Dream team drop to fourth place

2012-02-18 00:00

DEFENDING champions Andy Birkett and Jason Graham turned in a superb performance of running and paddling yesterday to take a complete stranglehold on The Unlimited Dusi 2012 title on a day of high drama that saw them add a further three minutes to the lead they had over the two challenging boats, setting themselves up for a third and final stage that ends at Blue Lagoon this morning.

The duo posted a rare incident-free day over the 46 km second stage from Dusi bridge to Inanda dam on a full Mgeni river that wreaked havoc with most of the field.

The dream team of Thulani Mbanjwa and Sbonelo Zondi suffered another day of bad luck, including a costly swim at Gauging Weir, which saw them slump to fourth place overall. That opened the door for Hank McGregor and Len Jenkins to claim second and the U23 crew of Lance Kime and Kwanda Mhlope made up the podium.

“We had a really great race today. Jason [Graham] was extremely committed and didn’t give up from the time we started,” Birkett said.

“We knew Hank and Len would be very strong today we just looked to try eliminate as many mistakes as possible.”

The duo were feeling pressure from behind as McGregor and Jenkins made a spectacular early morning charge as they raced towards the confluence of the Msunduzi and Mgeni rivers.

“We were quite worried about the first portage because the guys were catching us and Thulani and Sbonelo were looking really strong, but we managed to hold them off and got going quite nicely after that.

“We were pretty tired coming onto the dam, but we just had to dig deep and again we held them off despite Hank and Len being fantastic flatwater paddlers,” said Graham.

A strong performance from McGregor and Jenkins on their preferred paddling-orientated day two was nullified somewhat with the river being unexpectedly full.

“As the water level goes up its not really the paddlers that are advantaged, its in fact the runners that benefit more because the extra water helps them keep their average speed up a bit more on the water and so we really struggled to close in on Andy and Jason,” said Jenkins.

Kime and Mhlope surprised many, including themselves, and they are now in an interesting position as they look to hold off Mbanjwa and Zondi on day three to claim a remarkable podium finish.

“We were quite lucky today. Our main worry when we started today was just to hold off Ruby [Shaun Rubenstein] and Steve [Farrell], but we surprised even ourselves and managed to catch Craig [Turton] and Jasper [Mocke] on the second saddle,” said Kime.

After a fantastic opening day performance, Turton and Mocke struggled a little more on day two, but still claimed fifth place and finished ahead of Olympian Rubenstein and his partner Farrell, while another crew on the move on the second day were the Biggses with Shaun and Ben moving up from 10th to seventh.

In the women’s race, overnight leaders and defending champs Robyn Kime and Abbey Ulansky stretched their lead to 16-and-a-half minutes over second placed Abby and Alex Adie, and in the process broke the women’s stage record.

“We had a bit of a hairy moment at Thombi [rapid] where we got a bit sideways and almost went over and then we did end up in the water at Hippo [rapid], but it was a very brief swim and we were back in the boat pretty quickly so it didn’t cost us too much time at all,” said Ulansky.

Another tough day for the Adies and a couple of mishaps saw the race all but slip from their grasp.

Murray Haw and James Speed of Maritzburg College once again put in a stellar performance that saw them climb from 14th to 12th overall and they were once again the first U18 boys’ crew across the line.

Murray Starr and Donavan Wewege claimed second, but will have to pull a rabbit out the hat if they are to claim the title.

Bianca Haw and Jordan Peek once again dominate proceedings in the junior girls’ race, breaking the junior girls’ stage record, and again finished ahead of Bianca’s older sister Tamika and her partner Jen Hodson. The pair are now a full 20 minutes ahead of Brittany Petersen and Kerry Shuter and look well set to finish on the top step of the podium when they arrive at Blue Lagoon in Durban today.

DAY TWO RESULTS

(Stage time, Overall time)

MEN

1. Andy Birkett/Jason Graham 2:50.49, 5:27.45

2. Hank McGregor/Len Jenkins 2:53.27, 5:31.55

3. Lance Kime/Kwanda Mhlope (U23) 2:54.31, 5:37.58

4. Thulani Mbanjwa/Sbonelo Zondi 3:01.01, 5:38.01

5. Craig Turton/Jasper Mocke 3:02.07, 5:43.24

6. Shaun Rubenstein/Steve Farrell 3:00.41, 5:45.15

7. Shaun Biggs/Ben Biggs 3:00.17, 5:51.32

8. Piers Crucikshanks/Mike Stewart 3:04.31, 5:51.33

9. Lucas Mthalane/Mmeli Cele 3:07.30, 5:55.27

10. Mark Mulder/Dave Chaplin 3:02.23, 5:55.55

WOMEN

1. Robyn Kime/Abbey Ulansky 3:09.24, 6:08.57

2. Abby Adie/Alex Adie (U23) 3:14.52, 6:25.36

3. Debbie Germiquet/Carmen Blakeney 3:27.48, 6:50.19

4. Bianca Haw/Jordan Peek (U18) 3:31.58, 6:57.56

5. Tamika Haw/Jen Hodson 3:34.56, 7:07.27

U23 MEN

1. Lance Kime/Kwanda Mhlope 2:54.31, 5:37.58

2. Brandon van der Walt/Clint Cook 3:02.48, 6:05.47

3. Skhumbuso Ngidi/Nkosi Cele 3:08.39, 6:08.26

U23 WOMEN

1. Abby Adie/Alex Adie (U23) 3:14.52, 6:25.36

2. Bianca Haw/Jordan Peek (U18) 3:31.58, 6:57.56

3. Brittany Petersen/Kerry Shuter (U18) 3:44.08, 7:17.54

U18 BOYS

1. Murray Haw/James Speed 3:03.37, 5:58.46

2. Donavan Wewege/Murray Starr 3:18.28, 6:29.46

3. Banesti Nkhoesa/Sizwe Mhulo 3:17.11, 6:30.56

U18 GIRLS

1. Bianca Haw/Jordan Peek (U18) 3:31.58, 6:57.56

2. Brittany Petersen/Kerry Shuter (U18) 3:44.08, 7:17.54

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