‘Peerless’ McGregor cruises to victory in Thule Season Starter

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Race winner Hank McGregor goes to the front from the start of the Thule Season Starter, the first leg of the Winter Surfski Series on Sunday.
Race winner Hank McGregor goes to the front from the start of the Thule Season Starter, the first leg of the Winter Surfski Series on Sunday.
Anthony Grote

Hot on the heels of his double at the national championships, Hank McGregor maintained his winning ways by posting a runaway victory at the Thule Season Starter that got the popular winter surfski series under way on Sunday morning.

Showing the peerless form he is in at the moment, the 43-year-old Fenn/Euro Steel racer was under little pressure as he raced away in the big swell running in Durban bay to win the two-lap, 12 km race from Matt Bouman and Brandon van der Walt.

“There wasn’t too much wind out there but there was a big swell running. It was a lot of fun as Matt Bouman pushed me all the way to the finish line. Obviously racing SA Champs last weekend made it easy to get into a ski and I am happy to get the first race of the winter series under the belt, and to take the win is a bonus. It is great training for me and really enjoyable on a Sunday morning with so many paddlers out on the Durban beachfront.”
Hank McGregor

“There wasn’t too much wind out there but there was a big swell running,” said McGregor. “It was a lot of fun as Matt Bouman pushed me all the way to the finish line.

“Obviously racing SA Champs last weekend made it easy to get into a ski and I am happy to get the first race of the winter series under the belt, and to take the win is a bonus.

“It is great training for me and really enjoyable on a Sunday morning with so many paddlers out on the Durban beachfront,” he added.

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In what has been a tough month for elite paddlers with many events squeezed close together into the adjusted national calendar, McGregor now has to focus on the Freedom Paddle in the Western Cape next weekend. “It is all about staying race sharp,” he said.

Bouman however was taken to task by the KZN Canoe Union with a number of other paddlers who had not followed the race’s Covid-19 screening and check-in protocols and were disqualified, elevating Brandon van der Walt into the second place single ski position. Shane Millward partnered Carl Folscher to win the double ski race, and posted the second quickest time of the day.

SUMMARY OF RESULTS

Men

1 Hank McGregor — 43:16.99

2 Shane Millward/Carl Folscher — 46:09.58

3 Brandon van der Walt — 46:15.10

Women

1 Hayley Nixon/Hilary Bruss — 53:13.33

2 Saskia Hockly — 53:16.56

3 Tannah Smith — 58:55.27

Short Course

1 Matthew Hollinshead/Jonathan Hollinshead — 28:14.02

2 Tom O’Brien — 30:05.79

3 Tom Haines/Daniel Haines — 30:29.27

The women’s race produced some notable results, as Under 18 Saskia Hockly won the women’s single ski honours outright and the double ski race saw a return to the water for former world champion Hayley Nixon.

Nixon, who has been away from her paddles since the birth of her daughter Emma last year, found a willing ally in Hilary Bruss and they took the overall line honours in the women’s racing.

Backing up Hockly’s result, under 16 paddler Tannah Smith also raced onto the women’s overall podium, underscoring the depth of talent emerging from the junior surfski ranks at present. The series takes a break next weekend as all eyes focus on Robben Island for the Freedom Paddle, before the second series race takes place on the long weekend at the beginning of May.

WINTER SURFSKI SERIES 2021

Sunday, May 2: Race 2 – Marine (8 km/16 km)

Sunday, May 16: Race 3 – Marine (9 km / 18 km)

Sunday, May 30: Bay Union King of the Bay (9 km / 21 km)

Saturday, June 12: Pirates – Umhlanga – Pirates (26 km)

Saturday, June 26 and Sunday, June 27: Scottburgh2Brighton (47 km)

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