Inanda Dam – On a day that is, traditionally, dedicated to love there was not a lot of love in the hot and windy Inanda air as the paddlers streamed into the finish on a choppy Inanda Dam at the end of Day Two of the 2014 Dusi Canoe Marathon.
Two-time winner of the race Jason Graham was able to see the bright side of being out on the river with his wife, who is paddling her first Dusi, rather than being at home enjoying a romantic day with her.
“Well we have got to the end of Day Two, on Valentine’s Day, and we still haven’t broken off the marriage – it’s been a good day,” a satisfied Graham said.
In what became the first time a stand up paddle boarder crossed the finish line of Day Two of the Dusi Canoe Marathon as a drained Corran Addison paddled his way into the history books.
“It was really tough on the dam – I thought I was going backwards!” said the Canadian based South African ex-pat. “My average speed must have dropped from about 11km an hour to about 2km an hour until the shadow of the first point on the dam.
“It picked up a bit and then in the last section it just dropped back down.
“The guys who do this race year after year are really not right!” Addison joked.
Beside tricky conditions it was a successful day out on the river for the development teams that are taking part in the race with eight out of the top 20 paddlers all coming from the development system with the race leader – Sbonelo Zondi – representing the Computershare Change a Life Academy.
Martin Dreyer’s brainchild is producing some promising paddlers with a number of juniors coming through the ranks and taking their place amongst the top paddlers with EuroSteel/Computershare Change a Life pair Kwanda Mhlope and Zonele Nzuza in an impressive fourth position overall after Day Two as well as former ‘Change a Lifer’ Thulani Mbanjwa in fifth after a horror first day of the 2014 Dusi Canoe Marathon.
The Soweto Canoe Club have also made tracks amongst the top paddlers with three representatives in the top 10 crews at the end of the second day. South African canoeing veteran Piers Cruickshanks paired up with youngster Siseko Ntondini for this year’s race and they are in seventh place with one day to go.
“We really just wanted to keep it steady today and that is what we managed to do today, I think,” Cruickshanks said. “It’s so great to see guys coming through the development systems and being able to help out is great!”
The other Soweto Canoe Club pair that made waves on Day Two were the experienced Loveday Zondi and another youngster Thando Ngamlana who have worked their way into eighth with one day left in the 2014 edition of the race.
“It is great to see the rest of SCARC doing really well at this year’s race,” Zondi said. “Today went really well for us and I really hope that it was successful for the rest of the team because we have come here with high expectations.”
The Dusi Canoe Marathon provides the opportunity for so many different types of people to get involved in a sport that caters for people of all abilities and disabilities and Jonathan Wing is one who is tackling the race for the first at the age of 16 after an unfortunate accident forced the amputation of his right leg when he was younger.
“We had a pretty bad day yesterday,” Wing said. “Today was so much better for us and with it being my first one my partner has had been great and I want to thank him for what he has done.”
The Hilton College pupil has joined Thomas Lovemore in the boat for the 2014 event and is happy with the way they paddled today.
“It has been tough but I have really enjoyed myself so far! The portaging was difficult but we got through it eventually.
“I have been paddling my whole high school career because I didn’t want to play cricket but I’m really glad that I got into it and am now doing my first Dusi because when I started I really didn’t think that I was going to do one!” a satisfied and tired Wing said.
As unforgiving as the Dusi can be it claimed another couple of victims during the Second Day and the Taylor brothers were one of the unfortunate crews that suffered when a split in the seam of their boat became a gash at Washing Machine rapid.
“The only reason I am smiling a little at the moment was because it wasn’t actually my fault!” driver of the K2 Jody Taylor said. “It was just really unlucky that it happened, our boat was folding quite a bit but we thought it would be ok.”
It got quite interesting for the Durban based pair when they had to change tactics before they reached the watering table just short of the dam.
“When we got onto the dam it wasn’t too bad,” Duane Taylor mentioned. “The problem came before that when I had to get out and run to the next watering table while Jody paddled the boat down. We fixed it as well as we could and we just glad that we still have a chance to finish our 10th Dusi together!” a relieved Duane said.
The charity drive at the 2014 Dusi Canoe Marathon is starting to morph into something great than it anticipated with Cancer being a major focus for many as the Pink Flamingo’s came in to finish the second day of the race donning their pink shirts, hats and shorts.
“We sort of came about this thing when we were thinking about ways of raising money for mates that have been struck down with cancer,” Ross Fountain said. “It’s just a bunch of mates coming together and challenging each other and create some friendly competition with our friends in mind.”
In what should be an exciting final day of racing thousands are expected to be lining the bank of Blue Lagoon in Durban as the 2014 Dusi Canoe Marathon champions paddle in at around 1pm on Saturday.
More information can be found at www.dusi.co.za
All images Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media