Pietermaritzburg - The 64th edition of the globally renowned three day, 120km long paddling and
running adventure from Pietermaritzburg to Durban gets underway on Thursday
amidst an atmosphere of remembrance, history and excitement.
Legendary South African conservationist and founder of the Dusi, Dr. Ian Player,
who passed away on Sunday, November 30, 2014 will be at the centre of the race’s
focus this year and the 1 400 participants will pay special tribute to the man
who so passionately paved the way for the iconic race to become what it is
Participants and paddling enthusiasts, spectators and sponsors will gather at
Natal Canoe Club’s headquarters at Camps Drift prior to the start of this
year’s race to salute the race’s pioneer and first ever winner.
Individuals will also honour the great man in their own special way over the
course of the 2015 Dusi with 74-year-old Hugh Raw and 72-year-old Ian Ross two
Like Player’s maiden voyage in December 1951, Raw and Ross plan on tackling the
gruelling three day encounter in handcrafted canvas and wood boats and will
help each other share the load of the heavy craft on the portages by both
carrying an end of both boats, all the while sporting khaki outfits and animal
print-trimmed hats of the 1950s.
The hot and dry conditions that have gripped the province this summer have many
expecting an experience much like that which paddlers of the 1970s were used to,
while the reopening of the old Nqumeni portage route on Friday’s second stage
will be another fitting ‘blast from the past’.
After much support from the elder generation of paddlers, the 2015 Dusi will
also see the re-introduction of the age-old tradition of tea and doughnuts
being available to all finishers at the end of every day.
Up front, the men’s race promises to be hard-fought affair as the ‘Fantastic
Four’ pre-race title favourites of Andy Birkett, Sbonelo Khwela, Lance Kime and
Thulani Mbanjwa look to overcome each other as well as the rest of the charging
field in a bid for this year’s coveted K1 title.
Kime comes into this year’s clash as defending champ and the Euro Steel star
will hope his consistent ways of 2013 will again be enough to see him reign
Having smashed almost every Under-23 records possible two years ago and a
handful of senior time benchmarks as well, the former Stellenbosch University
student will undoubtedly be a force again in 2015.
Euro Steel’s Andy Birkett is comes into the clash as odds-on favourite for many
however, with just one K1 title amongst his collection of four Dusi victories
and an untimely rib injury still lingering, the top step of the podium is by no
means fait accompli for the 24-year-old star.
2013’s fairytale turned into heartbreak and disappointment in a matter of
seconds for Sbonelo Khwela (Euro Steel/Red Bull) after an agonising swim at
Pumphouse Weir just kilometres from the finish undid his remarkable hard work
of stage one and two - which included a setting new record time for the opening
stage - and saw the young talent eventually limp home in third place.
Since then Khwela has secured a maiden Dusi title when he and Birkett clinched
the 2014 K2 title in commanding fashion. However it is the singles crown that
the Shongweni Valley resident so desperately craves.
Thulani Mbanjwa is the fourth and final member of the quartet and the Build
It/Williams Hunt paddler is in the form of his last five seasons.
Mbanjwa famously raced to victory with Martin Dreyer in 2008 to become the
first black paddler to win the race and the 31-year-old is hungry to put in
another strong performance this year.
Banesti Nkhoesa, Andrew Houston and Soweto Canoe and Recreation Club (SCARC)
trio Loveday Zondi, Siseko Ntondini and Thando Ngamlana - among others - will
be eager to throw their hat into the top five contenders’ ring too and with
such talent in the chase pack, the chance of the race record breaking the eight
hour mark for the first time is realistic, even given the moderate river levels
that are expected.
Adriàn Boros is one of a handful of international paddlers making the
intercontinental journey to South Africa’s east coast for the occasion and the
young Hungarian is adamant he can put in a stronger performance than his 2014
K2 debut which saw he and partner Gàbor Màthé finish 69th.
The women race will lack its two main rivals of the past half-decade as Robyn
Kime continues her international travels while Abby Adie (Natal Canoe
Club/Kayak Centre) opts for a more social approach in 2015 as she tackles this
year’s clash with her father, Graham.
Adie’s isn’t the only elite presence in the mixed doubles category as she joins
five time Marathon World Champ Hank McGregor (Jeep Team/Kayak Centre) and his
wife Pippa as well as four time Dusi winner Ant Stott (Pope’s Canoe
Centre/Matelec) and his mom Beth.
Adie’s decision will see her Dusi victory duck continue however her absence
from the front of the women’s challenge has opened the door for another
multiple Dusi bridesmaid to challenge for a maiden title, Laura O’Donoghue.
Having waited in the wings for some time and then spent some time away from the
sport while living in Zambia, O’Donoghue returned to competitive racing at the
start of the KZN river marathon season and is relishing a shot at adding a Dusi
crown to her second places efforts in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
O’Donoghue’s strongest challenge is likely to come from eleventh hour entrant
Jenna Ward while the experienced Hilary Bruss (CPS Seedlings), Peek sisters
Jordan (Euro Steel) and Cana as well as 2014 podium finisher Tamika Haw will
all be eyeing out a top three finish.
A little further back in the women’s field 17-year-old Thokoza Mnganga High
School pupil Nokukhanya Shange aims to become the youngest ever black female K1
Dusi finisher in the history of the race as she looks to do battle with Cana
Peek and the rest of the junior girls’ field for a spot on the age group’s
The junior boys challenge looks set to be one dominated in numbers by Martin
Dreyer’s large Computershare Change a Life Academy contingent with the likes of
Mswaenkosi Mtolo, Bongani Ntinga, Mpilo Zondi and Siyanda Gwamande set to lead
the revolutionary outfit’s charge.
The Change a Life youngsters will however have to overcome the challenge of
Michaelhouse’s Alan Houston as well as SCARC’s determined Siyabonga Tyiki.
The 64th edition of the Dusi will see a new level being set on the
technological front live timing is welcomed to the race for the first time
while day three of the clash will be streamed live globally via the race
Ivan Willmot, better known as Yellow Van Man for his iconic yellow 1965 Ford
Transit, will reach a remarkable milestone in 2015 as he is set to serve the
race as a volunteer for the 50th year while on the water, Nigel Briggs seeks to
become the seventh paddler to surpass the mark of 40 Dusi finishes.
The race’s charity batch was renamed the Dr Ian Player Memorial Charity Batch
as part of the special tributes the race’s legendary founder and paddlers dug
deep to support the initiative as a new record collection of R381 712,61 which
will be distributed across the Dusi Valley Paddlers Fund, Magqubu Ntombela
Memorial Foundation and Dusi Umgeni Conservation Trust (DUCT).
edition of the Dusi Canoe Marathon takes place from Camps Drift in
Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon in Durban from Thursday 19 to Saturday 21
February 2015. More information can be found at www.dusi.co.za