Save the traditional regatta, enthusiast says in letter to the Prime Minister

Regatta enthusiasts feel hard done as the traditional 8 September boat races are cancelled because of COVID-19 restrictions  

The traditional regatta races are held twice a year in the Grand Harbour
The traditional regatta races are held twice a year in the Grand Harbour

Enthusiasts have called on the Prime Minister to “save” the traditional regatta after this year’s 8 September races were cancelled.  

“This sport was already dying a natural death, but in the last years interest in the sport has reignited,” Marlon Galea said in a letter to Prime Minister Robert Abela.  

His email follows a number of attempts by clubs and the National Regatta Association to communicate with the relevant authorities to find a solution.

On 17 July, a joint statement by the clubs and the association said that “a number of attempts to communicate with authorities” remained unanswered.

“It looks like the National Regatta is not considered a sport by the Maltese health authority, because others sports were given the greenlight,” the statement read.

It said the 31 March races had been postponed to the 7 June, but enthusiasts were informed of the cancellation just five days before through a media question to the public health superintendent.

“Despite all the necessary COVID-19 protocols and guarantees given, and despite full support from SportMalta, the sport, which is practised in the Grand Harbour area by athletes from Malta’s southern region is not being given the importance it deserves,” the statement read.

“One has to ask: Why this injustice? Is there another agenda?” the association questioned.

In a 14 August statement, the association also said it was “disgusted” by the way they were ignored, despite “open markets, churches and bays were allowed to operate”.

“Worse than that, requests for a meeting by association representatives were turned down by the authorities,” it said.

MaltaToday reached out to Marlon Galea, who said there is no hope for the 8 September competitions to be carried out, as deadlines for the athletes to start training have lapsed.

He said concerns over people congregating to watch the races were unfounded, as during last year’s competition, areas were cordoned off by the police.

“The race was streamed live on PBS, and the public could follow the race on television,” Galea told the Prime Minister in his letter.

Galea said clubs invested in new facilities, new boats and opened academies for new rowers. “It’s unfair and unjustified as long as there are other interests which we as enthusiast are not seeing.”

Galea’s sentiment is shared by other enthusiasts who also took to the Facebook group to complain on how the traditional sport is being ignored, with some even calling for a protest.

“Unless we protest, nothing will change,” one member said.

Others also complained on how football stadiums are being allowed to host spectators, but the regatta is not being allowed to take place.

Prime Minister reacts

In a reply to the email, Prime Minister Robert Abela said he has called on junior minister for sport Clifton Grima to seek a way forward with health authorities.

“I fully believe that we should sustain the sport,” he said.

Abela said a meeting will be organised with the association so that future plans are discussed.