Dusi Canoe Marathon

Birkett edges Dusi Stage 1

2015-02-19 12:01
Andy Birkett (Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media)

Dusi Bridge - The opening stage of the 2015 Dusi Canoe Marathon was a frenetic one as records aplenty tumbled at the hands of a fierce contest at the front of the men’s field which ultimately saw four-time winner Andy Birkett claim the race’s early advantage.

After a chaotic opening first few kilometres, normality finally returned on the Campbell’s Farm portage as pre-race title favourites Birkett, Lance Kime, Sbonelo Khwela and Thulani Mbanjwa – termed the ‘Fantastic Four’ ahead of this year’s 64th edition of the iconic 120km adventure - charged ahead of the chase pack.

The lead went back and forth between Kime, Birkett and Khwela throughout and ultimately stole the lion’s share of the limelight however all four put in powerful performances that saw the quartet all surpass the stage’s previous record, set by Khwela in 2013.

“I actually thought that Sbonelo was going to be about three minutes ahead by the end of the first stage and I also thought that Lance was going to beat me but I knew I had to try and just hang in there,” said Birkett afterwards.

“It’s great to take the record back from Sbonelo,” he chuckled. “Sbonelo took it from me two years ago and I was quite disappointed I’d lost it so it’s nice to have it back!”

Characterised by its lengthy portages and with Birkett entering the clash with a right ankle strain, many watched the opening stage curiously to see just how well the former Under-23 Marathon World Champ would fare in the middle and latter stages of the contest.

The young talent’s astute tactics once again shone through as he carefully marked K1 defending champion Kime and major stage one running threat Khwela before a surge over the final kilometres handed him a useful 25-second lead going into Friday’s 42km second stage.

“Lance (Kime) and I were together for the whole day right up until just before the finish. Sbonelo was ahead of us just after Campbell’s and Lance and I were just trying to push the pace to minimise the damage that Sbonelo inflicted on us on Guinea Fowl portage,” explained Birkett afterwards.

“We managed to catch him and from there we got to Finger Neck and Sbonelo put in just behind us and we managed to put in a little bit of time on him on the water.

“With my ankle and how little running training I have actually done I am stoked to be ahead on day one, I’m completely shocked to be honest!” he added.

Having worked well with Birkett throughout the stage, Euro Steel’s Kime crossed the line in second place ahead of an exhausted and somewhat disappointed Sbonelo Khwela (Euro Steel/Red Bull) in third.

““We always expected the portages to swing in the favour of Sbonelo; he’s a brilliant runner so that was expected,” said Kime.

“Having seen Sbonelo’s form in the pre-races though, his paddling is also really strong so I didn’t expect that we would catch him so quickly on the water. Having two of us together did play a big role though; it’s easier both mentally and physically because you can ride each other’s wave!”

“This year all of the guys were really well prepared for the race and especially the paddling and I knew that I had to pick up my game with my paddling,” added Khwela. “My plan was to relax a bit on the paddle and make sure that there wasn’t too much of a gap so I could catch them on the run.”

“At Guinea Fowl I thought that it was my chance to put the hammer down and try make the guys struggle and I put in first after Geoff’s Road but just before Mission Rapid I don’t know what happened, my body just shut down and I started getting cramps in my arms.

“The guys caught me and I couldn’t even stay on their wave because I was so tired!”

As Khwela would know all too well after his stage three title challenge ending mishap, a lot of racing is still to be done and lots can still happen so the race is still alive.

For Birkett though, the buffer is a handy one as he now looks to fend off the charging chasers on Friday’s second stage.

“I’m going to have to paddle scared and instead of trying to chase the guys as I had thought I would have to do coming into the race. I have to try and keep what little lead I have,” said Birkett.

Albeit a little off the lead three’s pace, Build it/Williams Hunt’s Thulani Mbanjwa was fourth across the finish line ahead of an impressive Andrew Houston (Seed Co.) in fifth.

Yet another strong presence by Martin Dreyer’s Computershare Change a Life Academy paddlers in the overall top 20 was mirrored by the setup’s junior competitors as Mpilo Zondi and Msawenkosi Mtolo followed Michaelhouse’s Alan Houston across the line in the Under-18 boys race.

The second stage of the Dusi Canoe Marathon takes place on Friday 20 February from Dusi Bridge to Inanda Dam. More information can be found at www.dusi.co.za

Day 1 results:


1. Andy Birkett 2:36.26
2. Lance Kime 2:36.51
3. Sbonelo Khwela 2:38.21
4. Thulani Mbanjwa 2:42.01
5. Andrew Houston (U23) 2:50.12
6. Zonele Nzuza 2:52.29
7. Owen Gandar 2:54.20
8. Murray Starr (U23) 2.54.22
9. Banesti Nkhoesa (U23) 2:54.22
10. Mhlonishwa Hlongwane (U23) 2:55.58
11. Jacques Theron 2:56.00
12. Carl Folscher 2:56.10
13. Murray Haw (U23) 2:56.54
14. Mthobisi Cele (U23) 2:59.30
15. Nqobile Makhanya (U23) 2:59.33
16. Richard Cele 2:59.58
17. Sboniso Shozi (U23) 3:00.41
18. Nhlanhla Cele 3:00.42
19. Alan Houston (U18) 3:00.55
20. Travis Wilson (U23) 3:02.04


1. Laura O'Donoghue 3:13:57
2. Cana Peek (U18) 3:30:21
3. Jordan Peek (U23) 3:38:11
4. Jane Swarbreck 3:40:51
5. Hilary Bruss 3:42:03)
6 .Jenna Ward (U23) 3:43:30
7. Natasha Bulbring 3:53:27
8. Donna Tutton 3:56:11
9. Christie Mackenzie (U16) 3:58:08
10. Marion Young 4:05:17

Under-23 Men

1. Andrew Houston 2:50.12
2. Murray Starr 2.54.22
3. Banesti Nkhoesa 2:54.22
4. Mhlonishwa Hlongwane 2:55.58
5. Murray Haw 2:56.54

Under-18 Boys

1. Alan Houston 3:00.55
2. Mpilo Zondi 3:04.05
3. Msawenkosi Mtolo 3:07.09
4. Thabani Msiya 3:08.09
5. Charles Houston 3:10.14

Under-16 Boys

1. Emanuel Zaloumis 3:32.06
2. Tumelo Elephant 3:44.57
3. Alex Masina 3:47.55

Read more on:    dusi canoe marathon  |  canoeing

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