This weekend, the NSFR rowing regatta took place on the Willem-Alexander Baan, a rowing course in the Eendrachtspolder between Rotterdam and Zevenhuizen. On the long course in the middle of the polder, eight boats from rowing associations from all over the Netherlands skim side by side over the water. Their rowers are cheered on by supporters cycling along the dyke.
Ton van der Steenhoven from neighbouring Nesselande was on his bike cycling his usual route through the lovely polders, but today he comes across a different public than usual: “Normally you only see spoonbills here,” he says, looking slightly perplexed. Today, however, the polder community consists of hordes of noisy students in club colours cycling along the dyke.
On the shady grandstand near the finish, the less sporty fans watch the races live on a screen, beer and candyfloss in hand.
Don’t binge, just row!
While students at this year’s Varsity engaged in some boisterous behaviour, the atmosphere at the NSFR is calmer. “The Varsity is a century-old tradition which involves a lot of beer and drinking, while this a more normal competition in which rowing really is the focus,” says Okeanos member Iris Koekkoek from Amsterdam.
Today, it’s all about the sport. Iris has been cycling up and down the dyke all day with her friend Anouk, cheering on her club. “But all that will change at the final party tomorrow evening. Then the rowers are allowed their first drink after a year of not touching a drop. After three beers, they’re already out for the count,” Iris laughs.
From 020 to 010
This year, to celebrate their 90th anniversary, the Rotterdam student rowing association Skadi campaigned fiercely to bring the NSFR rowing regatta to Rotterdam, and with success. “Since 1975, the NSFR rowing regatta has always taken place on the Bosbaan in Amstelveen. However, the course here in the Eendrachtspolder is much roomier because it was built for international competitions,” explains Lonneke Fruytier, one of the Skadi organisers. Because of this advantage, the Rotterdammers trumped Amsterdam this year and the festivities were moved southwards.
Not everyone was happy with this outcome. Among students in Amsterdam, a petition did the rounds against moving the regatta to Rotterdam. “That century-old rivalry”, Lonneke laughs. “Luckily the petition wasn’t widely shared and after a couple of days it disappeared.”
In order not to succumb to lamentations, the Amsterdam students decided to focus on the competition during the NSFR rowing regatta. On Saturday, Amsterdam’s Nereus end in first place with ‘heavy men’s 8’ and are generally doing well. Skadi has no chance of winning this class but one Skadiaan has already won a race.
At the end of the weekend, a victory can be added to the ‘anniversary number’ of the weekend of the Men’s Elite Eight of Skadi.
To cater for the warm weather, the host association has provided plenty of food and drink. The boulevard is lined with stalls offering a range of chips, smoothies and candyfloss. Jules is wandering around rather aimlessly. He’d been on the candyfloss stall but now he’s unemployed. “When I was making my first candyfloss, there was a power cut and the inflatable gate at the start of the boulevard collapsed,” he explains.
Now he’s trying it again and is conjuring up something blue that resembles Geert Wilders’ candyfloss hair from his machine, without causing a blackout. Carrying their candyfloss, the EM crew joins the cyclists making their way to the start at the end of the dyke. On the way, the group in their colourful club vests pass a spoonbill gazing at them in surprise. The birds here in the Eendrachtspolder are even odder than the stories say.