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
Shaun and Margaret Bonthuys
Raffle – Francois Pienaar Rugby Ball & Proteas Cricket Bat
Our latest raffle at Jeppe Boats and Blades is giving you the chance of winning either a displayed Gilbert Size 5 Springbok™ Rugby Ball signed by Francois Pienaar or the 2nd prize of a Proteas Signed Cricket Bat
On a day in November 2020, five people logged onto an auction site with eager anticipation. The objective – to obtain as many good boats for Jeppe Rowing as possible.
The three groups represented on that session were Jeppe High School for Boys, The Jeppe Rowing Club and Jeppe Boats and Blades (‘JBB’). The school had generously agreed to front the funds. The Club knew what boats they wanted and had deep insight on the best boats to acquire.
Having just raised a staggering R500 000 to purchase Damascus (the new 8+ for the Club) through the generous contributions of many people in trying times, ‘JBB’ were confident that there would be support to pay for these boats and grow the Clubs fleet exponentially.
Thanks to this collaboration, 3x 4+’s, 2x Pairs, 2x Doubles and 6x Sculls were purchased, taking the total number of boats acquired through ‘JBB’ in 2020 to fifteen (15). Equipping the Club at every age group and category and allowing Jeppe Rowing to give boys the opportunity to experience rowing and the chance to compete.
Fast forward eight months, and we are pleased to announce, that with the continued support of the growing ‘JBB’ community, we have received almost 50% of the R222,008 needed, and are approaching the halfway mark.
The BOAT BAROMETER on our website homepage tracks this progress, showing seats paid for (gold); seats in the process of being paid for (silver); and seats still available to be adopted (black).
Why not read the stories behind each of the boats already adopted:
Cleaver – Donated by Gary ‘Butch’ Hepburn in 2020;
Nordachi – Adopted by Clive Gillman and named by Nicholas Bonthuys;
Iklwa – Adopted through the generous contributions of the ‘JBB’ community and named by this year’s Rowing Captains.
You will notice one silver seat on the Boat Barometer, this is the seat currently being funded through the ongoing contributions made to the J88 initiative other donations. We look forward to announcing payment of this last seat and the naming of the boat (R2,500 to go). CAN YOU SUGGEST A NAME for the boat?
Our latest fund-raising drive aims to raise the R20,000 to pay for the second double. We are looking to achieve this through raffling a rugby ball signed by none other than Francois Pienaar. The winner of this stunning piece of memorabilia will also have the chance to name the double. BUY YOUR RAFFLE TICKET HERE.
Like many, I’ve been watching the Olympic rowers give it their all as they race. It is exhilarating and a thing of beauty to behold. On reaching the 1000m mark, they would all be physically exhausted! In my day, we would say that you need to push through the pain barrier, as the race is so much more than only physical endurance.
In many of the races I have watched, the outcome is already determined at the halfway mark. As we approach our own halfway mark, thanks to your contributions, the settlement is already in the bag and we are heading for the finish line.
In conjunction with Simon Moore, director of Jeppe rowing and the rowing club, we are pleased to announce that with the use of drones, we will be streaming three events from SA Champs 2021 this Sunday. The 3 events will be:
JM16 4+ Final – 14:38
JM16 4x Final – 15:38 (Junior Women)
JM18 8+ Final – 16:26
By using drone’s for the streaming, you will get up real close and see all the race action. Simon Moore says:
‘We believe Jeppe are at the forefront of technology with pursuing this technological capability and also believe it will create greater amount of access/ exposure to rowing and therefore help grow the profile of the sport’.
2020 was a phenomenal year for Jeppe Rowing. In reading this statement the natural conclusion would be to look for the results achieved at regattas. COVID 19 restrictions put a stop to that, so instead we will measure success through other achievements.
