Adventure Sport

Len Jenkins joins Drak event

2012-01-18 22:41
Len Jenkins (Dave Macleod/Gameplan Media)
Underberg - When Len Jenkins lodged his late entry at the last possible moment for the weekend’s Global Trader Drak Challenge, he completed a thrilling seeded batch line-up for one of the most prized canoeing titles on the domestic calendar.

Every local paddler who has won this title over the past decade will be on the start line, setting the scene for a thrilling showdown over the two days and 70km of the Umzimkulu river that runs through Underberg.

The enigma Len Jenkins is unbeatable on his day and has won here three times in 2004 and 2006, while his win in 2008 was as dominant a performance as it was impetuous. Now part of the pro Team Best 4 Kayak Centre and committed to racing The Unlimited Dusi with Hank McGregor, Jenkins looks to have found fresh enthusiasm for his paddling and useful support structures to harness his undoubted talent.

To add another Drak title to his CV he is going to have to get past an ominously strong batch of elite paddlers in the men’s seeded batch, not the least of which is the double defending champion Hank McGregor, the current world marathon champion.

McGregor makes no bones about his love for the Umzimkulu and this race in particular. For years it looked like being his hoodoo race as he was repeatedly tripped up on the river and it seemed that this was one of the major domestic titles that were fated to elude him.

He laid that to rest in 2010 and repeated it in 2011, and comes into the defence of his title oozing confidence at the end of a domestic competition year in which he has a 97% victory rate. The only factor that could count against Hank “The Tank” McGregor is his sheer size. The fickle Umzimkulu might dish up a low river for the first time since 2007, which will hamper the heavier paddlers.

Sure to be not far behind McGregor wherever he goes is his Team Best 4 Kayak Centre teammate Grant van der Walt. Since relocating from Johannesburg to Durban to train with McGregor van der Walt has posted numerous excellent K1 performances, to the point that he is the one paddler in the top batch that is still due a victory on the Umzimkulu. His brawn may count against him on a low river in the same way as his mentor McGregor will feel it.

Van der Walt last raced the Drak two years ago where he was shaken off the front bunch by equipment problems, but he staged a remarkable second day charge on his own that saw him post the fastest final stage time, and finish homing in on McGregor like a Scud missile.

Van der Walt has also made this race a top priority as he is not racing Dusi unlike most of the other contenders who have had to sandwich this race into their Dusi training timeline and may be in the middle of the highest workload phase of their Dusi preparations and probably fairly tired.

Add to this mix the undisputed King of the Drak Ant Stott, who brings an air of the unknown into the race this year, and the scene is set for a two day thriller in the foothills of the Southern Drakensberg.

Stott has won six Drak titles before and his reign spans the history of this popular race. He has struggled in recent months with a persistent Achilles injury that derailed his Dusi plans and sent him into a rehabilitation programme that has kept him out of the boat for long months.

However the Drak, with its complete absence of portages, should not stress Stott and he may well come into the race raring to go, passionate about racing on the river he loves.

There are several other elite stars that will be on the start line and will be serious podium contenders. Dusi favourites Thulani Mbanjwa and his partner Sibonelo Zondi are both gearing down to singles for the race, despite initial plans to race in a K2 as part of their Dusi training.

Add to that the likes of Brandon van der Walt, the younger brother of Grant, Lance Kime and on-form local Craig Turton, recent winner of the Ibis to Dip Tank Dusi race with Jasper Mocke, and the stage is set for a thriller in the mountains.

The Global Trader Drak Challenge starts on Saturday morning with a 26km stage from Castleburn to Sinister Pool, and ends on Sunday with a 36km stage to Early Mists Farm close to Coleford Resort. More information can be found at 

Read more on:    drak challenge  |  len jenkins

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