Champs defend Fish title in style

5 October 2010

Hank McGregor and Grant van der Walt retained their Hansa Powerade Fish River Canoe Marathon title on Saturday with a stunning come-from-behind victory over overnight leaders Len Jenkins and Matt Bouman, whose race imploded with a spate of small errors on the final stage.

McGregor and Van der Walt started the 36-kilometre stage into Cradock almost two minutes behind the race leaders Jenkins and Bouman, and took the tactical gamble to shift McGregor to the front seat of their boat.

“Grant was battling with fatigue after the World Marathon champs last weekend,” said McGregor. “So we decided that I’d drive the boat for the final stage.”

Tigerish pursuit

They set off on a tigerish pursuit and cut into Jenkins and Bouman’s lead until they caught the leaders just above Marlow Chute, three-quarters of the way through the final stage. The two boats then raced side-by-side to the massive Cradock Weir that has so often defined the outcome of the race 15 minutes from the finish .

With adrenaline coursing through their veins, McGregor and Van Der Walt won the flat-out sprint to the weir and shot the massive drop successfully before pinning their ears back for the final quarter-of-an-hour of rough water to the finish.

Behind them Jenkins and Bouman also shot Cradock Weir successfully, but a popped splashcover that saw them taking on a lot of water, effectively scuppered any chances they might have had of winning the race.

‘Brilliant’

Despite being deflated and frustrated, Jenkins gave credit where it was due. “Hank (McGregor) and Grant (Van der Walt) were brilliant today and they fully deserve their victory,” he said.

The last spot on the podium was decided by a ferocious tussle between German stars Max Hoff and Stephan Stiefenhoefer and the classy Czech Republic combination of Robert Knebel and Tomaš Slovak, with the Germans exploiting better lines in the final turn to edge to Czechs onto the inside of the river and off the podium.

The race was a very successful one for visiting internationals, who scooped four of the top eight places, with expat Stephen Bird and his Aussie sprint team partner Jesse Phillips finishing seventh, and the energetic Frenchmen Loic Vinysale and Quentin Bonnetain eighth.

Top five

Pierre-Andre Rabie and new Dusi champ Andrew Birkett rounded out the top five and in the process won the under-21 title.

Mark Mulder and Lance King started the race spectacularly, leading from the start at Grassridge Dam. However it ended in a double disaster for them on the final stage.

They had powered their way up to sixth place before they swam at Cradock Weir, and then contrived to T-bone a rock in the Golf Course rapids, which damaged the nose of their boat and resulted in a second swim in five minutes that effectively cost them four places.

Women’s race

The women’s race fell predictably to the polished crew of Robyn Kime, last year’s K1 winner, and Eastern Cape Olympian Michele Eray.

They started the final stage with an eight-minute overnight leader over Jen Hodson and Tiffany Kruger. By the end of the race they had inflated their advantage to 14 minutes, despite blemishes at Marlow Chute and Cradock Weir.

The win was particularly significant for Eray. She became the first Eastern Cape paddler to win the region’s canoeing “major” since the late Daniel Conradie in 1997, and finally bagged the Hansa Powerade Fish title that has eluded her for a decade.

Juniors

Brandon van der Walt and Ivan Kruger wrapped up an excellent race, taking the junior boys title with a solid 13th place overall.

For the first time ever the world record entry of 72 K3s was recognised as an official class. Victory went to the Chalupsky family crew of brothers Herman and Oscar, paddling with Oscar’s son Luke Chalupsky.

After racing in searing 40 degree heat on the long first stage, the race concluded with far milder Karoo weather for the shorter, easier final stage into Cradock.

Despite numerous mishaps along the way, there were very few major medical incidents, with the medics reporting only a fractured cheekbone and a dislocated shoulder as major incidents.

The event also saw the athletes themselves stage a fundraiser and awareness drive for the Cradock Cancer Care Unit by paddling in specially made pink caps, which raised close on R100 000 in a drive that coincided with the National Breast Cancer Awareness Week.

RESULTS

MEN

 

  • 1. Grant van der Walt/Hank McGregor 04:43:26

 

  • 2. Len Jenkins jnr/Matthew Bouman 04:45:01

 

  • 3. Stephan Stiefenhoefer/Max Hoff 04:49:26

 

  • 4. Robert Knebel/Tomas Slovak 04:49:27

 

  • 5. Pierre-Andre Rabie/Andrew Birkett 04:54:07

 

  • 6. Douglas Bird/Nicholas Burden 04:57:06

 

  • 7. Stephen Bird/Jesse Phillips 04:57:27

 

  • 8. Loic Vinysale/Quentin Bonnetain 04:58:06

 

  • 9. Gavin White/Zaren Courtney 05:01:00

 

  • 10. Mark Mulder/Lance King 05:02:32

 

WOMEN

 

  • 1. Michele Eray/Robyn Kime 05:17:54

 

  • 2. Jen Hodson/Tiffany Kruger 05:31:30

 

  • 3. Abby Adie/Lindi-May Harmsen 05:34:12

 

JUNIORS

 

  • 1. Brandon van der Walt/Ivan Kruger (U18) 05:06:55

 

  • 2. Murray Haw/James Speed (U16) 05:21:3

 

  • 3. Joseph Williams/Diviono Pieterson (U18) 05:30:58

 

SAinfo reporter

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