Gold at The Varsity is for many Dutch rowers way more important than a World-Cup, World Championship and Olympic victory combined.
Early April, and every student boat club in the Netherlands is preparing for what is the most prestigious student boat-race in the country: the Varsity. Men and women’s eights, fours, single and double sculls prepare to row on what is considered by many the holy Varsity-water: The Amsterdam Rijnkanaal near Houten in the center of The Netherlands. This busy shipping lane is blocked one day every year, so student rowers are able compete for gold and silver medals. It is time for the Lomo LCA , Spinner , Fisheye No.2 Black and Sprocket Rocket to cover this wonderful day.
Since 1878 the boat race has been held 128 times, making it one of the oldest sports events in the country. With many different kinds of boats competing for victory the most prestigious division is the ‘Old Fours,’ with the four best rowers of every boat-club competing for eternal glory, and solid gold medals, in a seven lane final over a 3000-meter course. The railroad bridge that crosses the canal is the characteristic finish line with the spectators field at its feet.
A typical Varsity day starts off slow, as many students like to sleep in and do not arrive until the sun is high above the course. Then the picnic baskets are unpacked and people watch the first heats which decide who will compete in the finals later that day. As a traditional boat race the Varsity is ideal for wearing your straw hat, worn-out boat club blazer and tie. Much like the Royal Henley Regatta and the Boat race between Oxford and Cambridge, students come from all over the country to support their boat clubs crews.
Former boat club members like to gather on the other side of the canal on a classy ship, sipping their champagne and reminisce about their own victories of times past. They amuse themselves, watching the races and the students on the other side who are drinking and singing their boat club songs, and stealing other boat club flags from the flagpoles.
The Varsity being a student boat race, it is organized by students and facilitated by professional referees. It is the only student boat race with live coverage on a 30m2 wide screen on the other side of the canal.
When the clock strikes 5, it’s time for the ‘Old Fours’ to row their race over 3000 meters. This year, the Amsterdam boat club Nereus won. Traditionally dozens of excited, and barely dressed fans jump in the water to greet their heroes, that brought the Varsity Gold to Amsterdam once again.