In-between all of this, some of the squad members got Covid and training stopped whilst they fully recovered. Some nail biting moments included last minute collection of Visa’s in Pretoria and eagerly awaiting negative covid travelling tests….. but finally, we said our goodbyes and the entire squad and their four coaches boarded the plane – destination Plovdiv (via Doha, Bucharest and Sofia).
On what seems to be the other side of the world (one hour ahead of ours) the squad have settled into their hotel and are adjusting to the hot weather in Plovdiv and enjoying the Plovdiv course. The typical temperature at 16:30 is 38 degrees and the sun sets just before 22:00. Coach Chris haskept us up to date with ‘proof of life‘photos and a video here and there to calm the nerves and share in the excitement.
A day before race day (Heat 1) and all our nerves are frayed (it feels like one thousand times more intense than a normal regatta day). The draw is out for the first heat and Nic and Jordan will be competing in Heat 1. The first two crews will progress to the semi-final A/B and the remaining crews will be able to compete again on Thursday in the Repechage where there first three crews progress to the semi-final A/B on Saturday with the remaining crews advancing to the C final. The A and B finals will be held on Sunday with live coverage on the world rowing website.
It has certainly been the most incredible journey as a parent, and I can only imagine how exciting this must be for the athletes. Their discipline, dedication, passion and commitment to the sport is undeniable – and this all whilst they have to keep the focus on matric or grade 11 academics. They have also had to remove themselves socially from friends and family to try and isolate as much as possible. These young athletes are champions – no matter what the outcome is on race day!
To the Jeppe Rowing Club, parents and community – you have so much to look forward to in the years to come given the remarkable talent that we have in our Jeppe Rowing Club!
Finally, there are no words to describe the overwhelming love and support from the rowing community and Jeppe parents. Thank you – you are absolutely remarkable!
Follow Nic as he races in the Semis A/B on Saturday the 14th August in the JM2x at 10:10 SA time – Follow the race
Watch the Interview with Nic talking about his journey to being selected for the Under 19 squad – Click Here