Regatta clubs concerned over speeding vessels inside Grand Harbour as boats prepare for Freedom Day races

​Regatta clubs are increasingly concerned with large vessels disobeying regulations when passing by smaller boats inside the Grand Harbour

Regatta clubs are increasingly concerned with large vessels disobeying regulations when passing by smaller boats inside the Grand Harbour.

Rowers and enthusiasts from various clubs have been voicing their concern at the way large motorised vessels, mainly pilot boats, are passing by smaller boats, causing a strong wake that puts rowers at risk.

A Regatta community group on Facebook has been flooded with these concerns as rowers intensify their training ahead of the races to be held on 31 March, Freedom Day.

The regatta is a traditional sport with races held bi-annually to mark Freedom Day and Victory Day on 8 September.

MaltaToday spoke to Birgu Regatta Club assistant secretary Marlon Galea, who explained how the situation is disrupting clubs’ training sessions as the Freedom Day race draws closer.

“Our rowers sacrifice a lot throughout the year, ensuring they are fit and sharp enough for the races. Unfortunately, our team and others are facing disruptions every day,” Galea said. “This is a clear sign of disrespect towards authority and the sport.”

He said the waves’ wake can easily capsize the boats, which are made of lighter materials in order to maximise performance.

Footage uploaded to the group showed pilot boats and cabin cruisers sailing at relatively high speeds past regatta boats as they train.

“We understand that everyone has to work, but these regulations have to be followed irrelevant of the vessel,” he said.

During races and training, boats are steered by coxswains which are normally young children.

“There are children aboard the boats, and if the situation persists, they could get hurt,” Galea said.

MaltaToday reached out to the transport authority, which regulates maritime affairs.

“With respect to the training sessions held by the regatta organisers and the events held twice a year to coincide with the 31 March and 8 September regattas, a number of maritime enforcement assets are deployed to assist with the related management,” Transport Malta said.

It said enforcement in the area is carried out by the Ports & Yachting Directorate.

“All vessels within our ports, including the Malta Maritime Pilots are regulated with respect to speed limits set in line with related legislation and Notice to Mariners,” the authority said.

This newspaper is also informed the Malta Rowing Association has met with Transport Malta CEO Brigadier Jeffrey Curmi to chart out a solution.

Galea said the Grand Harbour is the only place where rowers can train. “The tradition of rowers training in the Grand Harbour stretches back to the time of the Knights, but it is also the only area where you don’t have opposing currents.