Sunday saw a moderate field take on the world’s oldest surfski race, the Illovo Pirates Umhlanga Pirates Surfski Race, with paddlers encountering some tough conditions with South African surfski ace Hank McGregor claiming the overall win with Nicole Russell finishing as the first lady home.
The race, first raced in 1957, had both a long and short course as well as incorporating a number of long standing traditions which include an earlier 7am start as well as all paddlers receiving soup at the conclusion of the race. The older members of the Pirates Surf Lifesaving Club were present at Sunday’s shoot-out further entrenching the prestige of the 59 year old race.
“It was a good race today with a good following tail wind all the way to Umhlanga,” Euro Steel/Epic Kayak’s Hank McGregor said after his win. “The wind was against the current so you felt like you were going faster than you actually were and then on the return we were with the current but into the wind which made it a pretty tough day out.”
The race had the potential to be another humdinger between McGregor and fellow Durban ace and Epic Kayak’s Matt Bouman however the race went according to plan for McGregor who managed to get himself ahead early and boss the race until the finish line.
“I managed to get quite a big lead on Matt Bouman early and then I turned with the doubles so that gave me a good incentive into the final leg. Myself and the leading double just sat together until the finish. It was a really solid day for me and I am really happy to get another win here even though I am still battling with a bit of jet lag,” a satisfied McGregor added following his recent return from the Molokai in Hawaii.
McGregor’s focus now shifts to canoe marathon as he prepares for the South African Marathon Championships in Cape Town next weekend however his immediate calendar is still dominated by surfski races. “We have the South African Marathon Champs which is also the national trial so I will hopefully be selected to go and defend my world marathon title. Despite this my calendar is chock-a-block with surfski races with the Scottburgh to Brighton the following week, then Durban Downwind and the I’m off to Mauritius so my schedule is really busy!” the star mentioned.
Bouman took the second placed position whilst Wade Krieger came home in third with the doubles race spoils going to Steve Woods and Bailey de Fondaumire with Shaun Dias and Matthew Elliot finishing second and Lee Furby and Quinton Rutherford finishing third.
The ladies race was won by Fenn Kayak’s Nicole Russell with the mixed doubles spoils going to Russell’s Fenn Kayak’s team mate Jenna Ward and Brett Hadiaris.
The Illovo Pirates Umhlanga Pirates fell the day after paddlers from around the world united to raise awareness of the environment and the plight of the world’s oceans for a relay event called Paddle for the Planet.
The 59th edition of the Illovo Pirates Umhlanga Pirates is the lead in race to the 2016 FNB Durban Downwind on 25-26 June 2016.
Illovo Pirates Umhlanga Pirates Surfski Race
1.Steve Woods/Bailey de Fondaumire
2.Shaun Dias/Matthew Elliot
3.Lee Furby/Quinton Rutherford
1.Jenna Ward/Brett Hadiaris
1.Mark Backman/Roger McGregor
Images: Kevin Sawyer