Speech delivered by Professor Joseph N Grima, President – Malta Rowing Association (Ghaqda Regatta Nazzjonali u Qdif Iehor), as part of the draw ceremony held on Tuesday 5th September 10:15am, Senglea.
It is my pleasure to formally announce the lineups of the 2017 National Regatta. This regatta will be held on Friday 8th September with first race staring at 1pm. As per tradition, this year’s program will include ten races using traditional wooden boats. Maltese rowers have been training for months for this main rowing event in Malta in the hope to win a palju in the races which normally end up neck and neck right up to the finishing line.
Training with traditional rowing boats in the heat of the summer months brings life to our Grand Harbour which would otherwise be just like any other busy semi-industrial harbour. Through their sport, rowers have managed to continue showcasing the beauty of our maritime past and provide tourists and locals with a most unique photo opportunity to take back home with them. Sea rowing in a semi-enclosed region, such as our harbour, has its own unique challenges as the water currents can be highly unpredictable.
Unfortunately, in recent years, partly due to the rapid progress that Malta is making, on-water training for the Regatta at the Grand Harbour is becoming increasing difficult due to the significant increase in activity. As I can vouch from first-hand experience, rowers are finding it increasing difficult to train in a safe manner, something which is reaching the point of almost being impossible to train. It is ironic that even operators from the tourist industry, packed with tourists photographing our rowing boats, sometimes seem to forget that our boats are much more unstable then theirs. These large vessels often drive at a speed and proximity to us that forces us to abandon our training and do our best not to capsize. We appeal to private motor boat operators to show respect to our rowing tradition and our rowers as otherwise, traditional rowing as we know it may become something of the past. In this respect we thank Transport Malta for assisting us whenever they can. I also make an appeal to the authorities to consider making it a legal requirement for private motor boats to drive ‘dead slow’ in the two months preceding the regatta when they are in the proximity of a rowing boat. This will ensure that the future of our rowing tradition is preserved and guaranteed to be passed on intact to future generations.
On the day when the draws are being made, I feel obliged to thank the present administration for the stand it is taking on the issue of fair play in sport. There is nothing which rowers and other sportsman fear more than having their hard work being spoiled by individuals who, for their own personal gain, try to influence in some way or another the results of a competition. Earlier this year, the association has also amended its regulations which now specifically require that a police report is lodged when someone becomes aware of lack of fair play. We hope that everyone understands that our rowers have trained for months to get the good results they are hoping to achieve this Friday. They want to win races on their own steam and any attempt to interfere with the process will only tarnish the reputation of whoever is involved and the sport itself.
Malta Rowing Association has made great progress in recent years to increase the popularity and integrity of our sport. I would like to specifically mention the setting up of a new International Regatta held biennially on the 7th June, with the next race scheduled for 2018. Another very important step forward is the commencement of a process which will see the establishment of an independent umpiring body. In this respect I would like to thank Mr Adrian D. Casha, our Chief Umpire, and his team for the sterling work they are doing both on the day of the Regatta, and before. I would also like to thank all those who assist us throughout the year, particularly SportMalta who provide the financial and logistical support for this very technically complex event as well as the the Hon. Dr Clifton Grima and his team at the Secretariat who do their utmost to help us. A word of thanks is also due to the Hon. Chris Agius for his sterling work in the field of sport in past legislature.
Finally I would like to thank the University of Malta for sponsoring the Association for this event. Over the past few year, the University of Malta has been involved in a number of projects related to rowing which range from studies related to traditional rowing biomechanics or nutrition to projects which look into the surface currents in our habour. Such studies, will not only benefit rowers, but the community at large, and it is hoped that other private and public entities will come forward with projects and ideas which will see our rowing tradition grow and prosper.