Hank back at Drak

2013-11-28 00:00

UNDERBERG — Triple world marathon champion Hank McGregor has confirmed that he will be back to try and win a fourth title at the N3TC Drak Challenge, particularly as it brings with it the SA K1 river marathon title for 2014.

“I want to come back to the Drak Challenge,” said McGregor firmly. “It is SA K1 this year, so it has that extra title attached to it, and I will be on the startline again this time.”

Last year, McGregor was prioritising his bid for the first ever ICF World Surfski Championship in Portugal, and opted to head for Australia to race the Perth Doctor Surfski World Cup that falls on the same weekend as the Drak Challenge.

McGregor went on to win a third marathon K1 world title in Copenhagen later in the year after his surfski world crown bid ended in frustration. Now the Ballito star, who won the Drak title hat-trick from 2010 to 2012, is eager to add another to his collection, and deny his training partner and best friend a chance at a second Drak title.

“Grant [van der Walt] is the defending champion and I’d love to take the title back from him. He is a close friend of mine but I think this year it will be a very close race.”

McGregor fully backed the decision to award the national river marathon title decider to the Drak Challenge.

“The Drak Challenge is a fantastic technical river and it is a really good decider on who should really take the title.”

“At that time of year, KwaZulu-Natal is canoeing crazy. The Dusi is the following month so everyone is fit and training hard.

“It is interesting because the Dusi is a K2 race this season, but the Drak forces people to get into singles.”

McGregor started his relationship with the Drak with a five-year period that was fraught with frustration and misfortune.

He finished second to Ant Stott in 2005, after making a mistake in the Lower Gorge, and then scuttled a title bid in 2006 by capsizing in Glenhaven rapid while racing Len Jenkins.

In 2007, the last time the race hosted the SA K1 River Champs, McGregor finished third, just behind Jacques Theron in a race won by German superstar Max Hoff.

In 2009, McGregor’s race ended unceremoniously when his boat folded at Taylor’s weir early on in the first stage, ending what promised to be a thrilling dice with Ant Stott.

However, once he put together his first flawless race and finally bagged the prestigious title in 2010, he has not been beaten on the Drak Challenge.

“I love that race. It is a beautiful part of South Africa and I am looking forward to getting to Underberg and being on the startline,” he said.

For McGregor the significance of aiming to win the SA K1 river marathon crown on the Drak Challenge has numerous layers. Importantly, it will help erase the 2007 race when he started as favourite to take the national crown, only to be upstaged by visiting German ace Hoff.

“I was the person that Max took for a walk that year!” McGregor recalls. “I wasn’t at my best in terms of river racing in those days, and I have learnt a lot from my mistakes.”

The N3TC Drak Challenge 2014 starts on January 18 at Castleburn outside Underberg and finishes on January 19 at Early Mist Farm close to Coleford. More information can be found at www.drak.co.za

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