You’ve probably been to a regatta by now. Chances are that you took way too much or far too little. There is a balance between nothing and the kitchen sink. While your child is packing boats on trailers, you’ll find yourself doing much the same thing.
Another rowing mom shared her regatta ready plan with me (Tx Carla) and I’ve used it ever since. She bought a big black storage box on wheels. In it lived a cooler box, water bottles, chairs, hats, umbrellas, first aid and about a ton of sunscreen.
These days you can get a Jolly Trolley. If you’re in this for the long haul, invest in one. They’re better than my big black box on wheels, because they’re like a 4×4, they can handle any terrain. And there’s plenty of terrain. It doesn’t look so bad when you get there, but it seems to become more treacherous as the day goes on.
What to pack for your child
Sunscreen. Rowers seem to prefer the light, spray sunscreens that don’t make them feel oily. Try Everysun’s SPF 50 Sportx Sunscreen Invisi Aerosol Spray – this is the favourite of my lot because it’s easy to apply.
Put on your best parental take-no-prisoners voice in the morning and get your child to put on sunscreen everywhere before putting on a tri-suit. If they say that they’ll do it later, they will come home looking like Donald Trump. Not a good look. The glare coming off the water, even if it’s overcast, can roast a chicken in under an hour.
A camping chair. Your rower will sit with their crew and come off the water shattered. They need somewhere to relax and recover. Some schools only allow the Opens to have their own chairs, in which case send along a camping mat and a pillow.
A towel. Just in case. You never know. Also, if they have to have an ice-bath, they are going to need one.
Water. I used to cart along a 5 litre bottle, but now I just freeze a lot of 500ml bottles the night before. The water at Roodeplaat Dam is not safe to drink and rowers get dehydrated very quickly. It’s worthwhile adding a sachet of Rehydrate to the water.
Chocolate milk. I don’t know why, but after a race this perks them right up.
Food. Rowers eat a lot and they need a lot of protein to recover. Make sure you pack some biltong (for the protein) and fruit. Once they come off the water they’re hot, exhausted and faintly nauseous. They can buy a prego roll when they want to, but make sure they have healthy snacks to munch on all day.
Ice packs. These will keep the food cold, but are also excellent to cool down an over-heated rower.
Sunglasses. Your rower will need a good pair on anti-glare glasses to wear on the water.
Hat / cap: Obviously, their school one.
School uniform. This isn’t always essential, but at the big regattas, they will need to change into their formal uniform for prizegiving. Put it on a hanger and cover it with a garbage bag to keep it dry and clean.
Sandals or slops. I call this ‘Save the socks!’. On the trip to and from the jetty your rower’s socks (that you just bought) will quickly become holes held together by pieces of thread. Just get them some slops.
Dustbin bag. In a vague attempt to help them keep their site clean so that you don’t have to clean it up before you can all go home.
Data. They will need some. Or a lot.
A book. For when their phone battery dies. Some try to do their homework, but I’m not sure any work done in this environment is going to be worthy of an A+.
A first aid kit. With disinfectant spray and plasters.
Cash. For food and more water.
What to pack for you
Camping chair. Go for lightweight over plush comfort. These will probably live in your car boot for the duration of the rowing season, so the smaller they are, the better.
Hat + Sunglasses + Sunscreen
Something to do. Rowing is like war, there’s a lot of waiting around followed by short bursts of extreme stress and excitement.
Binoculars. Or, you’ll end up like me gamely shouting motivation at the wrong rower from the wrong school in the wrong race.
Dress code. This isn’t a day at the polo or the races. There are no prizes for the best dressed. Dress in light layers – 6am is chilly, then it rapidly becomes the fires of hell, then there may be a thunderstorm.
Shoes. Wear very comfortable shoes that you don’t mind getting a little dusty. The ground is rocky, so unless you want to look like a baby giraffe about to fall over its own feet, don’t wear heels. Trainers, thick-soled sandals – oh hell, probably Birkenstocks or Crocs are possibly best. If, like me, this offends your sensibilities, do, like me, get over yourself.
Cash. Although you can use Snapscan or your card at some regattas, you’ll need cash for entry and it’s just easier.
Children. Pack a little pup tent so that they have somewhere to escape from the sun. If you can, let them sit it out at a playdate or at Grandma’s. It’s a long day for small people. Larger, non-rower members of the family might like to ride their bikes around the reserve.
Patience. You’ll need a lot of this, more as the day goes on and peaking when you have to watch your rower pack boats at a snail’s pace before you can go home.
You’ll probably be sitting with your team support crew (aka other rowing parents) under the school or club gazebo. So, you don’t need this weighing you down.
Rowing at Roodeplaat Dam
Get to Roodeplaat early. And I do mean early. Aim for at least 06:30am. You need to put ‘Roodeplaat Rowing Club’ into your GPS. ‘Roodeplaat Dam’ could take you to entirely the wrong side of this body of water.
Once you get to the gate, you may find yourself sitting in a long queue with a panicking rower freaking out about being late. You can either throw them out and make them walk or make a plan for the future.
My advice is to buy a season pass. It may seem like a hefty investment, but it will save you time and money. It also lets you drive in the out and bypass the traffic jam with a superior smirk on your face.
Need a sanity break?
There is a Spar down the road if you need more snacks. Turn left at the Roodeplaat exit and you’ll find it a few kms down the road on your left).
There is a Tops there too, in case you need to hang out in the refrigerated beer section for a bit.
A little further back towards the highway is the Kollonnade Shopping Centre where you can do your shopping in between races.
And the Bushmans Rock Spa, just in case you need to fit in a little pampering.
For long weekend regattas like SA and Gauteng Champs, you may decide to stay over.
The camp grounds at Roodeplaat are basic, but not bad. I’ve never booked, but always found a spot. The sites by the water have no power and the mozzies swarm down there. I tend to pick a caravan site with power and in close proximity to the loos. The upside is that you’re close to the action and can sleep in a little longer. The downside is in the extreme heat, you will start to melt and tempers will get frayed.
There are some excellent places nearby, but they get booked up very quickly, so if you plan on it, book now. As the years go by, you will learn to place your bookings about a year in advance.
Hengelaars Vriend (AKA Joy Unspeakable): this is right next door. Literally. It’s at the 2km start line.
The Blades: For a real VIP experience.
Segaia Bush Retreat This is my favourite. There are hiking and mountain bike trails, and a swimming pool to entertain other less-rowing inclined family members.
Check out SA Venues for more
If anyone has other regatta survival tips to share, please add them in the comments!