Cape Town - Defending
champion Hank McGregor (Jeep Team) reinforced his status as South Africa’s
greatest big water paddler after winning his seventh STIHL Umkomaas
Canoe Marathon title.
partnered with seasoned paddler but Umko first-timer, Jasper Mocke, to take on
the 50th edition of what’s considered the world’s roughest and
wildest K1/K2 river canoe marathon.
The duo finished
the 2-day race in a total time of 4:13.11. Dave Hamilton-Brown and Wayne Jacobs
finished second in 4:15.24, with Murray Starr and Owen Gandar in third
Canoe Marathon is notorious for its unpredictability and boat-breaking rapids.
Paddlers never know what they’re in for as there are no dams to govern the
water releases. Through the Umkomaas Valley, near Richmond, KZN, the river
flows fast and strong, providing superb excitement for white water rafters and
massive challenges for fragile fibreglass K1 and K2 racing boats.
little rain fall in the days leading up to the race meant paddlers were faced
with a low 1.3m water level, requiring immense technical skill and
concentration to navigate successfully through the ragged rocky river.
started on a more manageable section of the Umkomaas River, with paddlers
racing 35km from Josephine’s Bridge to Riverside. McGregor and Mocke were the
first boat through Number One rapid. They held onto the lead, finishing Day 1
in 2h11m, three minutes ahead of second-placed Hamilton-Brown/Jacobs team.
Day 2, 32km
from Hella Hella to Josephine’s Bridge, was the toughest, presenting the real
test of big rapids and leading to the most broken boats. The experienced
McGregor and strong Mocke expertly navigated the low level river, with the duo
finishing Day 2 in 2h01m, just one minute behind Hamilton-Brown/Jacobs who
finished in 2h00m but the McGregor/Mocke team’s 3-minute lead on Day 1 saw them
claim the overall title.
Said McGregor, “The
Umko is the only race in the world where paddlers don’t sprint off the start
line because they’re actually scared of what’s up ahead. Everyone is nervous on
the course. I’m stoked to win my seventh title with Jasper Mocke, who
was paddling his first. It was an awesome fun day out!”
RESULTS – 2016 STIHL UMKOMAAS CANOE MARATHON
Hank McGregor / Jasper Mocke - 4:13:11
Dave Hamilton-Brown / Wayne Jacobs - 4:15:24 – 1st Sub-vet
Murray Starr / Owen Gandar - 4:22:01
Mark Perrow / Piers Cruickshanks - 4:22:44 – 1st Vet
Don Wewege / Kevin Musgrave - 4:23:32
Lee Furby / Grant Van der Walt - 4:25:40
Emanuel Zaloumis / Hamish Lovemore - 4:27:56 – 1st U18
Jacques Theron / Jen Theron - 4:28:04 – 1st Mixed Double
Warren Valentine / Marc Germiquet - 4:30:16
Andrew Neal / Stuart Waterworth - 4:36:26
the first Umko
Umkomaas Canoe Marathon took place on December 16, 1966. Fifty years ago, it was
a very different event, with 40 paddlers setting off on a three-day, 112km
adventure that started at Josephine’s Bridge and ended on the south coast where
the river meets the Indian Ocean.
days, there were no seconds, sponsorship or spectators - just a solitary
timekeeper driving a World War II Jeep backed up by a vintage short-base Land
Rover and other vehicles carrying paddlers’ tents, dry clothes and food
provisions. In these days, before life jackets and helmets were made
compulsory, and before cell phones had been invented, single canoes were
required to paddle in pairs for safety reasons. Most of the entries were
singles with a few doubles.
race was won by legendary KwaZulu-Natal paddler, Charles Mason.