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Leaders extend their lead at Dusi Marathon
- Updated: February 19, 2016
A second successive day of peerless paddling saw Andy Birkett and Lance Kime extend the three and a half minute advantage after Thursday’s opening day of the 2016 FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon to over eight minutes over the chasing Hank McGregor and Jasper Mocké on day two on Friday.
And in the women’s race Abby Solms and Anna Kožíšková’s formidable overnight lead of 14 minutes ballooned to well over 20 minutes on stage two.
Confronted by the prospect of very hot conditions and a medium level Mngeni River in sharp contrast to the opening stage rain, the Euro Steel pair managed to maintain their stranglehold on the rest of the field and more than double their overall lead.
‘We would have taken any sort of lead going into today and to have eight minutes is incredible,’ mentioned Birkett. ‘I am really happy and even a bit surprised considering that we were really tired on the dam.
‘Yesterday was a really tough day with everyone pushing the pace so obviously there are some really tired bodies out there.’
Although the pair enjoy a formidable lead going into the final day of the 2016 event, Birkett – who has five FNB Dusi titles to his name – understands the challenges that the final day will hold and is trying to take the race section by section.
‘There will be nerves tomorrow, there always is because you don’t want to make any silly mistakes on the day so hopefully once we have shot the last few rapids we can soak it up and enjoy the final pull into Durban – if we still having a clean race at that stage!’ added a circumspect Birkett.
Building their lead, or at least consolidating it, would have been Birkett and Kime’s number one plan however there was a slight apprehension considering that the second day is often considered a day more favoured by the paddlers.
‘I was scared going into today, to be honest,’ Kime revealed. ‘Hank and Jasper have sorted us out in a few of the pre-races this season so I came in to today just hoping that we don’t see them.
‘We are absolutely thrilled that they didn’t catch us and drop us and we still manage to have a lead,’ Kime enthused.
With another tough day on the cards for the third and final day of the race making sure that they get through cleanly will be a priority for the leading pair.
‘We still don’t know what is going to happen below the dam so depending on how much water there is we might have some additional portages but we will check that out in the morning. ’It is going to be another day that we are going to hurt a lot but if all goes according to plan then hopefully we will have the opportunity to ease up and cruise into the finish,’ a hopeful Kime added.
Bridging the gap on a paddler’s day was well within the grasps of McGregor and Mocké and the Euro Steel/Mocké Paddling pair felt like they were in with a shout as they flew out of the blocks.
‘There was only one way to catch them up and that was to put the hammer down from the beginning and we managed to close the gap by the bottom of Marianni Foley and then it seemed like the clock started going the other way and when we got to the dam we were about five minutes thirty behind,’ McGregor said.
‘We tried our hardest and we weren’t racing for second we were trying to catch them.’
In what was the second best time of the day, the Houston brothers produced a sublime performance to knock Sbonelo Khwela and Banetse Nkhoesa from the last spot on the podium.
Following cramp issues on the first day of the race the Under 23 Seed Co. pair patched it all together to finish at the same time as Khwela and Nkhoesa but it was enough to leap-frog them into third overall.
In the junior race overnight leaders Mark Keeling and Mphilo Zondi relinquished their lead to the pair of Craig Heenan and Bailey de Fondaumiere. The race into Durban will be exciting considering the gap between first and second is just 24 seconds.
In the women’s race despite the substantial gain in advantage throughout the day it was far from plain sailing for the Euro Steel duo who encountered a couple of snags through the early stages of their day.
‘I can’t complain,’ Solms said. ‘We are here in first place, but it was far from the smooth day that I had hoped for. ‘Just after the start, some guys were obviously in a rush. They came flying down a rapid, drove straight into our rudder and bent it 90 degrees, which caused us problems for the rest of the day.’
Their problems were compounded when they broke the nose of their boat at Gauging Weir, but the extent of the problem only revealed itself at Hippo Rapid when they spun 90 degrees before regaining control.
‘Fortunately we get nice, strong kevlar boats from Kayak Centre that are flexible and he boat and us were about to hold out to the end,’ Solms said.
By the time Solms and Kožíšková reached the top of Inanda Dam, with the long flat water haul to the finish awaiting them, they were tired, but they still finished strongly.
‘To be honest, at the beginning of the dam I was exhausted,’ the Czech marathon world champion said. ‘After three kilometres I caught a second wind and I could push hard again. The wind started to blow a little bit, so it was quite nice.’
Behind the leading crew, Jenna Ward and Vanda Kiszli, who were in fourth after the first day, used their superior paddling to move up into second place after a strong showing on the dam.
‘It went according to plan,’ Techpro Racing’s Ward said. ‘We knew that today was going to be the day that we needed to catch the teams in front of us.
‘We knew it was going to happen on the flat-water paddling, so we just played it safe through all the rapids, ran as hard as we could, and when we got to the dam we knew we had to make it count.