Thanks to the support and generosity of the school, the Jeppe Rowing Club and Jeppe boys (past and present), Jeppe Boats and Blades raised R500 000 to purchase “Damascus” for the 1st 8 crew. This in itself was a significant achievement but 2020 still had a lot more to give and we were able to acquire another 13 boats (complete with blades) for the club.
These additions to the fleet will ensure that many more Jeppe oarsmen have the opportunity to train and race with confidence, allowing Jeppe Rowing to grow in size and be a force to be reckoned with in every age group. The first objective for Jeppe Boats and Blades in 2021 is to settle the acquisition of these boats. At R220 000 it represents less than half the amount we needed to raise in 2020. Thanks to the support of the old boys, the adoption of boats by Martin Maine (JRD Tomlinson) and Claudio Salassa (Gladius) we have already raised R50 000. To read the stories of all our successful projects please visit our website . In addition to the generous monthly contributions Jeppe Boats and Blades receives, we are looking to settle the R170 000 balance through our Adopt a Boat initiative. There are a number of boats (4+, pairs and sculls) looking to be adopted.
How does Adopt a Boat work? An individual, crew or group of people adopt a boat at R10 000 a seat (Section 18a tax certs available) They get the naming rights of that boat The boat is launched with its given name If you are interested in adopting a boat please do get in touch with us and we will provide you with next steps.
Sunday the 11th April 2021 will leave an indelible memory for every person who attended the event or watched the live stream from around the world.
The success of the event that coincided with Jeppe Rowing’s year end prize giving event was a fitting tribute to the efforts of everyone who made it possible. The christening of JRD Tomlinson and Damascus are milestones in their own right too. The impact of these two boats on Jeppe Rowing cannot be overstated. As Simon Moore said in his speech, Jeppe Rowing is indeed entering into a new era.
It is said that a picture paints 1000 words and this video clip does just that. Martin Maine is seen christening the boat he adopted and named after JRD Tomlinson who started rowing at Jeppe and schoolboy rowing in the Transvaal. This is followed by Michelle Kirby and Christopher Midlane christening Damascus and a ‘row-by’ with the current 1st 8 getting the boat on the water for the first time. The launches are testimony that together, we can achieve anything we put our minds to and together we celebrate and pay tribute to every Jeppe Oarsmen through the ages.
A little more than a week ago, Dylan Kirby was once again doing his magic on the website. He casually reminded us that the Jeppe Boats and Blades website and for all intense and purposes the initiative went live on the 23rd of March 2020.
I must admit that this came as something of a revelation to me. I had automatically seen December 2020 as the end of what had been a spectacular year. In reality, with the Jeppe rowing community and the support of Jeppe, it had only taken 9 months to purchase a new world class 8+ and secured 14 other boats and their blades.
All this took place in the midst of a global pandemic is proves the Jeppe motto that for the brave nothing is too difficult!
As we look to the year ahead, we need to ask two important questions. What do these accomplishments mean for the club and how do we build on what has been achieved?
The answer to the first question, is that Jeppe Rowing now has the capacity to double in size and be sure that each oarsman will have the chance to train and compete. It also means that with better equipment, crews in all age groups are able to race competitively with both the crews and the club securing podium positions. The fact that this is now a possibility cannot be overstated.
Building on this, what are our plans for the next year? As a trust we have two primary aims:
to equip Jeppe rowing and ensure it continues to make an impact at school and national levels;
to build the Jeppe rowing community and ensure that it can support current and future oarsmen in every way possible.
How do we plan to do this?
Pay off the remaining R180 000 for the 13 boats acquired on auction. This will be made possible through your generous donations , auctions and the Adopt a Boat initiative;
CSI funding for 20 boys (R10, 000 each) for the 21/22 Season;
Corporate sponsorships (with promotional opportunities). Simon Moore the Director of Jeppe Rowing has identified a number of requirements that the club needs to train and equip the athletes.
Lastly, we are very excited to announce that in conjunction with the Crew of ’64, we will be compiling a coffee table book on the history of Jeppe Rowing and the significant impact the club has had on rowing.