Underberg - A powerful opening stage of the 2015 N3TC Drak Challenge in Underberg on
Saturday by defending champs Andy Birkett and Abby Adie sees the two head into
Sunday’s second stage in full command of this year’s men’s and women’s race
Euro Steel’s Birkett had his hands full early on as he, five-time Marathon
World Champion Hank McGregor (Team Jeep/Kayak Centre) and 2013 Dusi winner
Lance Kime (Euro Steel) broke away from the rest of the field from the get go
before an unfortunate mishap for birthday boy McGregor handed Birkett the
“Considering I’ve been sick all week after last weekend’s race up in Jo’burg
and that this is my first hard paddle since then, I’m really stoked with how
things went for me today,” explained Birkett afterwards.
“I wanted to try get my nose in front as early as possible because having clean
water in front of you on a low river is a big advantage, so I went out quite
hard and Hank (McGregor) and Lance (Kime) came with me.
“Hank had a bit of bad luck just before Black Murray Rapid and we both ended up
a bit tangled together while Lance sailed through cleanly.
“Fortunately I managed to catch Lance a little way down before then getting
away from him three kilometres after Black Murray and then I just looked to
push all the way through to the finish,” he added.
The unpredictable Mzimkhulu River handed paddlers another tough hand for the
second year running however organisers decided to keep the start at its
traditional location at Castleburn which meant a low, technical yet rewarding
river awaited competitors.
“We were really pleased to be able to go from the top; we wouldn’t have had it
any other way!” said a relieved Kime after finishing the stage in second place.
“It was quite technical and unfortunately things didn’t quite go Hank’s way
today but that’s how it goes sometimes in the rapids.
“It was great fun though with us always dicing at the front early on and the
lead changing three or four times before Black Murray before Andy then broke
the elastic and I just didn’t have the flat water speed to keep up with him.”
Despite the low conditions and Birkett and McGregor’s heavier frames, the pair
kept going away from the rest of the pack until McGregor slotted the nose of
his boat in a hole shortly before Black Murray which him cost the birthday
present to himself that he’d hoped for.
“Unfortunately I went into a hole and pegged my nose which then meant Andy had
nowhere to go and so ended up half on my back deck,” explained McGregor.
It was no one’s fault, it was just unfortunate but that meant my rudder was
forced down into the rocks and crimped the rudder wheel and so I couldn’t
“I jumped out at the bottom of Black Murray and managed to pull one side free
but not the other so all I could really do was limp home as best I could but I
couldn’t really push.
“It was just one of those days though. You win some, you lose some. Andy will
take some catching tomorrow!” he added.
With top five pre-race contender Andrew Houston forced out of the contest due
to tonsillitis, Owen Gandar stole the limelight in the race for the minor
placing’s as he charged home in fourth place ahead of Varsity College’s Grant
van der Walt while under-18 sensation Jean van der Westhuysen mixed it up with
his senior counterparts en route to seventh overall.
Gauteng’s Siseko Ntondini (SCARC) was the first under-23 male competitor home
on the opening day, finishing ninth overall.
The Kayak Centre/Natal Canoe Club star Abby Adie started the day as firm
favourite however the four-time race winner was in a class of her own as she
soared to a three and a half minute lead over a flying Laura O’Donoghue who had
a stellar second half of the opening day’s action.
“I think my knowledge of the river worked significantly in my favour today,”
said Adie. “I had a pretty clean day all round and I’m happy to come out in
“I think the conditions actually suited us lighter girls because we have a
little bit of n advantage on this level river but it was a nice technical level
and it kept you on your toes the whole time.
"Tomorrow I want to hang on to a fast group and have a consistent paddle
and I hope that I didn't overcook it today and I have something left or
tomorrow," she added.
Jenna Ward was the first under-23 woman across the line in third place in the
women’s dice while Peek sisters Jordan and Cana were the fourth and fifth women
across the line with Cana in form control of the under-18 girls’ clash.
Sunday’s second stage starts at Swartberg Road Bridge and finishes at Early
edition of the N3TC Drak Challenge takes place on Saturday 24 and Sunday, January 25. Should the water levels allow, stage one starts just above Castleburn
Bridge and finishes at Swartberg Bridge while Sunday’s second stage comes to a
head at Early Mists Farm close to Coleford. More information can be found at www.drak.co.za SUMMARY
OF RESULTS - N3TC DRAK CHALLENGE
1. Andy Birkett 1.35:01
2. Lance Kime 1.37:24
3. Hank McGregor 1.39:04
4. Owen Gandar 1.40:58
5. Grant van der Walt 1.40:59
6. Thulani Mbanjwa 1.41:01
7. Benjamin Bradford 1.43:14
8. Jean van der Westhuysen (U18) 1.44:01
9. Siseko Ntondini (U23) 1.44:03
10. Don Wewege (U23) 1.44:06
11. Murray Starr (U23) 1.44:08
12. Shaun Griffin 1.45:07
13. Carl Folscher 1.45:07
14. Banesti Nkhoesa (U23) 1.45:30
15. Trenton Lamble 1.46:12
16. Siyabonga Tyiki (U18) 1.46:13
17. Kwanda Mhlophe 1.46:37
18. Abby Adie (woman) 1.47:38
19. Bryan Leroux (U23) 1.47:42
20. Thando Ngamlana (U23) 1.47:42
1. Abby Adie 1.47:38
2. Laura O'Donoghue 1.51:14
3. Jenna Ward (U23) 1.52.27
4. Jordan Peek (U23) 1.56:50
5. Cana Peek (U18) 1.56:51
6. Donna Tutton 1.57:51
7. Hilary Bruss 1.59:08
8. Danica Bartho 1.59:09
9. Tamika Haw (U23) 2.02:44
10. Natasha Bulbring 2.05:21
Under 23 Men
1. Siseko Ntondini 1.44:03
2. Don Wewege 1.44:06
3. Murray Starr 1.44:08
4. Banesti Nkhoesa 1.45:30
5. Bryan Leroux 1.47:42
Under 23 Women
1. Jenna Ward 1.52:27
2. Jordan Peek 1.56:50
3. Tamika Haw 2:02.44
Under 18 Boys
1. Jean van der Westhuysen 1.44:01
2. Siyabonga Tyiki 1.46:13
3. Alan Houston 1.48:45
Under 16 Boys
1. Tumelo Elephant 1.58:13