Triple Canoe Marathon World Champion Hank McGregor regained the lead in the 2014 Varsity College Marine Surfski Series men’s title race when he returned to the ocean for the first time in a few weeks and claimed an important race victory in the HiQ Surfski Challenge on Friday evening.
McGregor was a notable absentee from the star-studded line up in recent weeks as he and the Western Cape’s Jasper Mocké put in a second place effort in the Dusi Canoe Marathon before clinching victory with Sbonelo Zondi in the Non-Stop Dusi Canoe Marathon two weeks later.
A welcome return to the ocean on Friday evening saw McGregor, who has claimed the series’ men’s title for the past four years, put in yet another dominant performance in his ski as he clinched his fifth race victory of this year’s popular summer surfski series and opened the doorway to claim a deserved fifth series crown.
“With a couple of canoe races behind me it was great to be back in the ski!” said McGregor. “It was my first surfski race in a while so it was really great to get another win under my belt.
“I’ve also moved on to Epic Kayaks now and this race was the first one in the new craft so it was really nice to be able to pull off the win for the new team,” he added.
With fellow title challenger Matt Bouman’s absence from the race McGregor went head to head with good friend, training partner and regular doubles companion Grant van der Walt of Varsity College/Team Jeep while McGregor’s father, Lee, series organiser and Varsity College/Team Jeep athlete Barry Lewin and emerging youngster Kyle Friedenstein all looked to claim a race podium finish and important series log points.
“It was super hot and humid before the race and there was very little assistance in terms of wind so it was always going to be a tough task,” said McGregor.
“After he seconded me in the valley last Friday it was nice that Grant (van der Walt) and I could both get back in the ski and we had a nice lap and a half dice before I put the hammer down and managed to open up a bit of a gap.
McGregor now stands perfectly poised to clinch his fifth consecutive series title as he requires just a leisurely finish in the tenth and final leg of the series, the Varsity College Surfski Challenge, on Friday 14 March.
Having won his four previous titles with six victories making up his perfect series score there will however be little doubt as to McGregor’s goal come the series finale which also doubles as the Varsity College South African School Surfski Championships.
“I’m really looking forward to next Friday!” said a determined McGregor.
van der Walt came home to clinch second place ahead of Friedenstein in third while McGregor’s father, Lee, claimed yet another top five finish despite being a grandmaster competitor as he edged out Lewin for fourth place.
With 2014 women’s title winner Michelle Burn of Fenn/Team Jeep again opting for the more social mixed doubles approach with her husband Oliver, the women’s race was once again dominated by Varsity College’s Sport Life programme’s Nikki Russell while Jenna Ward claimed second.
The Nisbet brothers were too strong for Lee Furby and Mark Mulder in the doubles category, claiming a strong first place finish while probable series’ doubles title winners Shaun Dias and Wayne Wilson claimed third.
With the SA Schools Champs just around the corner Jordan Clauson again edged out under-16 star Brett Wilken and will now hope his good recent form will hold him in good stead when the talented young stars from the Western Cape descend on Durban in a few days’ time.
Donald Brierley won the singles category of the short course event with Warrick and Caryn Mac Nicol holding off Marine Surf Lifesaving young stars Sandile Shange and Trent Baird in the doubles division.
The attention of the paddling fraternity now turns to the Varsity College Surfski Challenge, the final race of the 2014 series, whilst the country’s top school pupils will also go head to head in the Varsity College SA Schools Surfski Championships on Friday 14 March at Marine SLC at Addington Beach. More info can be found at www.marineseries.co.za
SUMMARY OF RESULTS – HIQ SURFSKI CHALLENGE
RACE NINE OF THE 2014 VARSITY COLLEGE MARINE SURFSKI SERIES
1.Hank McGregor 34.41
2.Grant van der Walt 35.11
3.Kyle Friedenstein 36.59
4.Lee McGregor 37.14
5.Barry Lewin 37.38
1.Nikki Russell 40.46
2.Jenna Ward 42.19
3.Thea van der Westhuizen 46.45
1.Jordan Clauson 39.12
2.Brett Wilken (U16) 41.43
3.Bailey Michael de Fondaumiere (U16) 42.02
1.Luke Nisbet/Adam Nisbet 34.14
2.Lee Furby/Mark Mulder 35.03
3.Shaun Dias/Wayne Wilson 36.14
1.Michelle Burn/Oliver Burn 36.39
2.Ryan Atkins/Julie Cornelius 38.29
3.Paul Scruby/Angela Scruby 39.48
1.Donald Brierley 21.38
2.Matthew Moon 22.03
3.Michael Elion 22.05
1.Warrick Mac Nicol/Caryn Mac Nicol 21.17
2.Sandile Shange/Trent Baird 22.28
3.Clint Sheppard/Ron Waldburger 24.29