Basel Head honoured
A new record number of participants, an additional competition, and an almost legendary boat at the start for the first time – the international rowing regatta “Basel Head” continues to go from strength to strength.
By Martin Pütter
The former England international Gary Lineker has once said about football (soccer for US readers): “a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win.” With slightly different wording he could have said the same about rowing; at each international race for eights the German boat has been one of the favourites since the sixties of last century – if it participated. This year, during the Olympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, they may “only” have won the silver medal, but previously Germany’s flagship eight had won gold four times at Olympic Summer Games, and won the World Championships 16 times.
And now that Basel Head is held for the seventh time, the German eight will make its first start there. The competition is strong – for example the Dutch eight that won the bronze medal in Rio will be there as well. If you take all categories and all competitions together, 126 boats will take part – a new record for Basel Head. 100 boats will do the against-the-clock race for eights on a 6.4 km long stretch of the Rhine in Basel, with the turn below the Birsfelden hydro-electric power station. Some of the eights participating, including the Swiss lightweight eight as last year’s winners, have an advantage there: they already know the turn – it is a first for the German eight.
This event also turns a German saying on its head. “What does not cost anything is not worth anything” is probably an apt translation. But over 10’000 spectators at last year’s event certainly disagreed; they were able to watch the boats race past from within touching distance, to see the white of the rowers’ eyes, for example at Mittlere Brücke, or between Wettsteinbrücke and Tinguely-Museum where, so far, most of the overtaking manoeuvres have taken place in the past. Going upstream, the boats try to keep the flow resistance as low as possible – the closer to the banks, the better. And it will be the same this year.
What is new this year is the sprint competition. The starting line will be at the Minster ferry, the finish line at the Klingental ferry. Some boats will use this sprint race as a competitive warm-up for the main race – and the spectators will get an impression of how fast boats can be with muscle power, skill and current. “The best crews will probably need around 40 strokes for the course and attempt to race the distance in under a minute”, the organisers wrote in a press release.