With recently crowned South African K1 Marathon champion Hank McGregor running away with victory in the men’s race at the Bay Union Surfski Challenge on Friday night the focus shifted to a hugely entertaining women’s race that saw the young Jenna Ward pip the returning to form Michelle Burn at the post to win Race 5 of the Varsity College FNB Marine Surfski Series.
In what was a race that ebbed and flowed throughout in some favourable conditions for the paddlers Ward managed to get herself in front of Burn at the final turning can and she pinned her ears back and got a slight advantage over her competitor into the finish and she was understandably satisfied with her race.
“I knew that Michelle and Danica (Bartho) were going to be really strong on the downwind so I made sure that I really grinded it out into the wind which gave me a slight advantage,” the World Marathon Championship bronze medallist said. “I did manage to get away on the first lap but Michelle kept right on my tail on the final lap and I knew that she was going to be tough to beat coming into the beach!”
With five races done in the series the ladies standings look like it could be anyone’s series and with Burn starting to return to the form that she had before her recent pregnancy it means that there are a few contenders for the ladies title.
“With five races to go it is anyone’s title I think and we are expecting to see Nikki Russell back soon which will make the races even more interesting!
“A few of us all train together so we know each other quite well but surfski racing can be anyone’s race which makes for some exciting racing!” the Fenn Kayaks star added.
Burn’s return to form has come at the best possible time for her with the series reaching the halfway point and she is encouraged by her return following a slow start to the series from her.
“I have been able to gauge my return quite nicely over the past few weeks because I was about three minutes off the pace in my first race and I have seen my training starting to pay off even though I can only train every second day!
“There are so many girls out there racing now which is great for the sport and makes the series really interesting,” Burn said.
Burn was aware of the strength of Ward into the wind and she knew that she had to capitalise on the downwind however she also had to try and maintain her speed as she felt in previous weeks that she did not have enough in the tank at the end.
“Jenna has really improved her paddling into the wind and I knew that was going to be her strength so trying to keep her in my sights into the wind was the important part and then being strong on the downwind meant that I could keep in touch.
“I was getting tired in previous weeks at the end but I had to go hard on the second lap and when I caught Jen going around the final can she just got ahead of me going in and I was one wave behind her.
“It was a great race and the conditions were definitely better than I thought they were going to be!” a satisfied Burn explained.
Five-time World Marathon Champion Hank McGregor picked up where he left off at the Varsity College FNB Marine Surfski Series as he claimed another win after being away for a few weeks and the North Coast resident was happy with the race.
“The conditions were perfect, a light South Wester was blowing and it was a good race for me considering I have been out of the ski for a while,” the Epic Kayak/Jeep Team hero said. “I managed to get my nose in front early and kept myself in front throughout and I made sure that I capitalised on the downwind!”
Having come back from the SA K1 Championships last week McGregor never lacks motivation and the race went as well as it could have for him as he came in just under a minute ahead of Bouman.
“If you win then the race goes pretty well and that’s how it felt – it was a fantastic race!
“There are still five races to go and the standings are looking interesting with myself and Matthew (Bouman) level on points, I think, so there is a lot to race for and it is always exciting to dice with Matt!” McGregor added.
Shaun Burgin and Clinton Cook claimed the overall doubles race honours and it was Luke Criticos who managed to get one over his close rival Bailey de Fondaumiere at Race 5 and sets up an interesting final five races in the junior boys division.
The Hansa Surfski Challenge, race six of the 2015 Varsity College FNB Marine Surfski Series, takes place at 17h30 on Friday 13 February at Addington Beach. More information can be found at www.marineseries.co.za
All images: Anthony Grote/ Gameplan Media
SUMMARY OF RESULTS – BAY UNION SURFSKI CHALLENGE
RACE FIVE OF THE 2015 VARSITY COLLEGE FNB MARINE SURFSKI SERIES
1. Hank McGregor 33.27
2. Matt Bouman 34.21
3. Gene Prato 35.22
1. Jenna Ward 39.55
2. Michelle Burn 40.02
3. Danica Bartho 41.55
1. Luke Criticos 37.20
2. Bailey de Fondaumiere 37.26
3. Tristan Wilson 39.44
1. Shaun Burgin/Clinton Cook 36.34
2. Andre Pohl/Charles Liasides 36.53
3. Paul Scruby/Duncan Nisbet 36.58
1. Warren Beuster/Natalie Beuster 38.32
1. Sipho Luthuli 23.33
2. Ryan Roberts 23.59
3. Andrew Donnelly 24.32
1. Charles Ramsay/Clare Ramsey 29.11
2. Lawrence Blackbeard/Juli-Ann Riley 55.20