RMB VLC Sprints regatta
RMB VLC National Sprints Regatta 2019
By Victoria Lake Rowing Club
The 112th RMB VLRC National Sprints Regatta was scheduled to take place on 26 and 27 January 2019. We were privileged to once again host rowers from around the country, including some of the country’s top athletes. We also had special guests from the Royal Air Force Rowing Club, based at High Wycombe in the UK.
The 2019 regatta was set to be the most successful Sprints regatta ever. We were fortunate to receive sponsorship backing from Rand Merchant Bank and were honoured to be able to rename our regatta “the RMB VLRC National Sprints Regatta”.
In celebration of this, we recruited 4 Olympians for our Sunday Corporate Challenge and opened a lottery where interested rowers could enter and win a chance to row with an Olympian. The draw for this fun event, was to happen Sunday morning.
We had over 950 athletes enter, compared to 867 in 2017. The racing program for Saturday and Sunday was packed. Both days had to start at 07h30 in order to accommodate the number of entries. There was much excitement for the weekend, little knowing what tragic events would unfold.
The weather prediction for Saturday was challenging, with strong winds and rain predicted. There were strong winds, but the rain held off. The athletes – many of whom were U14 and U15 – performed courageously in the wind! Saturday racing was scheduled to end at 16h30, however an approaching electric storm resulted in the officials cancelling the remaining five races of the day.
We were packing up and feeling exhilarated after an exceptional first day, when the storm came through. The lightning was particularly vicious and a strike about 100m in front of the tent caused the electricity in the main club house to trip.
The storm soon passed over and we were continuing with clearing up activities, when the tragic news came through. The lightning had struck one coach and one athlete from Somerset College. Like us, this team had sought shelter from the storm and were huddling under some trees on the main road outside of VLC. The lightning strike led to the tragic death of the Somerset rowing coach – Nicholas Whaits - and serious injury to one of the young athletes. The athlete thankfully returned home to his parents later in the week and a full recovery is expected.
In light of these tragic events, Rowing South Africa took the decision to cancel the remainder of the RMB VLC National Sprints Regatta. This difficult decision was taken out of the deepest respect for those affected and in the interests of the broader rowing community.
The VLRC Regatta Organising Committee wishes to thank all of those who made the regatta possible – our advertisers and sponsors, officials, athletes, coaches and supporters. We offer our sincere condolences to the families and friends of the young coach who died.
We look forward to seeing you all at the 113th Regatta in 2020.