16 July 2013
South African surf skiers dominated the International Canoeing Federation’s inaugural Ocean Racing World Championships in Portugal over the weekend, with Sean Rice and Michele Eray winning the open men’s and women’s titles respectively.
The Championships took place at Ofir, Esposend, on the north coast of Portugal and drew almost 400 competitors from all around the world.
The depth of talent in South Africa was on show in the men’s race, with South Africans occupying six of the top 10 places.
Sean Rice, who was recently crowned the South African Ocean Race champion, reached the shoreline first after setting a blistering pace and went on to win in one hour, 30 minutes and six seconds for the 22.5-kilometre downwind course.
He was followed across the line by Australia’s Tim Jacobs, who finished half-a-minute behind Rice, and Cory Hill, who picked up bronze, ending another 10 seconds back.
Afterwards, a happy Rice said: “That was my best race I ever raced. I cannot explain. It’s a fantastic feeling. I will go back home now and will start training again, after a big party of course.”
Rice will next focus on the ICF Canoe Sprint and Canoe Marathon World Championships that take place in August and September in Denmark.
Matthew Bouman claimed fourth place overall and was first in the 35-year age category. Grant van der Walt, the under-23 world marathon champion, finished in fifth place overall and was the first under-23 paddler across the line.
Hank McGregor, who had missed going for a tenth Berg River Canoe Marathon title to be at the World Championships, had to settle for seventh and third among the 35-year-olds.
Jaspe Mocke came home in ninth place and Brandon van der Walt was tenth overall and second to his brother, Grant, in the under-23 category.
The first place finisher in the 45-year age group was Herman Chalupsky, who occupied 12th overall. His brother, Oscar, a legend of ocean racing, with 12 Molokai Challenge titles to his name, was 19th overall and the winner of the 50-year age group.
Kenny Rice, younger brother of Sean placed 21st overall and was the first junior to finish. Compatriots Nicholas Notten and Geno Prato joined him on an all-South African podium.
In the women’s race South Africa also occupied every spot on the podium, with Michele Eray (1:43.27) edging-out her compatriot Michelle Burn by just over a second to take gold by the slimmest of margins. Bronze went to Nikki Mocke (RSA) in a time of 1:43.36.
Kirsten Flanagan was the leading junior women’s paddler, while Bianca Beavitt placed third in the women’s under-23 category, which was won by New Zealand’s Teneale Hatton.
In the doubles’ competition, the experienced combination of Hank McGregor and Grant van der Walt showed the rest of the field a clean pair of heels to win in one hour, 20 minutes and 49 seconds, a minute and 10 seconds ahead of Australia’s Tom Norton and Michael Booth.
There was a stunning performance from Australia’s Tim Jacobs and South Africa’s Michele Eray as they combined to finish third overall in the event.
Barry Lewin and Richard von Wildemann combined for a fourth place finish, while Sean Rice and Alexa Cole, another mixed team, came home in seventh position.
The leading under-23 mixed team was that of Brandon van der Walt and Kirsten Flanagan, who finished in an impressive 11th place overall.