Family win for McGregors at Prescient Freedom Paddle

Hank and Pippa McGregor proved to be the power couple of South African paddling as they notched up respective wins in the men’s and women’s races at the 27km Prescient Freedom Paddle around Robben Island on Saturday.

Hank and Josh Fenn were far to strong for their rivals as they crushed all opposition in a display of power paddling up front to finish in a time of 1:58:14. They were followed home two minutes and 43 seconds later by Uli Hart and Wayne Jacobs with Matt Coetzer and Luke Jean le Roux, Jasper Mocke and Mark Keeling, and Nic Notten and Shaun Rubenstein rounding out the top five.

Meanwhile, Pippa and Kira Bester were in a class of their own in a strong women’s field to notch up their first victory together, although both paddlers have won with different partners in the past. Pippa McGregor and Bester, the current South African women’s singles champion, were never seriously challenged as they powered home in 2:13:43. They won by 2:44 from defending champions Saskia Hockly and Michelle Burn, with Jenna Nisbet and Christie Mackenzie third, and world junior canoeing champions Holly SMith and Georgia Singe fourth.

Both the men’s and women’s winners established their dominance early in the race on the downwind paddle to Robben Island, and then had to hold on in the headwind paddle back to the start/finish at Oceana Power Boat Club.

“We had a great paddle today,” said the 46-year-old Hank McGregor soon after claiming his fifth win in the seven-year history of the race. “From the start we managed to get in the front group, and then once we got away from the mainland we started picking up some little bumps (waves).

“Uli and Wayne set a really fast pace and then we sort of split off after about three kays and it was every boat for themselves to the island. We managed to open up a buffer by the time we got to the harbour wharf at Robben Island and I could see Wayne and Josh doing a big surge to try and bridge the gap.

“We sort of let them come as close as about 50 metres, and then we opened the taps and I think we snapped the elastic. Then it was all getting back to back to Cape Town – and you know, the finish just never seems to get any closer … table mountain just seems to stay just as far away the whole time.”

Fenn was ecstatic to have picked up his fourth win in five years with his vastly experienced partner.

“I’m not sure how many we have won together, but I know it’s always great to win,” said the 24-year-old. “Hank is obviously so experienced and knows what he is doing, so it’s quite easy just to follow him.

“I wouldn’t say it was a comfortable win, this is always a hard race, but a win is a win so we’ll take it.”

The women’s race went almost perfectly to plan for McGregor and Bester.

“We went in with a gameplan that was to go super duper hard on the downwind to the island, and hopefully have some strong men who would help pull us around and back into the wind,” said Bester. “We arrived at the island with two good men’s crews, but as we got to the harbour they managed to sneak away from us.

“Then the some guys from behind caught us and we worked together. The other women’s boats are very strong and we knew that they were going to be with a bigger bunch of guys, so they probably would have more support coming back into the wind than we did.

“We knew that the only way we really could put a dent into the distance between us and them was to really milk the downwind to the island, and then hang on to whoever was there. Luckily we had people we could work with.

“When we looked back at one point there was a massive, massive group of guys with the girls chasing us, and I think if we hadn’t put that initial distance in they probably would have caught us,” said a relieved Bester.

“I am very stoked with that,” added Pippa McGregor at the finish. “We just smoked it all the way to the island and had a good strong paddle back.

“Yeah, it was a good family good day out for the McGregors.”

Selected Results
Men
1 Hank McGregor and Josh Fenn 1:58:14
2 Uli Hart and Wayne Jacobs 2:00:56
3 Matt Coetzer and Luke Jean le Roux 2:01:29
4 Jasper Mocke and Mark Keeling 2:01:42
5 Nic Notten and Shaun Rubenstein 2:02:03

Women
1 Kira Bester and Pippa McGregor 2:13:43
2 Saskia Hockly and Michelle Burn 2:16:28
3 Jenna Nisbet and Christie Mackenzie 2:16:40
4 Holly Smith and Georgia Singe 2:18:27
5 Candice Starr and Melanie van Niekerk 2:19:57

Mixed Doubles
1 Ian Trautmann and Stephanie von der Heyd 2:14:51
2 Jamii Hamlin and Donia Kamstra 2:23:56
3 Greg Louw and Cathy Louw 2:27:46

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