Paddlers to get race preview

2010-01-15 00:00

THERE are no official races in KwaZulu-Natal on this last weekend ahead of the Hansa Powerade Dusi, now just days away, but the traditional Dusi open day this Sunday will offer the paddlers an opportunity to scout the route from after Low Level bridge to the end of Guinea Fowl portage on the day-one course.

This section includes Campbell’s, Hole in the Wall and Guinea Fowl portages, which traverse commercial farm land and are closed to the paddlers except on open day and race days.

Safe parking is available at Bishopstowe Hall and in Hackland’s Field, and the course will be open from 5 am to 1 pm on Sunday for paddlers and seconds on foot. No vehicles are allowed on the portage tracks and the farm road along the fence at Hackland’s field is also closed to vehicles.

Paddlers and seconds are asked to respect the property along all sections of the Dusi route as if it were their own and the Dusi organising committee of the Natal Canoe Club thanks the farmers for giving the paddlers this route-scouting opportunity.

As the final entries trickle in and the last-minute combination changes settle down, strong favourites are clear in both the men’s and women’s categories. With all other things being equal, Ant Stott and Michael Mbanjwa, and Abby Miedema and Robyn Kime are definitely the boats to beat in these two classes.

It is, however, a long way by river from Pietermaritzburg to Durban in a valley strewn with rapids, rocks, hills, dongas and a myriad other obstacles and difficult decisions to be made. Nothing is certain until the finish line is reached in Durban next Saturday.

Behind Stott and Mbanjwa there are several men’s crews in strong contention for the minor placings, making it a real lottery for anyone trying to predict the finishing order.

Piers Cruikshanks and Jacques Theron have the experience and the reliability along with the speed both on and off the water. Thomas Ngidi and Eric Zondi have the speed, especially off the water, but are still a little young in experience. Jason Graham and Andrew Birkett, Shaun and Ben Biggs, and Wayne Wilson and Paul Rabinowitz, all have a mix of experience and youth combined with good speed in and out of the boat.

Other crews definitely in the mix are Craig Turton and Miles Rasmussen, Richard and Nhlanhla Cele, Lucas Mthalane and John Ngcobo, Mike Patrick and Chris Birkett, and last year’s first and second-placed juniors, Lance Kime and Kwanda Mhlophe, now racing together as U21.

In the women’s race behind Miedema and Kime, Jen Hodson and Hillary Pitchford, and Abie Adie and Lindi-May Harmsen are the boats to watch with sub-vets Debbie Gremiquet and Angela Scruby waiting in the wings along with both the leading junior crews of Lindsay Davis and Jenna Starr, and Brittany Petersen and Tamika Haw. These two girls’ crews are quite evenly matched with Davis and Starr having a slight edge.

The boys’ race is also likely to be a close-run thing. Ivan Kruger and Gavin Shuter from the Cape and Gauteng, respectively, look strongest, but four other crews, Blaine Berresford and Brett Willson, Mzamo Zondi and Mmeli Cele, Andrew Adie and Donovan Wewege (U16), and Evert and Siboniso Mzolo, have all been very close behind in the races leading up to Dusi.

The sub-vets category will also be worth watching this year, where there are several very good crews very close together. Ken Holden and Chad Ulansky led home Scott and Mark Stanton, Shane Millward and Steve Botha, and Brett Frost and Guy Collyer, all within three minutes, at the CMH Inanda to Durban race on Sunday, and this excluding the very strong Gauteng crew of Luke Symons and Servaas Fick.

Despite this, sub-masters Glen Hilliar and Mike de Villiers will probably be the first over-35 boat home and Graeme Pope-Ellis and Phillip van Niekerk — sub-grand masters — will probably make the top 40 and perhaps even the top 30 K2s. A remarkable performance for a crew whose average age is 60 years.

Mark and Angelique Mulder will take some beating in the mixed doubles and masters, and Rick and Colleen Whitton will be hoping for a top three in that class too.

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