Defenders make a splash

2013-09-28 00:00

CRADOCK — Defending champions Hank McGregor and Grant van der Walt shrugged off jetlag and colds to win yesterday’s 48 km opening stage of the 32nd edition of the Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon, setting up a commanding lead of more than four minutes over their nearest rivals.

Abby Adie and Anna Adamová claimed the early advantage in the women’s encounter.

With fellow title hopefuls Andy Birkett and Cam Schoeman forced out of the contest — after Birkett failed to overcome flu he picked up earlier in the week — McGregor and Van der Walt overcame a poor start on a choppy and wind-swept Grassridge Dam to claw their way back through the field, to claim day one’s spoils.

“I was really impressed with how good we felt together and how well we clicked today, considering the last time we were in a boat together was SA Champs,” said McGregor. “I’m really happy to be leading going into tomorrow.”

“Hank [McGregor] drove really well and, other than a bit of bad luck across the dam, it was a pretty faultless day for us,” said Van der Walt.

With a howling early morning wind creating large waves at the 82 km race’s starting point, many crews — McGregor and Van der Walt included — were caught unawares as they set off across the dam without their splash covers in place.

Being horribly exposed to the elements resulted in numerous top pairs taking on large volumes of water metres from the start line and having to work twice as hard to not only pump the excess water out, but also to stay afloat. The fancied international crew of Thomas Slovak and Tobias Bong were the biggest casualty on the dam, and fell to last place in the seeded A batch by the time they reached the dam wall portage.

With a sizeable buffer over the rest of the field, it would appear it is now McGregor and Van der Walt’s title to lose — which if they were to avoid, would see them claim their fourth consecutive Hansa Fish doubles title and McGregor’s fifth consecutive K2 title at the event as well.

With competition for places hot among the women’s crews as well, it is Adie and Adamová who find themselves in the driving seats going into day two, after they opened up a two-minute, 17-second lead over second-placed Robyn Kime and Bridgitte Hartley who, frustratingly, suffered pedal mechanical problems early on in the clash.

“We got our splashies on early on the dam, had a really good portage around the dam wall and then managed to break away from the rest pretty early on,” explained a visibly happy Adie.

“Every portage Robs [Kime] and Bridg [Hartley] closed in on us though, so we kept having to work hard to break away again.”

“I’m really chuffed we went so well today though, especially with Anna [Adamová] having hardly paddled in the river for quite a while,” she said.

Adamová, having recently claimed a silver medal in the K1 and bronze in the K2 Marathon World Champs events, put her good form to great use and was happy with the progress she made as the day went on.

“It was just such a perfect day,” she beamed afterwards. “We weren’t too stable early on, but it got better and better with every kilometre.

“It was also great to go past all the places I swam at last year and I felt much better this time,” she chuckled.

In the juniors’ clash, young stars Louis Hattingh and Bryan le Roux narrowly edged out the Wilson twins, Travis and Tyler, to take a one second lead into the second day’s racing. The Michaelhouse duo of Brandon Macleod and Alan Houston are leading the under-16 race, while Epworth duo Jordan and Cana Peek comfortably lead proceedings in the under-18 girls category.

Despite the late withdrawal of Dominic Notten and Amy Hare, after Hare twisted her ankle two days beforehand, the highly competitive mixed doubles race delivered a day of action aplenty, as Andrew and Alex Adie — siblings of women’s leader Abby — raced home ahead of Cape-based surfski stars Tom Schilperoort and Samantha Murray.

In the K3 tussle, it was the Theron trio — Jacques, Cobie and Jen — who overcame PinkDrive ambassadors Jody Taylor, Duane Taylor and Matt Elliott by less than a minute, making for a fascinating second stage today.

Stage two of the Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon from Knutsford to Cradock gets under way at 7 am today. More information can be found at www.fishmarathon.org.za

STAGE ONE RESULTS

Overall: 1. Hank McGregor/Grant van der Walt 2:46.39. 2. Ben Biggs/Alasdair Glass 2:50.48. 3. Len Jenkins/Greg Louw 2:51.33. 4. Brandon van der Walt/Stuart Maclaren (U23) 2:52.16. 5. Tomas Slovak (CZE)/Tobias Bong (GER) 2:52.55. 6. Lance Kime/Thulani Mbanjwa 2:53.29. 7. Ivan Kruger/Valentin Henot (FRA) (U23) 2:55.12. 8. Brett Bartho/Sibonelo Zondi 2:55.23. 9. Pierre-Andre Rabie/Clinton Cook 2:55.24. 10. Dawid Mocke/Matthew Bouman 2:56.12

Women: 1. Abby Adie/Anna Adamova (CZE) 3:06.11. 2. Robyn Kime/Bridgitte Hartley 3:08.28. 3. Danica Bartho/Michelle Burn 3:17.26. 4. Jenna Ward/Kerry Segal (U23) 3:17.33. 5. Hilary Pitchford/Brittany Pietersen 3:18.47. 6. Jordan Peek/Cana Peek (U18) 3:32.17. 7. Kirstin Wessels/Janine Linder 3:33.49. 8. Kirsten Penderis/Jodi Cleworth 3:34.17. 9. Robyn Henderson/Debbie Lewis 3:34.25. 10. Kim van Gysen/Kirsten Gelderblom 3:35.22

U23 Men: 1. Brandon van der Walt/Stuart Maclaren 2:52.16. 2. Ivan Kruger/Valentin Henot (FRA) 2:55.12. 3. Gavin Shuter/Murray Starr 2:59.25

U23 Women: 1. Jenna Ward/Kerry Segal 3:17.33. 2. Candice Murray/Anna Notten 3:38.24. 3. Jenna Starr/Julia Trodd 3:51.07.

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