Hillcrest - Andy Birkett and Sbonelo Zondi have turned in another commanding display on day two of the Dusi canoe race, extending their overall lead to almost nine minutes at Inanda Dam, near Hillcrest, on Friday.
The pre-race favourites won the second stage in a time of two hours, 57 minutes and two seconds for overall time of 5:30.33, two-thirds into the 63rd edition of the world famous race, which is a K2 or doubles classification in 2014.
They stretched their lead to eight minutes and 56 seconds over Hank McGregor and Jasper Mocke (5:39.52), dominating the stage between Dusi Bridge and Inanda Dam after only really losing time during the opening quarter of the stage.
"This is river racing and I don't think you can ever say any lead is comfortable because anything can happen," Birkett said.
"But nine minutes allows us to relax a little bit and we're hoping to enjoy that final stage."
Mocke insisted they would try their best to haul in the leaders, but admitted it will be tough.
"It's a long shot," the Cape rower said. "They have the luxury of taking more conservative lines and not having to attack too much.
"But it's never over and we'll have to see tomorrow."
Cam Schoeman and Czech rowing star Adam Jakub remained in third place with an overall time of 5:50.30, with Kwanda Mhlophe and Zonele Nzuza (5:58.32) fourth followed by the remarkable recovery of Lance Kime, winner of last year's K1 classification, and Thulani Mbanjwa (5:59.15).
The pair, among the pre-race favourites, began the stage in 17th position, 26 minutes behind the leaders after a woeful day one when they broke their boat early in the race. At the end of day two, they were within nine minutes off a top-three overall finish.
"The goal was to get into the top 10 today and to end fifth was an excellent effort," Kime said.
"I think the last stage is one that both Banji (Mbanjwa) and I enjoy. Can we finish on the podium? I think we can but it's going to take a big, big effort."
After a tight stage one in the women's race, overwhelming favourites and two-time defending champions Robyn Kime and Abbey Ulansky broke away from the field to finish in 6:19.57 with a lead of two minutes and three seconds.
"We are very happy with how today went," Ulansky, known as the Dusi queen after her eight wins in 10 years between 2003 and 2012, said.
"It was a rough day but we always knew it was going to be that way."
Ana Adamova and Abby Adie, 29 seconds behind at the start, were second in 6:22.00, followed by Haw sisters Tamika and Bianca (6:55.08) who came in third.
"Tomorrow is going to be equally tough and we can't really afford to make too many mistakes because Anna and Abby are right behind us," Ulansky said.
The final stage of the 119,62 kilometres race between Inanda Dam and Blue Lagoon takes place on Saturday.