Major leaderboard shake-up

2013-02-16 00:00

HIGH water made for high drama and a leaderboard shake-up on day two of The Unlimited Dusi canoe marathon yesterday.

In the men’s race the lead changed four times, while women’s race leader Robyn Kime thought her title hopes had disappeared when her boat nearly broke in two at Hippo Rapid.

Overnight leader Sbonelo Zondi saw his 20-second advantage over defending champion Andy Birkett hauled in within two kilometres of the start from Dusi Bridge. Despite falling 45 seconds behind Birkett, Zondi “remained calm and kept going at my own pace”.

Birkett, considered a master on the course, proved he was not infallible, having to stop to change a rudder at Marianni Foley Causeway and then taking an unexpected swim at Tombi Rapid.

If that wasn’t enough to lose vital time, rudder wheel trouble allowed a charging Hank McGregor, fifth overnight and paddling hard, to move into third after Lance Kime had breezed past into second.

With the drama happening behind him, Zondi put his head down and powered over the long, flat Inanda Dam section, winning the second stage of the race. He also won on the first day and has it all to do to ensure a historic victory today.

“When Andy started having problems, I knew I had to go hard.

“I wobbled at Tombi, but pulled through,” he said.

“Now it’s up to building a gap over the chasing pack before Burma Road. If I have a reasonable gap at Burma, I could push for the win.”

Kime enjoyed a magnificent day, but was surprised to see Birkett in the water at Tombi.

“Andy is phenomenal on day two and I never thought I would catch him.

“He had a two-minute lead at Ngomeni and then I suddenly see him in the water at Tombi.

“I managed to close to within two minutes of Sbonelo at the top of Inanda and made up a further minute on the paddle to the finish,” said Kime.

McGregor recorded the fastest time for the day.

“The low water at the start was difficult, but once I reached Confluence it was relief to hit the big water.

“I need to keep my wits about me and avoid any unnecessary risks.

“I am three minutes behind the leaders, but anything can happen on the river today,” he said.

Birkett was realistic in summing up his day, saying: “There were twists and turns throughout.

“Despite my mishaps, I’m not giving up and am going as hard as I can.

“This is river racing and these things happen, but I’m hitting it hard and going all out.”

Seasoned campaigner Ant Stott, another day two specialist, proved his worth, moving from 11th to sixth, well within his goal of a top 10 finish.

“I think my experience counted and I had a few tricks up my sleeve.

“There was big water and some of the rapids were scary, especially Tombi, which was the fullest I had ever seen it,” he said.

It looked as though Robyn Kime’s dreams of another Dusi title were shattered at Hippo Rapids as she “stood on a rock and saw the front and back of my boat getting closer together. I found the only place to break my boat and I thought my race had gone.”

Miraculously, she managed to save her boat which just “popped” back into shape.

“It looked okay, I got back in, took a few strokes, held my breath and was soon on my way. I owe my boat builders big-time,” she said.

Despite her near exit, Kime rocketed to a new women’s day two record by more than six minutes.

Abby Adie stayed in second, but 16 minutes adrift, while schoolgirl Bianca Haw, third overnight, was outdone on the long flat Inanda Dam paddle by the experienced and stronger Hilary Pitchford and Jen Theron, falling back to fifth.

Said Adie: “After yesterday’s running, today was brilliant.

“I spun out at Marianni Foley and portaged the other big rapids. I will play it safe and try to make up time.”

Theron, taking on her first K1 Dusi since 2001, was all smiles with her third place.

OVERALL MEN

1. Sbonelo Zondi 3:00.25 5:43.42; 2. Lance Kime (U23) 2:59.24 5:44.50; 3. Hank McGregor 2:55.52 5:46.55; 4. Andy Birkett (U23) 3:05.42 5:49.19; 5. Thulani Mbanjwa 3:01.32 5:52.25; 6. Ant Stott 3:02.13 6:00.26; 7. Cam Schoeman 3:03.58 6:04.57; 8. Jason Graham 3:07.51 6:04.59; 9.

Loveday Zondi 3:13.05 6:09.57; 10. Zonele Nzuza 3:14.31 6:09.58

OVERALL WOMEN

1. Robyn Kime (U23) 3:18.58 6:30.19; 2. Abby Adie 3:21.38 6:46.53; 3. Jen Theron 3:26.49 7:00.18; 4. Hiary Pitchford 3:28.23 7:00.23; 5.

Bianca Haw (U18) 3:36.14 7:03.00

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