Drink or Sink: The Aarhus ‘Kapsejladsen’

It must have something to do with vikings: Aarhus students celebrate spring with a tournament on boats and beer.

By Maximiliane Koschyk


The 25th of April the students of Aarhus University celebrate their annual ‘Kapsejladsen’ tournament at the University Park. Photo taken from the AU website

Cup-soy-lay-sen. cup-su-lei-son:  the danish wordkapsejlads’ is by far not the easiest one to pronounce. Better yet, for a foreigner in Denmark there are not many reasons to learn such a complicated word. The obvious reason might be for sailing enthusiasts, who are eager to witness a stunning sailing regatta at the Danish coast, because thats what a kapsejlads is.

But as a foreign student at Aarhus University, the reason to remember this particular vocabulary is an upcoming date: In less than two weeks, at the 25th of April the students of Aarhus University celebrate their annual ‘Kapsejladsen’ tournament.

At the Aarhus Kapsejladsen there are – as with a real regatta – still boats involved. But instead of the high seas, the competition takes place at the Aarhus University park: in and on the banks of its pond. Here the 12 teams, representing the faculties of the university, do not have to master wind and weather, but their balance and ability to drink beer.

The procedure of this ‘ølstafet’, the beer relay, is simple: each of the 5 members from each team has to first drink a bottle of beer as fast as they can, then spin ten times around it, hop into their awaiting boat, roar across the pond, repeat the beer routine and roar back. The race is divided in three heats, with four teams competing against each other.

Within the last 20 years, this event has integrated itself into the Aarhus student culture. “It has become a very hyped event at the campus”, Julie Neidhardt, a Danish student, explains. Over 15,000 visitors are expected to this years edition, suggests a look at the event’s Facebook profile. With each year, the complexity of the event has grown. Now not only the skills in the race have to entertain the audience. “The teams plan huge introduction scenarios”, Neidhardt adds. “One team dressed up as Star Wars last year and reenacted scenes from the movie.” The spectators spent the whole day in the park, musical guests and a big after party are part of the day-long programm.

Throughout all the fun a lot of students still prepare well for the competition: “Some teams have been practicing since february”, says Jeppe Lautsen, another Danish student. Since this year, Denmark was treated with a cold and long winter, the conditions for training were extreme”. They even had to crack some of the ice to form a canal between the two banks of the pond.

As for the drinking, the skills of the students are just as impressive: not only does the medical faculty hold the record of eight wins within the last 23 Kapsejladsen, but their team members’ are known for being able to empty a beer bottle within less than four seconds. Each year, one month ahead of the race, the faculties team meet at one of the university’s traditional friday bars to have a ‘drink-out’ about the groupings for the heats. This is where the teams already qualify themselves with their beer gulping strength: If the representative finishes his bottle within one draw, they are in. If the beer left in the bottle is above the bottom part of the paper label, the whole team is out.

Yet, some teams don’t take the competition that seriously: students of the Science Faculty may not have invented a teleporting device yet, but they sure wanted the audience to believe so one year: “Each year they arrange some sort of transportation alternative, that gets them disqualified”, Lautsen says. “They placed a phone booth on each side of the bank and put look-a-like students in each, pretending they transported themselves that way over the river.”

While the shenanigans change, the tradition stays. And no matter if pronounceable or not, the Aarhus Kapsejladsen will be a unique experience of danish student life for every visitor, according to the students. “Remember to get there early”, Neidhardt suggests. “And obviously, bring beer.”


2 responses to “Drink or Sink: The Aarhus ‘Kapsejladsen’

  1. Pingback: Aarhus getting ready for the Kapsejladsen | in-sight out magazine·

  2. Pingback: Aarhus wita wiosnę. Nagimi biegami i pijanymi regatami | World Non-Fiction by Dominik Sipinski·

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