Adventure Sport

Sizzling Day 1 action at Dusi

2012-02-16 15:01
Michael Mbanjwa and Eric Zondi (File)
Durban - The greatest canoe marathon in the world, The Unlimited Dusi, started at 06:00 on Thursday morning in spectacular fashion in perfect paddling conditions. 

Top contenders Hank McGregor and Len Jenkins showed their serious intentions by flying through Ernie Pearce weir leaving the rest of the field in their wake.

Carnage ensued as the rest of the batch tried to squeeze through the notoriously tricky weir to the delight of thousands of spectators lining the bridge and river banks, including the Ginger Army platoon and a squad from Maritzburg College. 

The Ginger Army and Charity Batch paddlers sported luminous orange wigs in support of The Unlimited Dusi charity beneficiaries, The Unlimited Child, the SPCA and DUCT (Dusi Umgeni Conservancy Trust).

Heading the Ginger Army is 5fm’s Sias du Plessis with Dusi veteran Deon Bruss, TV personalities Liezel van der Westhuizen with paddling partner Greg van Heerden and Bonang Matheba with four-time Dusi champion Ant Stott.

More than 1 800 paddlers will be battling it out over the next three days as the mighty Dusi and Umgeni rivers traverse from Pietermaritzburg through the Valley of a 1000 Hills to the finish in Durban. 

The field consists of one K4 entry, a record number of nine K3’s, 90 K1 canoes with a massive 838 K2 entries.

At 77, local paddling legend and extreme athlete Arthur Duncan of Pietermaritzburg is the oldest competitor with six paddlers aged 15, the youngest entries.

With a fleet of helicopters following the front runners, McGregor and Jenkins passed through Guinea Fowl first with Andy Birkett and Jason Graham and dream team Thulani Michael Mbanjwa and Sibonelo Eric Zondi in hot pursuit. 

In a neck-to-neck battle to the finish line defending champions Graham and Birkett pipped Mbanjwa and Zondi to the post with only seconds separating the first two finishers at Dusi bridge. Jenkins and McGregor went across the line in third place.

According to McGregor, they are still in serious contention. “We struggled a bit at Guinea Fowl and the other two teams managed to overtake us. You race as hard as you can, but with this race gives you no place to hide.  If you can see someone, I always believe you can catch them, so tomorrow is going to be a big day!”

In the ladies’ division Robyn Kime and Dusi queen Abbey Ulansky finished strongly in first place and proved their supremacy by finishing in 21st place overall. Even though the top pair came off at the bottom of the Ernie Pearce weir and lost about a minute, they quickly recovered. 

According to Ulansky, Ernie Pearce has become their Achilles heel. “We’re now becoming used to taking a swim at the weir. It was hard work out there today and the water level is high. With a big lead, it is preferable to have a low river as it’s easier to read, but this is The Unlimited Dusi and you never know what’s going to happen,” mentioned Ulansky. 

The pair is also chasing a top 20 overall finish and having missed it by a mere 10 seconds on day one, they undoubtedly have their work cut out.

Adie twins Abby and Alex were second across the line just over 11 minutes behind the winners. Debbie Germiquet and Carmen Blakeney finished third.

Meanwhile, the first day of The Unlimited Dusi saw a race within a race behind extremely competitive paddling amongst the top contenders with three celebrities fighting it out to the finish line.

The Cape pair of Van der Westhuizen and partner Van Heerden pipped the rest of the celebrity entrants to the post. An exuberant Van der Westhuizen still looked fresh at the finish. 

“We had a great race and I’m really surprised that we’ve finished in front of Sias and Deon as they’re really strong paddlers. This is the Comrades of canoe marathons and the camaraderie on the water, especially at Ernie Pearce, was incredible. It is just so humbling to see that everyone is equal in this race. It was fantastic to see the crowds lining the route and cheering us on - this race cannot be done without its spectators,” mentioned Van der Westhuizen.

Captain Ginger, Du Plessis was very happy to get through day one. “A really demanding day! This is the stretch with the longest portages and the longest time spent running with the boat. I am going to sleep well tonight. Still early days and lots can happen. Deon knows every rock in this river by name, so things could get very interesting tomorrow.”

The glamorous TV host and style star Matheba made it to the finish with a huge smile and all her carefully manicured nails intact. “I’m exhausted, but it has been awesome.  It’s going to be hard tomorrow, but the show has to go on.  Ant is the best!  He has been really sweet and patient and has been totally amazing at keeping my fire burning.”

The celebrities will go head to head again tomorrow for the second shift of the gruelling route of the world’s greatest canoe marathon.

Summary of results:

Day 1


1.Andy Birkett/Jason Graham 2:36.56
2.Thulani Mbanjwa/Sbonelo Zondi 2:36.59
3.Hank McGregor/Len Jenkins 2:38.28
4.Craig Turton/Jasper Mocke 2:41.16
5.Lance Kime/Kwanda Mhlope (U23) 2:43.26
6.Shaun Rubenstein/Steve Farrell 2:44.34
7.Piers Crucikshanks/Mike Stewart 2:47.01
8.Lucas Mthalane/Mmeli Cele 2:47.57
9.Richard Cele/Nhlanhla Cele (U23) 2:50.07
10.Shaun Biggs/Ben Biggs 2:51.14


1.Robyn Kime/Abbey Ulansky 2:59.33
2.Abby Adie/Alex Adie (U23) 3:10.43
3.Debbie Germiquet/Carmen Blakeney 3:22.30
4.Bianca Haw/Jordan Peek (U18) 3:25.58
5.Tamika Haw/Jen Hodson 3:32.30

U23 Men

1.Lance Kime/Kwanda Mhlope 2:43.26
2.Richard Cele/Nhlanhla Cele 2:50.07
3.Siseko Ntondini/Tom Ngcobo 2:59.45

U23 Women

1.Abby Adie/Alex Adie 3:10.43
2.Bianca Haw/Jordan Peek (U18) 3:25.58
3.Brittany Petersen/Kerry Shuter (U18) 3:33.46

U18 Boys

1.Murray Haw/James Speed 2:55.09
2.Donavan Wewege/Murray Starr 3:00.14
3.Banesti Nkhoesa/Sizwe Mhulo 3:04.45

U18 Girls

1.Bianca Haw/Jordan Peek 3:25.58
2.Brittany Petersen/Kerry Shuter 3:33.46
3.Kate Arnott/Charlotte Lovemore 4:10.14

Liezel van der Westhuizen is hoisted by top Dusi contenders Hank McGregor and Len Jenkins (File)


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