Dusi: Birkett and Kime lead the way

2011-02-18 00:00

THE first day of the Unlimited Dusi Marathon was dominated by black paddlers, with 11 among the top 17 finishers, and two under-21s — Andrew Birkett and Robyn Kime — leading the men’s and women’s races.

The racing was thrilling, with the lead changing hands no less than four times and three new category records set.

Birkett, one of last year’s surprise K2 winners, was followed home by Ant Stott, with Eric Zondi and Michael Mbanjwa in positions three and four overall.

The heat reached 40°C, but it was the medium water level which proved to be more challenging for many paddlers.

No crocodiles were spotted and very few injuries or medical dramas were reported. Dusi spokesperson Ray de Vries attributed this to the hydration team, who he said had kept a close eye on the paddlers.

When the race started at 6 am, scores of spectators had already lined the banks at Camps Drift and the bridge near the YMCA, cheering in motivation.

It was a tussle with every paddler pushing hard for the lead, but eventually the best isolated themselves from the rest.

At Finger Neck Portage, villagers from the Valley of a Thousand Hills cheered and clapped, urging on pre-race favourite and fellow villager Mbanjwa.

He held the lead for a short while, with Ant Stott, who ended in second overall, nipping at his heels at Campbell’s Portage.

De Vries said a woman paddler stumbled upon a black mamba at Devil’s Cauldron Portage.

“The paddler identified the snake and said it measured two metres. Fortunately no bites, as the snake just crossed from one side of the road to the other,” said De Vries.

He said the biggest concern was that many vehicles servicing paddlers were running short on fuel because of the strike by truck drivers.

The Witness reported yesterday that it was feared hyacinth at Papwa Sewgolum Golf Club in Durban could cause paddlers to run an extra 2,5-kilometre portage on day three.

De Vries said yesterday that this might not be the case after all.

“The hyacinth is being pushed to the sides of the river. We have checked and observed that, by day three, there will be a way through for paddlers so there will be no portage in the area.”

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