The wind began to pick up the day before the event was scheduled to start and after a series of postponed races, competitors were finally able to get on the water Saturday, 10 March in the evening.

The regatta is in its 47th year and is a unique event in international rowing. It is the only regatta to host two head-race distances and two sprint distances over two-days. It is open to eights and coxed quadruple sculls, and with more than 400 crews entered, the organisation is complex.

Under normal circumstances, the crews are organised into five blocks. On Saturday, the blocks row up the Amstel River to the start of the 2500m race. All crews gather behind the starting line before the first crew is called to attention and begins racing. The 2500m course travels down the bending Amstel River, lined with house boats and rowing clubs. The finish line is just past the Berlage Bridge, right in front of the organising club Nereus.

The crews are then shepherded through two more bridges, where they must then turn around and prepare for the next distance, a 250m sprint, going in the opposite direction. The sprints are fast and furious, with crews once again crossing the same finish line in front of Nereus. That is day one.

The second day of the regatta is organised in the same format. Except that the distances are 5000m for the head race and 750m for the sprint. At this year’s event, the weather made it impossible to get all 400 crews through all four distances. The organisers flipped the format, deciding to race the 2500m/250m on the Sunday with the better weather. In the end, most races on Saturday were cancelled, with only a handful of crews racing the 750m distance in the evening.

Racing went ahead as scheduled on Sunday. The weather did not deter those who travelled internationally for the event. The University London Boat Club (ULBC) attended the event with almost 40 rowers.

“We were training for the 5000m distance because of the women’s head next week, but unfortunately it has been canceled. We came to the Heineken for the experience of racing on water that we’re not used to with the mindset that we can accomplish anything,” says coxswain Louise Cox.

Thibault Tincelin, a masters rower from Nantes University Club, says that rowers from his club have been attending the Heineken for the last three years.

“The 2500m is a very good distance,” he laughs, “but the 250m is too short. It is good for the strong young guys, but for the masters it is better to go longer distances”.

With four distances, each crew is likely to find one that suits them best, but the international teams have a hard time competing with the experienced Dutch crews on their home water. The organising club Nereus took the majority of the wins over the weekend after putting together bullet-proof lineups of ex-Olympians and current national team rowers. But before long, the international crews are bound to come back fighting.

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