McGregor overcomes wild weather to win surfski race

2011-02-07 00:00

DURBAN — Hank McGregor not only had his fellow competitors to worry about in Friday evening’s Thule Surfski Challenge, but he also had to overcome extreme racing conditions en route to earning his second victory of the Varsity College Marine Surfski Series.

With a gale-force north-easter pumping along Durban’s beachfront and massive swells added to the mix, a largely reduced field braved the water with many coming unstuck in exceptionally difficult conditions.

“It was pretty wild out there tonight, probably as hectic as it could get!” explained McGregor. “I didn’t get off to such a great start … I had to work extremely hard to get back up there with the others and it’s never easy in this wind and with conditions like these.”

The paddlers weren’t the only ones to have to deal with the treacherous conditions though. The markers took a battering too with the bottom buoy ultimately losing its fight against Mother Nature, coming loose from its anchor and blowing all the way to shore.

“As we were approaching the can it appeared to be moving and I just kept wondering when the slack would end but it never did,” said an astonished McGregor. “Matt [Bouman] just managed to squeeze through and it was only as he went around and it got caught up on the back of his boat that I realised the marker had come loose!

“It was too late by then though and next thing I knew the marker was half on top of my boat and when I finally broke free Matt was about 100 metres up on me,” he added.

However Bouman’s lead was short lived as he too felt the sting of the elements when a massive freak wave landed on his boat and in the process damaged his ski significantly.

“It just came out of nowhere!” said a frustrated Bouman. “We were way out to sea and I suddenly saw this thing rise in front of me and I was just a sitting duck.”

The men weren’t the only ones who struggled. The series leader in the ladies’ section, Michelle Eder of Toti, battled the rough seas for a while in an attempt to get beyond the backline. However, despite her best efforts she eventually had to admit defeat and turn back.

Meanwhile Natalie Veckranges made sure she cashed in on this golden opportunity and stayed in her boat all the way around the course to pick up a rare win and some invaluable series points.

“I just went slowly and was cautious the whole way round,” she said. “It was difficult out there, but really fun, especially with the long runs, and I’m really chuffed with the win.”

The fifth race of the series, the Hansa Surfski Challenge, takes place at 5.30 pm on Friday. More information can be found at

Long Course Singles

Men: 1.Hank McGregor 34.35; 2.Matt Bouman 35.40; 3.Mark Mulder 36.46; 4.Daryl Bartho 39.23; 5.Matthew Collins 39.32; 6.Wayne Thompson 39.57; 7.Brett Hadiaris 40.08; 8.Brandon van der Walt 40.37

Women: 1.Natalie Veckranges 50.16

Long Course Doubles: 1.Brett Bartho/Brett Challenor 35.08; 2.Oliver Burn/Brent Chiazzari 35.52; 3.Jean Luc Mauvis/Luke Nisbet 37.07

Short Course Singles: 1.Tyron Pontes 26.50; 2.Richard McLennan 29.34


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