Pedigree crews chasing leaders

2012-02-17 00:00

DEFENDING champs Andy Birkett and Jason Graham snatched the early psychological advantage when they edged out the Dream team of Thulani Mbanjwa and Sbonelo Zondi in an end sprint on day one of The Unlimited Dusi canoe marathon yesterday.

After a battle which swayed back and forth between the “big three” men’s crews throughout the 37-kilometre first stage, Birkett and Graham reminded all of their immense paddling abilities as they powered across the line to claim a three second lead and a crucial mental edge.

“The fact that it’s so close at the front really makes things exciting,” said Birkett, the younger member of the team.

“We got off to a good start and were just behind Hank (McGregor) and Len (Jenkins) over the first eight kilometres or so. We were actually quite surprised by how strong we felt in the boat and so we went quite hard at first but it was all quite tight still.”

Birkett and Graham will be eager to open up an early lead today, knowing the pedigree of the crews not far behind them.

A remarkable second place finish for Mbanjwa and Zondi after a day of multiple technical problems sees them still very much in the hunt despite their preferred running-orientated first day now behind them.

“We unfortunately had a terrible day today, but we’re here now in second place so we’re still very happy,” said Mbanjwa. “At Musson’s rapid we damaged our rudder which cost us about a minute and also meant the top guys were gone. My seat then came loose and when we stopped to fix it I made a silly mistake and put it one notch too far back which really affected my driving after that.”

Day two brings with it a fresh start and Mbanjwa and Zondi will be hoping all their bad luck has now run out and they can focus on getting their historic title attempt back on track.

Knowing their own strengths and weaknesses and what lies ahead, McGregor and Jenkins will be satisfied their opening stage out and are by no means out of the contest either.

“We actually thought the gap would be a whole lot bigger so we’re very cuffed with how things went today,” said McGregor. “We shot the weir first, but there is no hiding on the portages.”

Craig Turton and Jasper Mocke powered their way to a solid fourth place finish while the U23 crew of Lance Kime and Kwanda Mhlope closed out the top five.

In the ladies race Robyn Kime and Abbey Ulansky put a shaky start behind them early on and blitzed their way to day one victory, finishing over 11 minutes ahead of their team-mates Abby and Alex Adie, and in the process smashed the women’s day one record by over three minutes.

The Adie twins have a lot of work to do if they are going to challenge for the women’s overall spoils.

“We had a bit of a difficult one today. Alex was feeling quite flat and didn’t have it in the legs on the portages,” said Abby. “Obviously we would have hoped for the gap to have been a bit smaller, but we’ll just have to refocus and start again in the morning.”

In the hotly contested junior section it was Murray Haw and James Speed who crossed the line first ahead of fellow Maritzburg College youngsters Donavan Wewege and Murray Starr in the U18 boys category whilst Bianca Haw and Jordan Perk of Epworth opened up a seven minute lead over Brittany Petersen and Kerry Shuter in the U18 girls race.

Day two of The Unlimited Dusi canoe marathon takes place from Dusi bridge to Inanda dam.




1. Andy Birkett/Jason Graham 2:36.56

2. Thulani Mbanjwa/Sbonelo Zondi 2:36.59

3. Hank McGregor/Len Jenkins 2:38.28

4. Craig Turton/Jasper Mocke 2:41.16

5. Lance Kime/Kwanda Mhlope 2:43.26

6. Shaun Rubenstein/Steve Farrell 2:44.34

7. Piers Cruickshanks/Mike Stewart 2:47.01

8. Lucas Mthalane/Mmeli Cele 2:47.57

9. Richard Cele/Nhlanhla Cele 2:50.07

10. Shaun Biggs/Ben Biggs 2:51.14


1. Robyn Kime/Abbey Ulansky 2:59.33

2. Abby Adie/Alex Adie (U23) 3:10.43

3. Debbie Germiquet/Carmen Blakeney 3:22.30

4. Bianca Haw/Jordan Peek (U18) 3:25.58

5. Tamika Haw/Jen Hodson 3:32.30


1. Lance Kime/Kwanda Mhlope 2:43.26

2. Richard Cele/Nhlanhla Cele 2:50.07

3. Siseko Ntondini/Tom Ngcobo 2:59.45


1. Abby Adie/Alex Adie 3:10.43

2. Bianca Haw/Jordan Peek (U18) 3:25.58

3. Brittany Petersen/Kerry Shuter (U18) 3:33.46


1. Murray Haw/James Speed 2:55.09

2. Donavan Wewege/Murray Starr 3:00.14

3. Banesti Nkhoesa/Sizwe Mhulo 3:04.45


1. Bianca Haw/Jordan Peek 3:25.58

2. Brittany Petersen/Kerry Shuter 3:33.46

3. Kate Arnott/Charlotte Lovemore 4:10.14

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