Johannesburg - Team-mates Hank McGregor and Grant van der Walt raced away to dominate the second stage of the Berg River canoe marathon on Thursday.
They worked together to rip open a significant nine-minute overall lead.
The pair raced side-by-side throughout the 46km stage from Zonquasdrift to Bridgetown, at the headwaters of Misverstand dam, in less than three hours.
Van der Walt earned the honours for the fastest time of the stage, six tenths of a second quicker than eight-time champion McGregor, who remains in the overall lead.
Both paddlers used the term "flawless" to describe their stage, as Van der Walt unashamedly tucked in behind McGregor when they wound through the tricky tree blocks.
He repaid the favour by taking his share of the pull as they ground away from the rest of the field.
"I came into this race with my eyes wide open," said Van der Walt, who is racing his debut Berg.
"I was pretty nervous when Hank led us into a few scary channels in the trees, but every time we would pop out in the open. He is a legend on this river, and I am learning tons from him every minute."
The pair were well clear when they approached the Gouda bridge, and could afford time to stop and have some fun. They slowed to a dead stop and froze, as the crowd on the bridge urged them on.
"I waited until my GPS showed zero, and told Grant to call it like a sprint start," said McGregor.
"Then we took off on a 100-metre race, which I was able to win. We worked hard, but we were also two mates who had a lot of fun on the river today."
The chasing trio of Graeme Solomon, Lance King and Simon van Gysen worked tirelessly to try and reel in the two Durban paddlers ahead of them, only to see the gap widen each time they got splits from their seconds.
"They were absolutely brilliant today," said Van Gysen. "At one stage they put a minute into us in a kilometre."
In the women's race, Olympian Jen Theron produced a stunning display to triple her overnight lead over Robyn Kime on a stage fraught with incident.
The pair started together, but 5km into the second leg Kime found herself stuck in a tree on a bend in the river, allowing Theron and the rest of the bunch to get away from her.
However, Theron's advantage was erased by a swim at Black Rock rapid after she dropped onto the deck of leading Junior Jandre Bezuidenhout's back deck.
With the two title challengers once again, Theron knew that she had to dig deep to regain her lead, which she would carry into the long third stage which is started as a massed start.
"Phew, I might have overcooked it a bit today and I am going to sleep very well tonight," said Theron.
1.Hank McGregor 2:57.31 6:50.49
2.Grant van der Walt 2:57.31 6:50.49
3.Simon van Gysen 3:02.00 6:59.37
4.Lance King 3:01.57 6:59.38
5.Graeme Solomon 3:02.04 6:59.39
6.Jacques Theron 3:03.31 7:06.57
7.Heinrich Schloms 3:05.18 7:06.57
8.Robbie Herreveld 3:03.33 7:06.58
9.Edgar Boehm Jnr 3:08.25 7:15.32
10.Ivan Kruger 3:10.51 7:15.34
11.Graham Monteith 3:08.12 7:15.34
12.Louw van Riet 3:13.05 7:23.03
13.Thulani Mbanjwa 3:15.25 7:29.22
14.Siseko Mtondini 3:15.26 7:29.24
15.Loveday Zondi 3;15.28 7:29.25
16.Daan du Toit 3:21.56 7:39.07
17.Jandre Bezuidenhout 3:17.01 7:40.36
18.Paul Marais 3:20.07 7:41.12
19.Joseph Williams 3:18.28 7:41.59
20.Chris de Waal 3:18.31 7:42.01
1.Jen Theron 3:17.03 7:43.09
2.Robyn Kime 3:19.16 7:46.26
3.Jenna ward 3:34.56 8:22.43
4.Kirsten Penderis 3:44.57 8:36.02
5.Robyn Henderson 3:45.35 8:44.03