Strong Cape storm gathers ahead of Dusi 2014

2014-02-11 00:00

THE strongest Western Cape challenge to the Dusi Canoe Marathon in decades has added a new dimension to the three-day race that starts at Camps Drift on Thursday, with genuine podium threats coming from numerous crews making up the Cape storm heading for KwaZulu-Natal shores in the coming days.

Led by Fish Hoek’s surfski star and regular river marathon dark horse Jasper Mocké, some of Cape Town’s finest paddlers have joined the large Dusi field, with some of them gambling on a short phase of Dusi training, and in some cases embarking on brand new K2 combinations for the race.

2013 Berg River Canoe Marathon sensation Ivan Kruger (Pink Apple) is the latest to have thrown his name into the Cape’s Dusi challengers’ pot after answering an emergency last-minute call from fellow U23 talent Andrew Houston.

“On the 31st of January I woke up to a WhatsApp message from Andrew [Houston] saying that his previous partner Murray Haw was sick and unable to take part in Dusi, and asking if I was keen to paddle Dusi with him,” explained Kruger animatedly.

“So I called Andrew back and asked him what this was all about. He said to me that everything was sorted and that I just needed to get to Durban and race with him.

“He said, ‘I think we can try for a top 10’. I told him to forget about this top 10 stuff and focus on just finishing,” chuckled Kruger.

Without having even sat in a river kayak since the 2013 Hansa Fish in September, and coming off a well-deserved break over the festive period, Kruger has little idea of what to expect from himself and from the brand new partnership.

“I met Andrew for the first time on Saturday [February 8]. We jumped into the boat and surprisingly things weren’t too bad. We didn’t lean or anything, which was a big relief,” said Kruger.

“I’m not nervous, I don’t really get nervous before a race. I’m definitely excited but I just have no clue what to expect.”

Kruger is no stranger to the iconic event from Pietermaritzburg to Durban, having clinched the junior boys title and a top 20 overall finish with Gavin Shuter in 2010.

It has, however, been some time since the young talent took to the waters of the Umgeni and Msunduzi rivers and so will leave the driving to his partner this time around.

“I prefer sitting in the front of the boat, but we had a quick discussion on Saturday and we decided Andrew definitely knows the river and the lines far better than I do, so he’ll drive. With Andrew being the stronger runner though, I’ll run in front.”

Along with Mocké, Kruger joins a plethora of Cape Town stars set to make the pilgrimage up to KZN from the Western Cape for this year’s race.

Anna Notten and Kim van Gysen will look to take on the somewhat better prepared women’s crews, while the recently relocated Brandon van der Walt (Kayak Racing/Team Jeep) and Kirsten Flanagan will be top contenders in the mixed doubles division.

Like Mocké, Simon van Gysen will also join a KZN paddling partner for this year’s event when he and Craig Turton take on the challenge. Turton and Mocké were the previous K2 year’s dark horse combination, as they raced their way to an impressive fifth place, and for much of the clash were considered strong podium contenders. Eloise Horn will partner former Durbanite and now Johannesburg resident Donna Tutton for this year’s Dusi while 2013 Berg top five finisher, Louw van Riet (AQ Rate), pairs up with Ernest van Riet and will hope they can challenge for a top 30 position.

Kruger believes the increase in Cape interest in the event is something that has steadily developed in recent years as more and more Capetonians look to be a part of the iconic event.

“This will probably be the most Capetonians at the Dusi in many years,” said Kruger. “I think more and more guys from down here [Western Cape] have caught onto the fact that Dusi is a great way to kick off the year, as it really gets you going after the off-season.”

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