In 2003 five rowers had a dream. Three of them were preparing to qualify for the 2004 Olympics Games and were training full time with the South African National Squad. As it turns out, the dream involved more than just Olympic success, but something else.

All members of the Old Edwardian Rowing Club, Paul Backes, Ramon Di Clemente, Clifford Chaney, Rob Dormehl and Bruce Turvey had a vision for their sport that involved a new home for their boat house and club. It was decided to purchase some property on the banks of Roodeplaat Dam outside Pretoria, the body of water on which numerous Old Edwardians have spent countless hours plying their trade.

In 2004 a choice piece of land was identified and the five oarsmen chipped in what they had to make the purchase. Additional capital had to be raised via various investors for the deposit, as a career in rowing lends itself more to poverty than it does to wealth and fame. And so began an incredible journey of hard work and mixed fortune.

Their efforts resulted in The Blades, a stunning new venue situated at the Roodeplaat Dam in Kameeldrift area, North East of Pretoria. As a result, The Blades could now boast with a wide range of facilities with the rowing theme a golden thread throughout. The Blades officially opened on the first of March 2011, although the story of The Blades has already begun in 2003.

The big conference / function hall has recently been named the The Silver Goblet Banqueting Hall. The Silver Goblet is an event for coxless pairs, a rowing boat used in the sport of competitive rowing. The crew consists of a pair of rowers, each having one oar, one on the stroke side (rower’s right hand side) and one on the bow side (rower’s left hand side). (Source: Wikipedia)

The annually Silver Goblet takes place at Henley on Thames in England. This event has been won by South Africa on four occasions against the very best oarsmen in the world. The winners each receive a Silver Goblet to keep. This tradition of giving a pair of silver ‘cups’ to the winning crew started in 1850. Ramon di Clemente is one of the oarsmen who have won the Silver Goblet race four times and his triumph is of huge relevance to the owners of the hotel.

The Diamond Sculls, named after a highly prized and elite event at Henley Regatta, is a fitting name for their boardroom. Sculling generally refers to a method of using oars to propel watercraft in which the oar or oars touch the water on both the port and starboard sides of the craft, or over the stern. By extension, the oars themselves are also often referred to as sculls when used in this manner, and the boat itself may be referred to as a scull. (Source: Wikipedia)

The oarsmen have also built a fully equipped industrial kitchen, now being run under the expert guidance of executive chef Joe Owen and his team. The facilities allow for high quality meals to be served in the restaurant and on the outside wooden deck overlooking the dam, as well as in the Clubhouse bar, suitable for small private groups. This area is equipped with big screen TVs, screening most major sporting events. The gardens leading to the Roodeplaat dam are also suitable for picnics.

The Blades currently has ten rooms with plans to expand to 30 rooms by the end of 2012. The rooms are spacious, modern, beautifully decorated with luxury finishes and stunning bathrooms with all the modern conveniences, featuring luxurious Charlotte Rhys bathroom amenities.

The executive chalets reveal a cosy fireplace and an unexpected in-suite bath (bath in the room). The shower, basin and toilet are located in a separate en-suite bathroom. Alternatively, guests can enjoy the luxury double rooms or family rooms. Bed and breakfast rates range from R1 400 to R2 200 per room per night.

The advantage of a new development, other than having used the latest technology and design trends, lies also in the importance of bringing in the green factor, a very important aspect for the directors. Some of the green aspects include the use of a borehole and a double plumbing system, utilising grey and black water. Other green features consist of the building of a separate dam on the property and the elimination of alien trees, only to be focusing on indigenous trees and plants.

The entire electricity set-up is based on low and efficient energy usage, with all geysers working on a solar basis, with gas as back-up when needed. Buildings have insulated walls, thus climate control is easier and more efficient. The construction also uses gum poles and thatch for the rooms, as well as for the main building and function venue.

The Blades is multi-functional in the sense that it is a suitable venue for corporate groups, while being child-friendly and great for families in the same time. The spacious function venue allows the owners to host bigger corporate functions, as well as weddings.

Conferencing at the Blades can range from 10 to 200 guests, with the Silver Goblet Banqueting Hall accommodating up to 200 guests in banquet style.The Diamond Sculls loft boardroom, with natural light and own private area for tea / coffee breaks can seat up to 40 guests. In both venues, a data projector and screen is included.

Full day conference packages are available from R320 per person, 24-hour package rates from R890 per person sharing and R1 600 per person single. Catering for conference groups can be customised according to the client’s needs. Tea breaks include, amongst other options, homemade pastries, infused water, homemade ice tea and fruit kebabs. Lunch is usually al fresco style. Chicken is halaal, but strictly halaal and kosher meals need to be ordered in.

The restaurant is a great venue for buffet breakfasts of individually plated items such as crumpets with bacon and banana (R45) or lazy lunches, especially on the deck area on a sunny day. Cozy dinners can too be arranged. The restaurant is open to the public; we advise making a booking as the venue can also be booked on an exclusive use basis. The Blades also do high teas, as well as delectable picnic baskets.

During our lunch we enjoyed a perfect chargrilled 300 grams beef fillet steak with crispy onions and rocket on a sweet potato rosti and a seasonal salad (R115). The Glamorous Blades salad with smoked bacon, roast chicken, feta, olives, cherry tomatoes and salad greens was fresh, tasty and beautifully presented (R45). A tasty lemon chicken on basil crushed potatoes with garlic lemon aioli and side salad (R85) is just divine. The signature mushroom risotto as a light meal or main meal option is highly recommended.

Furthermore, the restaurant offers a variety of light meals, gourmet burgers, snack baskets, Panini’s, wraps and pasta dishes. You can conclude your meal with scrumptious sweet treats. The traditional apple crumble with cream or ice cream (R55) was chewy and utterly delicious. The wine list features an adequate selection with the average price ranging between R100 and R150.

Last but not least, The Blades attracts its guests with a wide range of teambuilding options including rowing with a pro, canoeing, motivational talks, culinary courses and fishing events. Not yet convinced?

Photos courtesy of The Blades.

For more information visit the blades at 012 808 9943 / 4 / 5

Also visit for more information on hotels, conference facilities and restaurants in South Africa, as well as international destinations.