Birkett, Zondi to take on the Ozzie

2013-11-02 00:00

THE buzz of anticipation ahead of the Ozzie Gladwin has been intensified with the news that 2014 Dusi Canoe Marathon title hopefuls Andy Birkett and Sbonelo Zondi have confirmed their entry for the important one-day assignment on November 10.

The duo got their Dusi build-up campaign off to the perfect start recently when they claimed a cobweb-clearing victory in the Natal Canoe Club (NCC) Development Race from Camps Drift to Bishopstowe, the perfect momentum-building result that they will be looking to build upon on the water of the Upper uMngeni river next weekend.

The pair, widely recognised as two of the country’s top Dusi superstars, claimed a hugely impressive victory in their first ever outing together in March 2013 when they soared to a K2 record-shattering win in the Non-Stop Dusi — the Dusi in a day — and have since confirmed they will form a formidable duo at next year’s iconic three-day river journey from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.

With early season form a somewhat more valuable commodity this time around than in previous years due to the “untested” nature of many of the top crews set to tackle next year’s Dusi, the pair place a premium on getting more racing experience under their collective belt.

“Being four months before Dusi, Ozzie Gladwin is obviously still very early in the season and a lot can happen in that time, so the result isn’t too important for Sbonelo [Zondi] and I,” said three times Dusi victor Birkett.

“It is more about just trying to spend as much time in the boat together, as I would imagine it is for most of the guys at the moment because almost all of the combinations for next year’s Dusi.

“Having said that, all these build-up races help build things up for us and both the experience we gain from paddling in as many of these races as possible and the confidence we start to develop if we are able to string a couple of decent results together, could all help in the long run,” said Birkett.

“Our main goal is to win Dusi and so these other races aren’t that important on their own but, together, some good results will help,” added Zondi.

Ozzie Gladwin also presents a golden opportunity for many of KZN’s top river experts to grind away a few coats of rust that may have developed over the off-season, something Birkett and Zondi will certainly be hoping to achieve next weekend.

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