Durban – The anticipated tussle at the front of the King of the Bay Surfksi race produced plenty of drama and created the opportunity for Under 23 ace Hamish Lovemore to show his class by taking overall line honours in the 14th edition of this iconic race, while women's surfski world champ Hayley Nixon finally bagged the title after years of trying.
The race starts with an hour of flatwater dicing from the Silt Canal on the Bluff side of the harbour before exiting through the harbour breakwater, and it was here that the cut-throat racing claimed the scalp of the on-form Brandon van Der Walt.
First the leaders took a chancy line across a shallow sandbank in the centre of the harbour, and then as they exited the harbour Van Der Walt was on the outside of the bunch and collided with the harbour break water, destroying his rudder and his chances of claiming a second King of the Bay title.
Up front housemates and training partners Hamish Lovemore and Stew Little put their ears back on the tough grind in messy ocean conditions to the turning buoy off the Hyper By The Sea before racing away in the better downwind conditions to the finish at Marine SLC.
Lovemore, who won the Berg River Canoe Marathon team title with Tyron Maher in July, had the power in the closing minutes to stay ahead of Little to race in through the small surf at the race finish to claim the spoils, and the biggest surfski title of his career.
Little (Euro Steel/Varsity College) wrapped up second ahead of perennial performer Gene Prato, who was under pressure from the evergreen grand master Lee McGregor powering home just behind him in fourth, with Maher closing out the top five.
"I am finally managing to put together some big results, which is really good for the confidence as we prepare for the Marathon Worlds in China," said Lovemore.
"It was brilliant to get away at the front with my mate Stew Little as we know each other's strengths and weaknesses.
"For most of the race we had our coach Lee McGregor right behind us which forced us to work even harder to keep him out of the picture," he added.
"This race all went according to plan, and I think that Stew (Little) and I might have put a few noses out of joint amongst the surfski pros by winning this!" he added.
The women's title proved to be a thrilling duel between Hayley Nixon and Kyeta Purchase, after the withdrawal of Jenna Ward due to illness.
They shared a measured start to the race across the harbour with Sabina Lawrie before Nixon took control of the race once they left the shelter of the harbour.
"It was tough out there, you had to earn your Smarties," said Nixon. "It was basically sixteen kilometres of hard grind before we got any sort of downwind, but the run back to the finish was brilliant as there was a really nice bump to take advantage of."
"Kyeta (Purchase) was very strong and stayed with me most of the way, which bodes well for her marathon form. I managed to stay at the front and there was no surf to speak about at the finish at Marine," the Carbonology/Euro Steel athlete said.
"I am so chuffed to win this race. It is a title that every Durban surfski paddler would love to have behind their name, and I have so many second places that the win feels sweeter.
"It is also the coolest trophy I have ever seen, which just adds to the satisfaction. I can't wait to get my hands on it," she added.
The double ski race fell to the seasoned crew of Quinton Rutherfoord and Mark Perrow in a tight arm-wrestle with Luke Symons and Riccardo Talevi.
The contest for top honours in the big field of Stand Up Paddleboarders went to Dylan Frick from Matt Swemmer and Michael Klos.
The winter surfski season now shifts its focus to the Gara Dolphin Coast Challenge on 17 and 18 August.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
KING OF THE BAY
1 Hamish Lovemore 1:42:22.09
2 Stewart Little 1:43:50.34
3 Gene Prato 1:46:00.84
4 Lee McGregor 1:46:22.97
5 Tyron Maher 1:46:23.81
6 Murray Starr 1:49:35.91
7 Brendon Delport 1:49:46.20
8 Brandon Van Der Walt 1:50:47.57
9 Alex Masina 1:50:47.80
10 Rowan Matthews 1:52:28.43
1 Hayley Nixon 1:55:04.01
2 Kyeta Purchase 1:56:06.84
3 Sabina Lawrie 2:01:59.31
4 Amy Peckett 2:17:41.68
5 Lyn Bennett 2:17:59.55
6 Wilma Deyzel 2:26:07.72
7 Saskia Hockly 2:26:41.71
8 Jacqui Boyd 2:29:03.92
1 Quinton Rutherford/Mark Perrow 1:44:20.05
2 Luke Symons/Riccardo Talevi 1:44:34.89
3 Matthew Millward/Bryan Leroux 1:45:03.13
4 Shane Millward/Carl Folscher 1:48:49.87
5 Neil Evans/Joe Terblanche 1:49:27.77
6 Gary Waud/James Tutton 1:52:47.58
7 Peter Manning/Grant Smith 1:53:18.78
8 Craig Greenland/Steaphan Macdonald 1:54:37.89
9 Marc Descoins/Ian Marais 1:54:44.86
10 Gary Behn/Murray Behn 1:54:49.05
1 Jody Taylor 0:51:53.74
2 Ian Walker 0:52:09.80
3 Raquel Robbins/James Matthews 0:52:20.75
4 Gavin Dundas-Starr/Jade Dundas-Starr 0:53:16.29
5 Richard Cliff/Shane Misdorp 0:54:05.72
6 Alan Maher/Laila Maher 0:54:20.31
7 Max Howard/Roderick Howard 0:54:43.46
8 Brian Goble/James Goble 0:55:30.49
9 Richard Hogg 0:55:36.69
10 Mike Borland/Roger Adkins 0:55:49.18
1 Tamara Sneyd 0:57:19.38
2 Melissa Aitken/Tamryn Mc Kie 0:59:10.61
3 Siobhan Sharp 0:59:22.45
4 Monique Boshoff 1:03:06.95
5 Bronwyn Wissekerke 1:07:07.72
6 Valma Hockly 1:08:28.70
7 Sarah Land 1:09:35.08
8 Antje Hockly 1:12:07.92
9 Linda Lodge/Sally Clauson 1:13:06.25
10 Ciarda Sharp 1:16:02.07
1 Dylan Frick 1:05:16.67
2 Matthew Swemmer 1:07:52.06
3 Michael Klos 1:08:30.42
4 Leanne Buncombe 1:16:02.55
5 Shayne Chipps 1:16:50.22
6 Charlotte Atherton 1:20:13.28
7 Nicholas Park-Ross 1:20:16.33
8 Jon Ivins 1:20:35.35
9 Mia Vorster 1:23:49.99
10 Jaqueline Lecourt De Billot 1:25:39.48