Under the spell of rowing

For over 25 years, Atlas Services Group has sponsored the rowing teams of the Maritime University in Rotterdam (STC). A few weeks ago, Atlas Services Group interviewed the mentor of the rowing team, Kees-Jan Smit. Kees-Jan explained to us all the details of this unique and demanding sport.

What makes this sport so unique?

Kees-Jan: “What’s special to me is that in the event of setbacks and loss, we put our heads together and make the very best of it. It is a real team sport, where communication and trust are very important; great team spirit is essential. Many STC-students move from small towns and villages to the big city of Rotterdam where they don’t know many people. By participating a sport like rowing, you see lifelong friendships made. This social aspect is enormously appealing to me.”

How did the connection between SCT and rowing start?

“Originally, these competitions were the idea of maritime students and races were only held between the various maritime schools in the Netherlands. Now, companies have joined the national competition, which has made the battle more commercial. The main difference between business teams and teams composed of students is that student teams are constantly changing, due to internships, for example, and as a result they have less time to practice. Also—and that’s not something one would expect—the physical condition of adults is often better than that of students. This gives us a bit of a disadvantage in the competition.”

But that doesn’t scare you off, does it?

“Certainly not. We have proven ourselves and our abilities. Every year, on the Friday after Ascension Day, the King’s Race takes place: the Harlingen-Terschelling (HT) rowing race. This is a 33-kilometre race on the open sea involving some 140 boats. It’s a tough race held under all kinds of weather conditions. Last year we took 15th place and only just managed to achieve a podium position. To us, this was an achievement to be very proud of. The same goes for the Maasrace in Rotterdam last year, where we came in third. Unfortunately, the HT-race was cancelled this year due to strong winds. This was a shame, as we had trained for months.”

How do you create your teams?

“At the start of each school year, we motivate students to sign up. With these 30 to 35 new members that sign up each year, three teams of eight are created who will compete in the national competition. The competition consists of eight races that take place throughout the Netherlands. The rowers are mostly men. This year, however, a woman joined our teams: Heleen Huizenga, 2nd year student in the Naval Architecture program in Delft.” 

Atlas has been your sponsor for years. How did you first become involved with Atlas?

“My predecessors knew Thea Biemans from Atlas very well. She was a very loyal supporter and visited our competitions regularly. Now, Sr. Account Manager Dick Streefkerk is a regular visitor of the HT-race. I’ve known Dick for years. Atlas provides us with jackets and bags and also makes sure we can maintain our boats. The students are proud of their sport and of the merchandise that is sponsored by Atlas. I see them regularly parading around with their jackets at school.”

For more information about SCT, please visit www.freewebs.com/anthonyvanhoboken/.