Dusi Bridge - The 2020 Dusi Canoe Marathon pre-race favourites ensured there were no surprises as Andy Birkett and Khumbulani Nzimande took the men’s honours while Cana Peek and Christie Mackenzie won the ladies stage despite a few incidents on Thursday.
Euro Steel's Birkett and Nzimande played their cards close to their chests during the first half of the stage and while the Cape crew of Lance Kime and Shaun Rubenstein were pushing the pace at the front they were patiently biding their time.
It was only on the Guinea Fowl portage that they put the hammer down and got themselves into the lead.
“We didn’t really have a game plan going into today, we just wanted to stay with the guys and see how strong they were on the run,” Birkett said.
“Khumbulani was so strong today and was telling me to go faster! I’ve never had that before so it just showed what sort of form he’s in.
“The first hill of the Guinea Fowl portage and then into Devil’s Cauldron was where Khumbulani really put in a surge and we got ahead,” explained Birkett.
The one minute lead that Birkett and Nzimande hold will be crucial going into the second stage on Friday and the pair will have strong crews chasing them.
“Friday is always a brutal day with the dam and it is a day where you can make good time but you can also lose a lot of time.
“Also with so much more paddling on day three we need to preserve our boat tomorrow.
“You can’t make too many mistakes and have to nurse your craft through day three,” Birkett added.
Red Bull/Euro Steel's Khwela and his paddling and Euro Steel partner Mbanjwa had a strong opening day and have given themselves a good chance of pushing the leading pair on day two, trailing the race leaders by a minute overnight.
Known for their running prowess, the experienced pair will need to show the other side of their paddling arsenal on Friday with Kime and Rubenstein chasing.
The first stage was not without its drama as Cana Peek and Christie Mackenzie first swam at Taxi Rapid early in the day and then had quite a serious injury to deal with towards the back end of the stage.
"I was running and trying to keep the boat straight as Cana dragged it along and the boat clipped me and I took a tumble," Varsity College/Euro Steel's Mackenzie said.
"I ran fine and only really knew the extent of the injury when I got in the water on the other side and saw the hole in my leg!
"We are going to hospital now but I don't think it will affect my running but we'll see how tomorrow goes."
The pair have a two minute buffer over the Glencairn sisters of Tamika and Bianca Haw going into the second stage, a stage that Peek believes will suit Mackenzie.
"I am more of a runner and Christie is a really strong paddler but hopefully we won't have to use our legs as much, but I am excited for the next two days," Peek commented.
The Haw sisters sit a mammoth twelve minutes ahead of third placed Jenna Ward and Kyeta Purchase who opted to paddle rather than portage a lot of the obstacles on day one.
Young Thabani Msia and Mvelo Ngidi are the leading under 23 boat after the opening day of racing while the Michaelhouse crew of Ross Leslie and Chase Liesegang were the first Under 18 boat across the line.
Amy Peckett and Cara Waud are the second Under 23 women's boat going into stage two behind the women's race leaders and Shannon Parker-Dennison and Frances Forsyth were the first junior girls pair home on Thursday.
The second stage of the Dusi Canoe Marathon takes paddlers 46km from Dusi Bridge to Msinsi Resort at Inanda Dam. More information can be found at www.dusi.co.za
SUMMARY OF RESULTS - DAY 1
1. Andy Birkett/Khumbulani Nzimande 2:39:06
2. Thulani Mbanjwa/Sbonelo Khwela 2:40:07
3. Lance Kime/Shaun Rubenstein 2:43:53
4. Banetse Nkhoesa/Msawenkosi Mtolo 2:43:18
5. Ant Stott/Carl Folscher 2:47:05
6. Thabani Msia/Mvelo Ngidi (U23) 2:48:33
7. Alan Houston/Andrew Houston 2:51:45
8. Richard Cele/Nhlanhla Cele 2:52:05
9. Piers Cruickshanks/Roger Mortlock 2:52:22
10. Lucas Mthalane/Mfaniseni Nyambose 2:52:25
11. Mpilo Zondi/Loveday Zondi 2:53:55
12. Jacques Theron/Stew Little 2:54:39
13. Murray Starr/Owen Gandar 2:54:41
14. Hamish Mackenzie/David Evans (U23) 2:54:59
15. Raymond Radebe/Mlandeni Radebe 2:57:34
1. Christie Mackenzie/Cana Peek (U23) 3:11:12
2. Tamika Haw/Bianca Haw 3:13:20
3. Jenna Ward/Kyeta Purchase 3:25:21
4. Bridgitte Hartley/Tracey Oellermann 3:29:50
5. Amy Peckett/Cara Waud (U23) 3:36:57
6. Shannon Parker-Dennison/Frances Forsyth (U18) 3:41:02
7. Hilary Bruss/Hayley Nixon 3:41:31
8. Tracey van Greunen/Natasha Bradford 3:43:32
9. Georgina Howard/Saskia Hockly (U18) 3:47:42
10. Melonie Croeser/Olivia Woodburn (U16) 3:52:56
1. Thabani Msia/Mvelo Ngidi 2:48:33
2. Hamish Mackenzie/David Evans 2:54:59
3. Alex Masina/Bongani Ntinga 3:02:52
4. Jabulani Gwamanda/Siyanda Gwamanda 3:02:53
5. Sandile Mtolo/Xolile Kondile
1. Christie Mackenzie/Cana Peek 3:11:12
2. Amy Peckett/Cara Waud 3:36:57
1. Ross Leslie/Chase Leisegang 3:01:53
2. Jack Edmonds/Kwandokuhle Mzolo 3:08:50
3. Sam Butcher/Matthew Millward 3:10:34
4. Mnqobi Mzolo/Sanele Masango 3:16:53
1. Shannon Parker-Dennison/Frances Forsyth 3:41:02
2. Georgina Howard/Saskia Hockly 3:47:42
3. Melonie Croeser/Olivia Woodburn 3:52:56
1. Jack Shooter/Reuben Baldry 3:46:06
2. Melonie Croeser/Olivia Woodburn 3:52:56