Pietermaritzburg - Defending champions Andy Birkett and Jason Graham won the final stage of the Unlimited Dusi canoe marathon on Saturday to clinch the 61st edition of the race at Blue Lagoon in Durban.
The pair led from Caversham near Campbells Farm portage early in the first stage on Thursday and never looked back, coming through the final stage in two hours, 15 minutes and 17 seconds for an overall time of 7:43:02.
They also became the first pair in 22 years to claim back-to-back K2 titles.
“I’d say I enjoyed this win more than the first one because of the gap there was at the end. Two years ago it was so close,” Graham said.
Birkett, who at 21 is 12 years younger than his mentor, was also delighted with their winning margin of nearly nine minutes.
"This is my first win when there was such a noticeable lead, so it really feels like a true victory," said Birkett, who also won the K1 title last year.
World marathon champion Hank McGregor and Len Jenkins were a distant second, completing the race in 7:51:58.
Pre-race favourites Thulani Mbanjwa and Sbonelo Zondi finally had a trouble-free day and were rewarded by finishing on the podium after they crossed the line third in an overall time of 7:54:24.
The duo, who had been bidding to become the first black pair to win the race, had all sorts of problems on the opening two days -- the first was overshadowed by a broken rudder and broken seats, while the second saw them tipping over in a massive pool at Marianni Foley.
It became close to impossible for Mbanjwa and Zondi to catch Birkett and Graham in the final 35km stage between Inanda Dam and Blue Lagoon.
However, that did not deter them from hunting down McGregor and Jenkins as they closed what was nearly a six-minute lead down to a mere few seconds, before tiring towards the end to finish two minutes, 26 seconds behind.
Abbey Ulansky and Robyn Kime won a lopsided women's race in a record time of 8:41:59.
The title holders shattered the previous record of 8:46:03 set in 2008 by Ulansky and former partner Alexa Lombard. They finished 24th overall.
Dusi queen Ulansky, previously known as Abbey Miedema, also equalled the record of most wins by a woman in the race's history, moving to eight alongside Marlene Loewenstein in both singles and doubles categories. “Knowledge of the course is really important and that helped us over the three days,” Ulansky said.
Adie twins Alex and Abby, from Howick, finished more than 17 minutes behind in second place with an overall time of 8:59:25.
DAY THREE (Stage time, Overall time)
1. Andy Birkett/Jason Graham 2:15.17 7:43.02
2. Hank McGregor/Len Jenkins 2:20.02 7:51.58
3. Thulani Mbanjwa/Sbonelo Zondi 2:16.23 7:54.24
4. Lance Kime/Kwanda Mhlope (U23) 2:21.24 7:59.23
5. Craig Turton/Jasper Mocke 2:18.22 8:01.47
6. Shaun Rubenstein/Steve Farrell 2:27.12 8:12.27
7. Shaun Biggs/Ben Biggs 2:23.40 8:15.12
8. Piers Cruickshanks/Mike Stewart 2:25.55 8:17.28
9. Lucas Mthalane/Mmeli Cele 2:23.38 8:19.06
10. Mark Mulder/Dave Chaplin 2:26.02 8:21.57
1. Robyn Kime/Abbey Ulansky 2:33.02 8:41.59
2. Abby Adie/Alex Adie (U23) 2:33.49 8:59.25
3. Debbie Germiquet/Carmen Blakeney 2:40.57 9:31.16
4. Bianca Haw/Jordan Peek (U18) 2:50.20 9:48.17
5. Tamika Haw/Jen Hodson 2:44.46 9:52.13