With Victory Day being celebrated today, we are reminded of a centuries-old tradition, the regatta. The first ever professional rowing challenge was in 1955, and although regatta is synonymous with this feast, the regatta race also takes place on the 31st of March, known on the islands as Freedom Day.
Hundreds gather by the water’s edge every year. Last years’ edition saw the tradition resume in full swing for the first time since COVID-10 hit. Naturally, on such sportive festivities, tourists, spectators and members of the clubs start feeling peckish and have the occasional drink, or two. WhosWho.mt spoke to businesses in the areas of the Grand Harbour where normally locals and tourists gravitate in order to watch the much-anticipated races.
WhosWho.mt spoke to Pierre Gourmet, the French man running Le Regatta Restaurant at the Senglea Regatta Club. He goes on to explain that the name behind the restaurant, obviously, was prompted by the sporting club however, he had decided to add a French twist to incorporate his native country.
Opening on March of 2021, he states that last year the business saw a very good client turnout, even in the March races of this year. “The regatta is a very important event for the three cities and the number of people that attended and watched was quite impressive.” He added that during the March races, a “massive amount of people” came to visit the Le Regatta and he is expecting a good turnout today as well, whilst reiterating the importance of this tradition to the local community.
Asked more on the preparations for this year’s festivities, Mr Gourmet stated that the restaurant has been preparing to welcome customers since yesterday. “Today we will not be selling food because we will be swamped with selling ice-cold drinks and our focus will solely be on our drink truck on the outside of our restaurant,” Mr Gourmet explained.
LeRegatta is situated in Senglea
Reacting to the unstable weather, he said that regrettably, if it starts to rain, the restaurant must close its doors, given that its aim is to serve the customers outside. Fortunately, the races are still on and it will be waiting to welcome regatta supporters, with open arms.
Consequently, the Le Regatta is also in the midst of another celebration around the Grand Harbour. With the commencement of EuroPride Valletta 2023 on our islands, Mr Gourmet told WhosWho.mt that Le Regatta is part of the ‘Pride Around the Grand Harbour’. In fact, he explains, that attendees can hop on a traditional Maltese Water Taxi (dgħajsa tal-pass) directly from the restaurant. Le Regatta will be serving drinks and food to those who attend.
The Harbour Club and Kisra are situated right next to the ferries dock overlooking the Grand Harbour from Valletta's side.
On the other side of the Harbour, WhosWho.mt spoke to The Harbour Club and Kisra, who fall under the ownership of Charlotte Sullivan. Speaking to the manager of the Harbour Club, Stefan Agius, he explains that last year the Michelin star restaurant did not have a large demand for regatta watchers and so it was decided that Kisra would open its doors to those who would support the sport and watch from a spectacular point, near the fast ferry dock in Valletta.
“Kisra offers a lot of snacks and drinks. We are expecting for people to come and watch the regatta races within our outdoor spacing at Kisra,” Mr Agius remarked. Asked on the operations of Kisra in the wintery months, where most days the weather is not on their side, he states that its difficult to manage, however, they cater for people who work in the vicinities, such as the customs officers.
“Often times we also cater for those who make use of the fast ferry to Gozo and to those who come and go to Birgu by boat. But if the rain hits us, its very difficult to have customers since most ferries won’t operate,” Mr Agius explains.
The view from Fort St Angelo Source: Wikimedia Commons
Right across the restaurant and the snack bar, on the other side of the Harbour is Fort St Angelo and whilst normally the site is recognised for its impeccable views of the harbour and for its historic value, Heritage Malta has organised an activity to attract more people by selling entry fees at a reduced price. This year, Fort St Angelo has also opted to organise a bar with food and drinks.
“The bar will be offered to those who visit the premises and watch the races from our bastions,” Heritage Malta explains.
What is the regatta all about?
Competing in the race, are cities bordering the Grand Harbour; Cospicua, Kalkara, Marsa, Valletta, Senglea, Vittoriosa and Birzebbugia. But the teams do not just compete in one race and call it a day. In total, there are 10 races subcategorised in two: the “open” category for professional rowers and category B, for less experienced rowers.
Each category must participate in five races and at the end, the club with the most points wins that category. The top three finishers in each race are allocated a set of points and by the end of all regatta races, the club with the greatest number of points is awarded the Aggregate Shield.
Naturally, this celebration of tradition has unique characteristics that undoubtedly attract lots of locals and even more tourists to the areas. Each club is identified by a colour. For instance, Birzebbuga’s colours comprise of red, white and blue, whilst Senglea’s colours are red and yellow.