St Francis – The titles at the PW Harvey SA Canoe Marathon Champs were spread evenly among the top protagonists with international stars Hank McGregor, Andy Birkett and Bridgitte Hartley all claiming a win apiece over three days of racing on the St Francis Bay canals.
Thursday’s opening day indicated it was going to be a weekend of big-name domination as McGregor and Hartley did what was expected and secured the men’s and women’s short-course titles.
McGregor beat Ulvard Hart into second place with Clinton Cook a distant third, while Hartley used the speed that took her to an Olympic medal to beat Nix Birkett, Kira Bester and Jade Wilson to the line in the women’s race.
In Saturday’s much-anticipated Long Course K1 event, current World Marathon Champion Andy Birkett gave a masterclass and showed why he has won multiple world marathon titles. The East London-based international star edged out Hamish Lovemore for a 14-second win in the men’s race, with Hart and McGregor finishing third and fourth after losing contact with the two leaders.
In a tightly-contested women’s K1 race, under 23 paddler Wilson outsprinted her older rivals Christie Mackenzie and Nix Birkett in a tense three-way battle for the title.
The final day’s action on Sunday, saw the K2 combinations take centre stage and the duo of Lovemore and Clint Cook were able to break away and hold on for a big win over Hank McGregor and Mark Keeling to take the South African men’s title, with Wayne Jacobs and Brad Boulle completing the podium.
In the women’s doubles race, Saskia Hockly and Michelle Burn claimed the gold medals ahead of Nix Birkett and Wilson, with Hartley and Pippa McGregor earning themselves a place on the final step of the podium.
Photo: Andy Birkett celebrates winning another SA K1 title in St Francis Bay on Saturday. (James Gibbs Photography)
Day 1: Short Course
1 Hank McGregor 21:27
2 Ulvard Hart 21:32
3 Clinton Cook 22:06
4 Mark Keeling 22:09
5 Joshua Fenn 22:13
1 Bridgitte Hartley 24:39
2 Nix Birkett 24:40
3 Kira Bester 24:42
4 Jade Wilson 24:43
5 Pippa McGregor 27:04
Day 2: K1 Long Course
1 Andy Birkett 2:23:33
2 Hamish Lovemore 2:23:47
3 Ulvard Hart 2:26:40
4 Hank McGregor 2: 26:43
5 Matthew Fenn 2:27:43
1 Jade Wilson 2:18:55
2 Christie Mackenzie 2:18:56
3 Nix Birkett 2:18:57
4 Kira Bester 2:19:37
5 Nosipho Mthembu 2:47:39
Day 3: K2 Long Course
1. Hamish Lovemore / Clint Cook 2:16:01
2. Hank McGregor / Mark Keeling 2:21:07
3. Wayne Jacobs / Brad Boulle 2:21:14
1. Saskia Hockly / Michelle Burn 2:09:40
2. Nix Birkett / Jade Wilson 2:11:38
3. Bridgitte Hartley / Pippa McGregor 2:16:40