SA trio are up for Avon Challenge Down Under | SASCOC - SASCOC

SA trio are up for Avon Challenge Down Under

A strong South African canoeing challenge heads to Perth, Australia for this year’s Avon Descent, with three-time winner Hank McGregor, two-time winner Daryl Bartho and Clint Pretorius determined to try and retain the title that McGregor won last year.

The Avon Descent is known as one of the biggest canoe marathons in Australia and defending champion McGregor was not aware of the importance of the event in the area before his first foray down the Avon and Swan rivers.

ÔÇ£It is a big event ÔÇô especially in Australia. I didn’t know it was that big until I arrived there. There are a lot of people and lot of interest as well as a beautiful river ÔÇô when there is water.ÔÇØ

McGregor, who was disappointed by his result at the Surf Ski World Championships, is looking to the Avon to get his season back on track.

ÔÇ£The World Champs didn’t go the way I wanted them to go but that is the way it happens. I would really like to get back overseas and win the Avon but as I said, anything can happen.

ÔÇ£I would like to have a clean race. It is one of those events where you don’t have the same backing as you do here in South Africa and you are pretty much on your own through the valley and I don’t know it that well so I just hope to have a clean race and obviously I would like to win again.

ÔÇ£The Aussies don’t like you taking their titles so it will be a challenge but we have a strong team and hopefully Daryl, Clint and I can work together and hopefully use each other to benefit and in the end making it a one-two-three and maybe Clint can win the team race,ÔÇØ McGregor added.

Fellow South African Daryl Bartho is heading over to compete in his ninth Avon and has not finished far from the top having finished twice in 2004 and in 2005. He always looks forward to heading Down Under and he feels that the Australian advantage is not as big as one might think.

ÔÇ£The whole thing about it is that it is a good river and there is no pollution on it and it is unspoilt.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£It is also a river that you would think the Australians would have an advantage over us on but in fact they don’t because they only paddle on it during this time of the year and it is very seldom that they get a lot of rain so we are not too much on the back foot when we get there.

ÔÇ£Home ground advantage is not huge but it is there when they do these strange portages and pop out ahead of you and that is where you have to watch out for them,ÔÇØ Bartho chuckled.

For the three paddlers heading over sponsors play a massive part in getting them there and Bartho is completely aware of the influence that their sponsor, Kentz, has had on helping them out.┬á ÔÇ£I am not paddling full time anymore and getting Kentz on board is a massive help because travelling has become that much harder these days,ÔÇØ said Bartho.

Pretorius, who has entered the team event with Australian pioneer Ash Nesbitt believes that the lack of competitive races in Australian rivers makes the Avon that much more unique.

ÔÇ£South Africa has so many [canoe marathons], so the coverage is sort of split out but Avon is huge. The amount of paddlers, all the different classes, the coverage that they get around the whole country and the fun that we have going over there,ÔÇØ Pretorius mentioned.

The Australian challenge has got stronger over the recent years and that has added to the competition which Pretorius feels makes the event more enjoyable.

ÔÇ£They have done a lot better which has improved the competition ÔÇô which is fun. The technicality of the course is something that each paddler has to judge well and depends on the water level.

ÔÇ£There are so many lines depending on whether the water level is low, medium or high. On day two there are a lot of rapids ÔÇô a lot of the section is rapids ÔÇô which is fun because they are technical rapids especially if they are low and your line can make a big difference in dropping back and having to catch up which can tire you out in the end,ÔÇØ Pretorius added.

The Avon Descent starts on 3 August and ends the next day.