27 June 2011
Hank McGregor snagged his third Dunlop Surfski World Cup title in Durban on Sunday, comfortably beating a powerful field and taming an uncooperative flat ocean to win the 26-kilometre race and the R40 000 winner’s prize.
By the 18-kilometre mark, with the world record field of paddlers snaking their way past the Umhlanga lighthouse, the contest had been reduced to a two-horse affair, with McGregor and defending champion Dawid Mocke trading blows like heavyweight fighters.
“At Peace Cottage, just after Umhlanga, I decided to make a move,” said an elated McGregor after his win. “Dawid (Mocke) didn’t come with me and I knew that was my chance.”
“The beach break at the new finish was a bit of a lottery, so I knew I had to put the hammer down and try to get some time in the bank,’ he added.
McGregor masterfully negotiated the mean backline and shore break at the finish at La Mercy to post a convincing victory from a storming Matt Bouman and a somewhat disconsolate Dawid Mocke, who crossed the line in third.
“That’s three wins out of five World Cups for me in my hometown, but more importantly, I’m feeling really good about my form at the moment,” said McGregor.
He now sets his sights on the defence of his Windhoek Berg River Canoe Marathon title in three weeks’ time.
While McGregor might well bask in the limelight, Bouman’s sensational charge in the dying stages of the race went largely unnoticed.
Having teamed up with rising Cape star Sean Rice in what appeared to be a dice for third place, with six kilometres to go Bouman took off, dropped Rice, and sliced past Mocke to claim his second runner-up medal in as many years.
“As much as I hate to admit it, there is no doubt about it, Hank is the best paddler in the world,” said Bouman, repeating the words of Mocke in the pre-race media briefing.
“I felt Dawid wasn’t going at his natural pace when he went with Hank early on, and I decided then to just race my own race.
“As we got closer to the finish and I finally decided to go I found my extra weight almost seemed to help me catch the runs and in turn I managed to go past Dawid,” he added.
Having worked so hard to stay with and challenge McGregor, defending champion Mocke had to settle for the bottom step on the podium.
“I went through a bad patch just after Umhlanga and I think Hank sensed I was battling and really pushed hard,” said Mocke.
“Towards the end Hank managed to string together a couple of runs, which I was unable to do, and when a guy of his quality gets ahead of you by 15 or 20 metres you find yourself going backwards pretty quickly,” he added.
The women’s race was totally dominated by Eastern Cape Olympian Michele Eray, who shrugged off a crippling dose of flu to win going away from defending champ Nikki Mocke.
“I felt terrible coming into the race. I spent all of Saturday lying on the couch like a granny and was not feeling good at the start. I got a small lead at the 800 metres turning buoy and was able to slowly pull away on my own from there,” said Eray afterwards.
While it is difficult to measure her performance in terms of margins of victory in the women’s race, she finished 25th overall in one of the most impressive performances by a female in an international event for many years.
“When you get totally obliterated, like Michele did to us today, it’s easy to see why she’s the best female surfski paddler on the planet. She was just too good for us and I felt like I was going backwards trying to stay with her,” said second placed Nikki Mocke.
Mocke, who was under-prepared for the event because of a crippling 10-week ankle injury, spent most of the race on her own and struggled in the flat conditions.
“At one stage I was screaming ‘How can there be 395 paddlers doing the same 26-kilometre race and I am all on my own?'” she chuckled afterwards.
Tenacious Australian Ruth Highman took third in the women’s race despite the complete lack of favourable downwind conditions that she has become accustomed to in Perth.
With just less than four hundred paddlers entering the event the Dunlop Surfski World Cup set a new world record for participation in an international event and got under way in a carnival-like atmosphere at Addington Beach.
After a week of volatile weather forecasts the anticipated south-west weather conditions never materialised and the huge field of singles and doubles had to slog across Durban Bay to Umhlanga and onto the Umdloti River mouth with regular pods of dolphins for company.
The big crowd at the finish was treated to plenty of entertainment as the massive eight-foot backline surf saw many crews’ races end in agonising swims with countless skis broken in the crunching shore break.
(SA unless otherwise stated)
- Hank McGregor 1:44.56
- Matt Bouman 1:45.31
- Dawid Mocke 1:45.59
- Sean Rice 1:47.26
- Tom Schilperoort 1:49.01
- Barry Lewin 1:49.52
- Jasper Mocke 1:50.22
- Bruce Taylor (Aus) 1:50.27
- Grant van der Walt 1:50.46
- Clint Pretorius 1:52.27
- Mark Anderson (Aus) 1:55.12
- Richard von Wildermann 1:55.36
- Brandon van der Walt 1:55.58
- Adam Nisbett 1:56.51
- David Slachta (Fra) 1:57.12
- Yannick Laousse (Fra) 1:57.26
- Murray Smith 1:58.05
- Dean Gardener (Aus) 1:58.44
- Dominic Notten 1:59.19
- Hennie Roos 1:59.54
- Michele Eray 2:02.00
- Nikki Mocke 2:07.38
- Ruth Highman (Aus) 2:14.02
- Donna Winter 2:19.19
- Kirsty Wessels 2:22.55
- Dominic Notten 1:59.19
- Craig Flanagan 2:03.58
- Kyle Friedenstein 2:05.23
- Kenny Rice (u16) 2:07.33
- Calvin McKie 2:14.57
- Daryl Bartho/Warren Jacobs 1:49.14
- Quinton Rutherford/Grant Woollastone 1:50.11
- Ryan Butcher/Jean-Luc Mauvis 1:50.56
- Brett Hadiaris/Ross Fountain 1:54.34
- Brett Bartho/Danica Vorster 1:55.25
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