11 November 2013
Hank McGregor and Jasper Mocke came out top in a battle of world-class crews in South Africa’s premier one-day canoeing race, the Ozzie Gladwin, on Sunday. In the women’s race, Abby Adie and Anna Adamova dominated to finish a strong 21st overall.
The outstanding field included four world champions in McGregor, Andy Birkett (u23), Cam Schoeman and Brandon van der Walt (u18); Czech star Jakub Adam, who finished sixth in the K2 competition at World Marathon Championships; current Dusi champion Lance Kime; former Dusi winner Michael Mbanjwa and Len Jenkins junior; rising Dusi star Sbonelo Zondi; and Australian national marathon team member Josh Kippin.
With such quality fighting it out for victory, the racing was extremely fast, fascinating and intense.
Brett Austen Smith, General Manager of the hosts, the Natal Canoe Club, was thrilled with the classy field. “I don’t believe we have ever seen such a world-class field in South Africa for a one-day canoe race. This really underlines the status of the Ozzie Gladwin as THE build-up race to the Dusi, and also emphasises the iconic status the Dusi Canoe Marathon holds in South African canoeing. We were really privileged to see such world class athletes in action this weekend.”
“We didn’t know what to expect,” McGregor admitted after clinching victory. “We’re up against pure Dusi crews here and I said to Jasper just before the start we have to try and stay in contention and hopefully catch up on the water, but we seemed to dominate the portage and we got out first and put in first, so that’s a big confidence boost for the two of us so early in the season.”
The pair’s victory comes on the heels of their win in the Vaal Canoe Marathon last weekend, which also served as the SA K2 River Marathon Championships.
Conditions were ideal – cool and windless – and the Albert Falls Dam flat, which made for a very fast start. At the takeout, McGregor and Mocke led into the portage, with Birkett and Zondi just behind them in second, Schoeman and Adam in third, followed by Jenkins and Matt Bouman in fourth, and Kime and Mbanjwa in fifth.
Somewhat unexpectedly, McGregor and Mocke reached the water first after the portage, with Birkett and Zondi holding onto second and Kime and Mbanjwa moving up to third.
After the two leading boats opened a gap on the other chasers, McGregor and Mocke put the hammer down at Cascade Rapid and pulled clear to win by 49 seconds over Birkett and Zondi.
Schoeman and Adam were in position to capture third, but they suffered a bent rudder about a kilometre-and-a-half from the finish and were passed firstly by Kime and Mbanjwa and then by Jenkins and Bouman.
“The race was very tough,” Zondi reckoned after finishing. “There were a lot of good combinations, especially on the dam where six boats jumped to the front together.”
While he admitted to not being fully satisfied with their performance on the day, three-time Dusi champ Birkett said he was satisfied with the rapid improvements the pair were making every time they paddle together.
Third place finisher Mbanjwa commented: “It was a tough race today, but I think we did alright. The field was very strong and Hank and Jasper are flying! Sbonelo and Andy are also very strong and managed to keep with up with them, where we couldn’t. But I think we’re getting better every day.”
“We’re trying to not read too much into results as this early stage, but we did notice that Hank and Jasper were very, very strong,” said Kime. “We know their paddling will always be phenomenal and they also ran very well today. Andy and Sbonelo are also great all-rounders and they are both going to be very difficult to beat in the Dusi.”
Women’s winners Adie and Adamova bent their rudder at the Cascades Rapid, but not even the loss of one or two minutes put them under pressure.
“We’ve had a good day,” said Adie. “It was quite relaxed, especially on the dam. We just hung with the other girls and then just before the portage we put in an interval and broke ahead. From the portage there was no looking back and we pulled away.”
“It was so hard,” Adamova laughed as she described the portage. The Czech star recently finished second in the K1 division and third in the K2s at the Marathon World Championships and based upon the pair’s early season form, they are going to very tough to beat in the 2014 Dusi Canoe Marathon.
Natal Canoe Club Chairman and Race Organiser Paul Firman declared himself very happy with the big entry of 632 boats and said he was especially pleased with the number of development paddlers competing. The quality of the field was pleasing too, he added.
Firman also paid tribute to race sponsor Cameron McKenzie of Parklane Superspar. “We’re very grateful. Cameron has done a huge amount for canoeing,” he said.
- Hank McGregor/Jasper Mocke 1:49:00.02
- Andy Birkett/Sbonelo Zondi 1:49:46.90
- Lance Kime/Michael Mbanjwa 1:51:37.43
- Len Jenkins jnr/Matt Bouman 1:51:55.83
- Cam Schoeman/Jakub Adam 1:52:20.15
- Brandon van der Walt/Josh Kippin (1st u23) 1:54:22.79
- Siseko Ntondini/Thando Ngamlana 1:54:32.88
- Lucas Mthalane/Mmeli Cele 1:54:36.23
- Damon Stamp/Mthobisi Cele 1:56:37.72 (1st u18)
- Murray Haw/Andrew Houston 1:56:46.14
- Abby Adie/Anna Adamova 2:06:32.00
- Jenna Ward/Kerry Segal 2:12:58.93
- Hilary Bruss/Donna Tutton 2:14:27.46
- Debbie Germiquet/Carmen Donald 2:18:04.07
- Kelly Howe/Hayley Arthur 2:18:27.70