Development rowers rise through the ranks

The South African National Senior Rowing Regatta takes place on 28 and 29 May at Roodeplaat Dam in Tshwane, where a record number of development rowers will be participating. The event will bring some 900 athletes together who row at the national and U23 level.

Rand Merchant Bank, national sponsor of development rowing in South Africa, says it is encouraging to see the depth, talent and diversity of rowers rising through the ranks to take part in this headline event on the rowing calendar.

“The development of young rowers is vital to secure the successful future of rowing in South Africa,” says RMB chief marketing officer, Alison Badenhorst. “Over the years we have seen many talented athletes coming through from school to university to senior rowing – even coaching – and we look forward to watching their progress at this year’s seniors’ regatta.”

The bank has made an additional contribution to Rowing South Africa (Rowsa) and the Buffalo Rowing Club in East London to give more development teams the opportunity to participate at Roodeplaat this weekend.

Rowsa is supporting development teams from Durban Rowing Club, Champions Rowing Club, Redhouse Rowing Club, Soweto Rowing Club and two Eastern Cape universities: the University of Fort Hare and Walter Sisulu University. In addition, Buffalo Rowing Club is supporting more than 60 individual development rowers from the Eastern Cape to race at the event.

RMB has committed to growing the sport of rowing at all levels – from development rowing at school and university level, to assisting with equipment, facilities and coaching – in order to raise the profile of rowing in South Africa and ensure sustained international success for the sport. As part of RMB’s sponsorship to SA Rowing, they support rowers from grass roots level to the national team. 

One of the development rowers who has seen a great change in fortune since he started participating in the sport is 22-year old Okuhle July. July started rowing at the age of 19. At the time he was a student at the East London campus of the University of Fort Hare (UFH), where he was studying law. However, during the course of his studies he decided to switch to computer science, which meant he had to move to the UFH campus in Alice.
“I tried to start a rowing club in Alice, but there were no facilities there. Since we didn’t have money for transport to East London, I had to stop rowing for a while.”

Unfortunately July was unable to continue his studies and moved back to East London, where he re-joined the Buffalo Rowing Club.

Club president Kate Godfrey saw potential in July and immediately hired him as a trainee in her East London estate agency, Godlyn Rentals. Today, he is training to become an estate agent. He hopes to become a full agent soon, and eventually a property broker.

With Godfrey’s assistance, July started a rowing club at his high school, Kusile Comprehensive in Duncan Village, a township just outside East London, in 2019.

“It’s important to remember where you come from and to give back to the communities that supported you in the past,” he says.

On the rowing course, July is something of an all-rounder, having won medals at club, provincial and national level in sculls, quads and eights. He will be participating in the men’s double and men’s quad events this weekend at the National Senior Rowing Regatta.

“It’s an honour to represent my club, Buffalo Rowing Club, at a national level,” he says. “I look forward to giving my best at Roodeplaat this weekend.”

Blake brings a lot of energy, passion and heart into everything he does. He is extremely passionate about our country, it’s people and the environment. He is based in Cape Town and is happiest when he is running around exploring the beauty of the mountains.