Swellendam – Andy Birkett and Greg Louw pulled off a stunning victory in the two day Breede River Canoe Marathon that decided the SA K2 River Marathon title on the weekend, edging out world marathon champion Hank McGregor and his partner Jasper Mocké in a thrilling endsprint into the finish at Kambati Resort outside Swellendam, while Alex Adie and Nikki Mocké dominated the women’s race.
The two crews started the second stage of the race side by side after a needle first stage, raced on a medium level river from Robertson to Bonnievale, with both crews using the event to fine tune their preparations for the World Marathon Championships K2 race in the USA in three weeks’ time.
The two lead boats were joined at the front by the third placed boat of Tom Schilperoort and Dawid Mocké, and then a short while later by the charging crew of Under 23 stars Brandon van der Walt and Stu MacLaren as they raced the 34km final stage to the Kambati Resort.
The title decider came down to an endsprint through the heavily treed channels into Kambati, with Birkett and Louw breaking away to set up a straight shoot out with McGregor and Jasper Mocké which they clinched by the slimmest of margins.
Birkett, the current Under 23 World Champion and four times Dusi Canoe Marathon title holder, and Louw finished third in a superb race at the Sella Descent in Spain last month, following Birkett’s shock win in the Berg River Canoe Marathon in July.
“Day One was pretty much cat-and-mouse with only a few intervals to test the front bunch,” said Louw. “We started as a two-boat bunch on Day Two and two others close behind us and we felt the big thing was not to make any mistakes that could give Hank (McGregor) and Jasper (Mocké) any opportunities.”
As it was McGregor and Mocké did manage to get away after taking a sneak channel through the trees midway through the final stage, but they were quickly reeled in by the chasing pack speareheaded by Birkett and Louw.
“We had tripped the final four kilometers of the river to check out the channels and the rapids and we realised that the final rapid was basically single-file, so we needed to make sure we were the first boat into that last rapid,” said Louw.
“We took up the pull with about three or four kilometres to go, managed to get into that last rapid first and then just held on from there to the finish,” said an elated Louw.
“This race was first and foremost part of our preparations for the world marathon champs,” explained Louw. “We have been training together in Plett and came off a big training session on the Friday before the race.
“To be able to win the race, where I have a long history of admin and problems, is great, and to win against athletes of the class of a world champion in Hank McGregor and Jasper Mocké is awesome.”
“I am pretty excited about the South African team’s chances at the world champs now,” added Louw. “Brandon van der Walt and Stu McLaren are going so well, and that’s the Under 23 team for the worlds as well.”
KZN schoolboys Damon Stamp and Alan Houston won a thrilling juniors race from Stuart Bristow and Bryan le Roux.
The women’s title fell comfortably to Alex Adie and Nikki Mocké, almost ten minutes clear of Kirsten Penderis and Olympic sprint medallist Bridgitte Hartley, with Robyn Henderson and Bianca Beavitt wrapping up the last spot on the women’s podium.
Dusi champ Lance Kime was the first K1 home, winning an arm wrestle with Owen Gandar and Andrew Houston. The trio of Richard Kohler, Mark Dykes and Judy Goodspeed taking the K3 class in 43rd overall.
The big field enjoyed superb warm weather on a river that contrasted sharply with the 600 cumec flood that moved through the valley last weekend. Then river continued to drop steadily over the weekend to a 30 cumec level at the start in Robertson on Saturday morning.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
1 Andy Birkett/Greg Louw 2:01:47.52 4:07:30.19
2 Hank McGregor/Jasper Mocké 2:01:49.96 4:07:31.22
3 Brandon van der Walt/Stu MacLaren 2:01:30.53 4:07:33.31 (1st U23)
1 Alex Adie/Nikki Mocké 2:12:08.76 4:39:50.41
2 Kirsten Penderis/Bridgitte Hartley 2:17:24.11 4:48:04.94
3 Robyn Henderson/Bianca Beavitt 2:20:09.22 4:54:16.69
Images: John Hishin/Gameplan Media