‘It didn’t take us long to drop them [Cana Peek and Kyeta Purchase] on the dam. We knew they were tired. We caught them nicely on the flat water, so we knew as soon as they took a break we had to put in an interval and go.’
The schoolgirl combination of Peek and Purchase made an error at the Nqumeni Portage, which cost them valuable seconds and energy.
‘We took the wrong portage, because when people say ‘this is the old portage’, I think it is the one that I have done for the last two years, which is actually the new one. We missed our juice at the top of Nqumeni which I think hurt us,’ mentioned Peek.
At the end of the day, however, the two 17-year-olds were in a solid third place and satisfied with their position.
‘I am very happy with where we finished. I didn’t think we would do so well on the dam, but we just kept going,’ Peek said.
For the leaders, Solms and Kožíšková, running Burma is also their plan of action. They have a big lead and aim to play it safe by taking on the portage, which, amazingly, will be the first time Solms, a six-time runner-up, has tackled it.
Day Three, the final day of the 2016 FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon is a 36km stage from Msinsi Resort to Blue Lagoon in Durban.
Pictures courtesy of Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media
STAGE TWO RESULTS (46KM DUSI BRIDGE TO MSINSI RESORT) AND TOTAL TIMES
1 Andy Birkett/Lance Kime 2hr 55min 24sec 5:32:04
2 Hank McGregor/Jasper Mocké 2:58:18 5:40:14
3 Andrew Houston/Alan Houston (U23) 2:59:57 5:43:45
4 Sbonelo Khwela/Banetse Nkhoesa 3:03:04 5:44:00
5 Carl Folscher/Ant Stott 3:01:23 5:52:37
6 Damon Stamp/Louis Hattingh (U23) 3:03:57 5:52:37
7 Shaun Rubenstein/Thulani Mbanjwa 3:07:45 5:52:40
8 Murray Starr/Owen Gandar 3:04:30 5:55:45
9 Len Jenkins/Siseko Ntondini 3:07:05 5:55:46
10 Mmeli Cele/Khumbulani Nzimande (U23) 3:13:13 6:03:09
11 Jacques Theron/Piers Crukshanks 3:10:25 6:04:15
12 Greg Louw/Adrian Boros 3:10:14 6:06:43
13 Kwanda Mhlope/Loveday Zondi 3:09:17 6:07:05
14 Murray Haw/James Speed (U23) 3:12:26 6:08:26
15 Siyabonga Tyiki/Thando Ngamlana (U23) 3:14:24 6:09:22
16 Lucas Mthalane/Sipho Canham 3:11:04 6:11:58
17 Mzamo Zondi/Siyanda Gwamanda 3:15:12 6:11:59
18 Mthobisi Cele/Nhlanhlayakhe Cele 3:16:46 6:19:03
19 Shaun Griffin/Brandon Orpwood 3:17:36 6:20:19
20 Stuart Maclaren/Brandon van der Walt 3:18:48 6:21:40
1 Andrew Houston/Alan Houston 2:59:57 5:43:45
2 Damon Stamp/Louis Hattingh 3:03:57 5:52:37
3 Mmeli Cele/Khumbulani Nzimande 3:13:13 6:03:09
4 Murray Haw/James Speed 3:12:26 6:08:26
5 Siyabonga Tyiki/Thando Ngamlana 3:14:24 6:09:22
1 Craig Heenan/Bailey de Fondaumiere 3:27.38 6:48:15
2 Mark Keeling/Mphilo Zondi 3:43:00 6:48:39
3 Emanual Zaloumis/Hamish Lovemore 3:36:07 7:04:15
1 Warren Yoko/Craig Pitt 4:12:25 8:22:06
1 Abby Solms/Anna Kožíšková 3:16:34 6:21:38
2 Jenna Ward/Vanda Kiszli (U23) 3:25:04 6:46:06
3 Cana Peek/Kyeta Purchase (U18) 3:29:09 6:48:18
4 Tamika Haw/Alex Adie 3:30:16 6:49:57
5 Jane Swarbeck/Kirsten Penderis 3:47:26 7:22:28
6 Kelly Howe/Susan Carter-Brown 3:51:04 7:27:00
7 Jordan Peek/Kim Peek 4:07:57 8:16:25
8 Kerry Segal/Julia Trodd (U23) 4:29:11 8:19:58
9 Debra Lewis/Jessica Dicks 4:30:16 8:34:13
10 Lorna Oliver/Melissa van Rooyen 4:21:20 8:36:24
1 Jenna Ward/Vanda Kiszli 3:25:04 6:46:06
2 Kerry Segal/Julia Trodd 4:29:11 8:19:58
1 Cana Peek/Kyeta Purchase 3:29:09 6:48:18
2 Gemma Lawsom/Brittany Eayrs 6:04:10 11:15:29