Novel start to Nobby Nel

2008-10-13 00:00

The students of Varsity College in Pietermaritzburg, under the leadership of Hillary Pitchford, presented an all-new Nobby Nel Memorial race on Sunday.

Superb prizes, a somewhat controversial new starting plan and all the bells and whistles made for an enjoyable fun event for the 280-plus entrants.

The K1-promoted race was run over the usual course from above the Albert Falls weir to the Crafcor Farm 21 km downstream and three kilometres beyond the more usual stop for Upper uMgeni races at Shabalalas Farm.

The normal batches of 30 boats were set up from the National Seeding ladder for starting purposes, but instead of the usual Le Mans start used on this rather narrow and congested venue, the students had each batch on to the water first and then starting facing upstream behind a start line.

On the “go”, the paddlers were required to cross this line before turning around and making their way downstream in the normal way. To add spice to the race, a hot-spot prize was up for grabs for the first boat over the wier in each batch.

The paddlers employed various tactics to handle the novel situation. Len Jenkins shot away straight to the bank, leapt out, swung the boat around, leapt back in and paddled off, but behind Robyn Kime, who won the A Batch hot-spot at the weir.

Jenkins was first at Crafcor. He broke clear of second-placed Mark Mulder in the last few tricky channels before the finish.

Luke Chalupsky was third overall, winning the boys’ race by over six minutes from Lance Kime with U14 Donovan Wewege in third place.

Lance’s sister, Robyn, was actually the third junior boat home and also won the women’s race from Abie Adie with veteran Debbie Lewis a distant third.

Lewis has returned to river racing recently after a break of around 18 months while recovering from a serious shoulder injury.

Lauren Felgate from Amanzimtoti scored her first river race win over Lindsay Davis by just four seconds to take the second place in the girls’ race.

The excellent prizes, which included two R5 000 study bursaries to Varsity College and the numerous lucky draws and spot awards made for a festive atmosphere at the finish.

Helmut Bruss from host club Umvoti presented a cheque of R1 000 to the KNCU Canoe Development Fund as part of the more than R20 000 sponsorship raised by the students.

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