Cradock – Two new names will be engraved on the Hansa Fish River Canoe marathon winner’s trophies as Hank McGregor and Abby Adie claimed memorable victories in the hotly contested men’s and women’s 2014 clashes respectively on Saturday while Nic Burden, Adam Nisbet and Jean-Luc Mauvis were crowned 2014 SA K3 River Marathon champions.
Five time Canoe marathon World Champ McGregor narrowly edged out a flying Andy Birkett in the dying meters of the 82km encounter from Grassridge Dam to the Cradock Sports Complex to add a maiden K1 title to his five consecutive K2 victories at the Eastern Cape event.
“I am double [marathon] world champion and now two weeks later I’ve won the Fish, the one race that I have wanted to win for a long time, to end off a great season for me!” said the well-pleased Team Jeep/Kayak Centre star.
“It was a tough race for sure; I was pushed all the way to the finish.
“Fortunately I had a bit of a buffer because I hit a bit of a bad patch at Gauging Weir and when Andrew (Birkett) caught up I just stuck to him like glue before I managed to pass him on the flat and then it was just a matter of holding him off pretty much like how Len Jenkins did to me two years ago,” he added.
McGregor landed back in South Africa two weeks ago a tired yet satisfied man after winning gold in both the senior men’s K1 and K2 events at the ICF Canoe marathon World Championships however he was adamant the illusive K1 Fish title was still very much on his radar.
With his wife Pippa and son Thorsten on the river banks throughout the two days of racing, McGregor was over the moon to have achieved the feat.
“We all came down to the Fish together and it has been a successful family trip! To see (Pippa and Thor) along the race route and here at the finish was really great!” said McGregor.
“It was also great to come in with a huge crowd here at the finish this year!” he added after the race’s introduction of the reverse start order which proved so popular at the Dusi Canoe Marathon earlier this year.
Birkett started the day 46 seconds behind McGregor but the EuroSteel competitor again showed his unmatched tenacity and unwillingness to give up as he clawed his way back into the encounter shortly after Gauging Weir.
“Hank extended his lead to a minute quite quickly this morning but then I just started to feel really good in the boat. I managed to catch right up to him with 30 minutes to go in the race and then we were playing games – trying to get into each other’s head and try and sprint for every weir.
“Hank has just won World Marathon Champs two weeks ago and I managed to close a minute gap on him and outsprint him at one or two of the weirs so that’s a personal achievement for me and it was an awesome race and I’m stoked to have come second!” said a satisfied Birkett.
It wasn’t until two days before the starter’s gun was set to fire that Jasper Mocké (Mocké Paddling) decided to take part in this year’s race and yet the Cape flyer showed his pedigree once more as he claimed the final step on the podium ahead of hometown hero Greg Louw (Knysna Racing) and Team Jeep/Varsity College’s Grant van der Walt.
The second half of the men’s field was a fascinating affair throughout with positions chopping and changing constantly. In the end it was under-23 men’s category winner Stu MacLaren who clinched sixth ahead of a well-pleased Thulani Mbanjwa (Build it), Tom Schilperoort (Holdfast) and surprise result Owen Gandar while Port Elizabeth’s Richard von Wildemann finished tenth a little way back.
Louis Hattingh and Jean van der Westhuyzen produced a golden effort at the Marathon Worlds two weeks ago in the under-18 boys K2 event and the pair proved their world class abilities once more in Cradock when they finished twelfth and twenty-third respectively, claiming the under-18 and under-16 boys age group titles in the process as well.
Overnight women’s race leader and the dominant force of South African women’s river marathon scene currently, Abby Adie (Natal Canoe Club/Kayak Centre) quickly extended her slender twenty-nine second lead to beyond three minutes early on in stage two.A swim at Marlow Chute just eight kilometers from the finish put the young star on edge a little however she refocused and powered home to add the K1 Hansa Fish title to her remarkably long list of 2014 achievements including the SA K1 championships at the Drak Challenge, Non Stop Dusi, Umkomaas River Canoe Marathon and Berg River Canoe Marathon.
“It was good, hard day today. Michele pushed me to the limit but my aim was to win the K1 title and I did that, so I am over the moon!” said Adie.
“It is a nice way to end off the year before I have a bit of a break and then start training for next year’s K1 Dusi!” she added.
2012 women’s winner Michelé Eray, out from her newly adopted home country of the USA, gave it her all but in the end had to settle for a hard-fought second place while under-23 Jenna Ward rounded out the women’s podium.
Burden, Nisbet and Mauvis dominated the field of over 100 K3s in the national title clash from start to finish, crossing the finish line in the third fastest time overall and coming within range of breaking the all-time K3 race record.
Former Springbok rugby captain Corné Krige made it two from two at the Hansa fish when he successfully held off the challenge of fellow former national star Tiaan Strauss in the pair’s fundraising effort for the Corné Krige Children’s Charity.
RESULTS – HANSA FISH RIVER CANOE MARATHON
1. Hank McGregor 2:05.40 5:00.05
2. Andy Birkett 2:04.55 5:00:42
3. Jasper Mocké 2:04.24 5:02.33
4. Greg Louw 2:08.39 5:06.47
5. Grant van der Walt 2:08.22 5:07.38
6. Stuart Maclaren (U23) 2:10.43 5:15.09
1. Abby Adie
2. Michelé Eray
3. Jenna Ward (U23)
1. Stuart Maclaren 2:10.43 5:15.09
2. Owen Gandar 2:10.49 5:15.34
3. Brandon van der Walt 2:16.17 5:21.00
1. Jenna Ward
1. Louis Hattingh 2:12.26 5:19.37
2. Jean van der Westhuysen (U16) 2:12.55 5:25.04
1. Jean van der Westhuysen 2:12.55 5:25.04
Images: Kassie Crous / Gameplan Media