Sunday’s Lion of Africa Reef Challenge at Point Watersports Club at the southern end of Durban’s beachfront saw curtain come down on the five leg 2015 Bay Union Surfski Series with recently crowned World Paddle Awards’ 2014 Sportsman of the Year Hank McGregor claiming both the final race’s spoils and the overall series title, as did Nicole Russell the women’s.
While much of his training has been focused on preparing for the 40th edition of 50km Molokai Challenge in Hawaii that takes place on Saturday 30 May, McGregor’s pedigree has seen him able to adapt to the series’ short racing format with aplomb as his clinched victory in three of the four races he competed in.
“Unfortunately I missed last week’s race due to being overseas but it was nice to come back this weekend and finish the Bay Union Surfski Series off on a good note with a win in the last race of the series,” said the Jeep Team/Epic Kayaks athlete and five time Canoe Marathon World Champ.
“I’m really stoked with my performances this series; it’s always a top class field here in Durban and Matt Bouman was back this week but I managed to open up a substantial lead on the first leg and just held it until the finish.
“I’m feeling good, feeling strong and now we’ll see how things go at Molokai; hopefully I can now fly the South African flag high overseas,” he added.
Epic Kayaks/SMG’s Matt Bouman dug deep but was unable to match the speed of a flying McGregor and in the end claimed second place ahead of surf lifesaving Ironman star Wade Krieger, recent Durban inhabitant Steve Woods and series coordinator and Jeep Team/Varsity College competitor Barry Lewin.
Like McGregor, Russell has been in outstanding form throughout this year’s autumn series and the Fenn Kayaks ace’s third race win of the series, together with her race one second place, hands her the 2015 series’ women’s crown.
“It was awesome and lots of fun even though it was quite a grind with it being quite flat,” explained Russell shortly after her Lion of Africa Reef Challenge. “I got away right at the start and then just looked to work the bumps that were out there as best I could.
“I am really, really pleased with how things have gone for me through the Bay Union Surfski Series. I’ve been training really hard with Lee McGregor and the MacSquad and the girls have all been so strong so I’m really stoked to have won the series!”
Russell raced home ahead of regular series rivals and fellow Fenn Kayaks racers Michelle Burn and Jenna Ward while Fenn Kayaks under-18 star Kyeta Purchase edged out a resurgent Donna Tutton for fourth position.
The doubles clash of the Lion of Africa Reef Challenge enjoyed the presence of two new faces at the front of the highly competitive category as under-18 youngsters Luke Criticos and Thomas Lovemore edged out Shaun Burgin and Richard Lowe while the experienced Gustav Kriese and Neil Evans finished third.
The 7km short course race was won by Craig Stuart while Savannah van Rooyen and Joshua Gibbings claimed the doubles victory.
The Lion of Africa Reef Challenge was hotly followed by the sprint-like Bay Union Shootout around one of Durban’s landmarks, Vetchies Pier.
The men’s clash once again saw McGregor charge home in first place ahead of Woods, Clinton Cook, Bouman and Prato while Russell was forced to settle for second place as Burn claimed the women’s spoils with ward finishing third.
The conclusion of the 2015 Bay Union Surfski Series is set to be celebrated by participants, spectators, organisers and sponsors alike on Tuesday 19 May at the series’ prize giving at Point Watersports Club at 18h30. More information can be found at www.pitchandpaddle.co.za
Images: Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media