Triton wins major student rowing competition
Gold fever and pub crawl: Varsity makes for great memories
Dressed in immaculate white pants, jackets and straw hats, hordes of students from all over the country flock to the Amsterdam-Rijn canal, in Houten. The sun is shining and the bar is open, so the visitors are in good spirits.
It’s not long until the first clods of earth and beer cups are flying through the air. Soon, the white pants are covered in black stains and jackets are ripped to pieces from frolicking with each other. With beers in their hands, students chant loudly to cheer for the rowing clubs. It gets even louder every time a favourite rows by. To the rhythm of the rowing, they go: ‘’Hup, holleee, hup holleee’’ or ‘’Alleez [Triton/Skadi/Argo]’’.
Two boys grab each other by their jackets during the brassiere.
The bee’s knees
Bart Geelen is a freshman at Triton and rows with the light team today. He’s busy disassembling the boat on the rowing grounds. “We’ve missed the A-finals by one second, so that’s a shame but we are progressing.” After this disappointment, he is looking forward to the main race of the afternoon. “I think it’s going to be fun when the Old Four start rowing. I hope they will win because that means we’ll get to have some drinks!”
Seniors Douwe ‘t Hart, Oscar Cnossen and Jelle Ykema – all three of them wearing a hat and holding a glass of wine – find it extraordinary that all shipping on the Amsterdam-Rijn canal has been temporarily halted to make room for the rowing competition. “This event is great to watch because all competitions include top rowers, the bee’s knees. They say that winning Varsity is even bigger than winning the Olympics.”
They also highlight the traditions of throwing earth clods, frolicking with each other, and going on a pub crawl when their team wins. The boys are still in doubt if they’ll go for a swim or not if Triton wins. One of them says: “In 2019 when Triton won, seventy-five percent of the association had what we call a 'gold fever.' They got sick from swimming in the canal but we called their condition 'gold fever' because we’d won.”
The students Douwe ‘t Hart, Oscar Cnossen and Jelle Ykema
We meet Gerben den Hertog in the VIP tent. He's got some fond memories of the event. “For me, Varsity is an intense experience because I used to row myself and I helped organise it. I’ve been attending it every year since 1996.” One of his best memories was winning a competition with his team in 1991. Today, he’s reliving these memories with his old teammates, with whom he still meets regularly.
Rolf Brzesowsky also has a special relationship with Varsity. ‘’My uncle was the one who arranged for Varsity to move from Amsterdam to Utrecht, so the event is closely connected to my family. I’m a rower myself and I like reuniting with everyone here. My children row as well, so I’ve also come to cheer them on.’’
Asked to share his most memorable Varsity moment, he mentions the edition of 1984, when he was part of the organising committee. “There was a huge storm going and Triton’s Old Four sank. They had to pull the steersman, who had hypothermia, out of the water.”
The victory of ‘67
Mister Rouwé (link in Dutch, Ed.) was a rower for Triton sixty years ago. Today, he and his wife are present at Varsity, an event that has a special meaning for him as he won the competition in 1968. He gave the gold tin he received for that victory to his wife. ''That was common back in the day,'' says the veteran. She still wears the plaque as a necklace. ''After the victory, of course we went on an extensive pub crawl on Janskerkhof and the building of the Utrecht Student Corps. That was fantastic.''
Since Mr Rouwé was the last winning stroke rower of the Old Four for 52 years, he addressed the new Old Four before the race for several years, hoping that the club from Utrecht would finally win again. That finally happened in 2019. Rouwé: ‘’It would be great if Triton won again today.’’
The Rouwé family.
Towards the end of the afternoon, the main races of the day started. In the Women's Four, Skadi from Rotterdam wins with a lead of over 8 seconds on the Utrecht-based club Orca. The boat has not yet crossed the finish line and Skadi's supporters are already in the water, swimming towards Rotterdam's heroines. ''It's the most epic thing I've ever experienced!'' said an overjoyed Linn Aanholt, one of Skadi's four victors.
Mister Rouwé’s wish comes true as well: the Triton men triumph with a lead of more than 12 seconds on Nereus, their forever rivals from Amsterdam. As soon as Triton's boat crosses the finish line, cheers erupt on the waterfront. The supporters of the club from Utrecht are in a state of ecstatic joy and they do not hesitate to jump in the water to congratulate the victors.
Everywhere students sing: ''Triton won Varsity, hi ha ho'', interspersed with long exclamations of the letter U. The same evening, the rowers, assured of eternal glory, are driven in a carriage to Dom Square for a reception in the Utrecht University Building, after which the party on Janskerkhof and Gele Kasteel can begin. Triton's victory clearly stirs something up among Utrecht's students. Cries of joy, ecstasy and traditions: that's what it means to win Varsity.