Monday, June 27, 2011

Stocherkahnrennen 2011

While so many of us were either talking about, or recovering from the famous Vogalonga, an interesting boat race of a different type was taking place in a town called Tübingen, Germany.
Since 1956, this race between long punt boats has taken place on the Neckar river.
To call it a punt race would really sell this thing short.
And while I haven't yet witnessed the Stocherkahnrennen in person yet, I've learned a few things in my obsessive research.
To begin with, there are usually about fifty boats taking part.
The boat is piloted by a guy at the back with a stick (I believe he's the "stocherer").
But there are eight people on each boat.  The other seven crew members paddle with their hands, fend off or grab hold of other boats, and seem to make a lot of noise in the process.
One of my favorite aspects of this race is that it follows a type of figure-eight course.
And just like the old smash-up derby car races, this figure-eight configuration is the closest thing to a guarantee that the boats will crash into each other.
As you might have guessed by now, Tübingen is a college town, and many of the boats involved are crewed by members of fraternities and other student groups.
My guess is that many show up at the starting line, already well "marinated".
Cheers from the crowds along the river and on the bridges help to encourage these punt-paddling warriors.
The winning boat receives a "barrel of beer".
Many boats also compete in the costume category.
More than anything though, nobody wants to be in the last boat to cross the finish line, because they each have to chug down a half-liter of cod liver oil, and are held responsible for organizing next year's race.

I hunted down the video segments of the race on YouTube, and then the folks at loaded them up to their site.
So set aside some time, grab yourself a stein of beer if that helps, and enjoy the video clips of Tübingen's Stocherkahnrennen.

for some great photos and some thoughts in english, see Santa Barbara photographer Cody Duncan's website

I am far from an authority on this crazy german boat race, so anyone who feels like sharing further info on Stocherkahnrennen is welcome to do so in the comment box.

Maybe next year a bunch of us can go out there and race one of those punts.
Well, actually, I'm not really a fan of cod liver oil, and I do believe in Murphy's Law.


Chris said...

Sounds quite similar to 'Dongola' racing on the Thames - I will try and dig out some pictures....

Gondola Greg said...

Thanks Chris.
I'd love to learn more about it.