Bridgetown - South African paddling legend Hank McGregor continued his march
towards a record 10th Berg River Canoe Marathon title on Thursday when he
outlasted the rest of the field during the tough second stage from Zonquasdrift
to Bridgetown while overnight women’s leader Bianca Beavitt further extended
her massive lead in the women’s race.
Paddling the same stretch of river that was covered during Wednesday’s revised
first stage, some may have expected things to be a little easier the second
time around however it wasn’t to be for McGregor as he went from start to
“It was quite hard starting on my own today and never quite knowing just how
hard I was needing to go,” explained the Jeep Team/Kayak Centre athlete. “To
pace yourself for four hours when you’re on your own is quite a daunting task.”
“I decided to go out quite hard and try open up a bit of a buffer on the rest
of the guys but the first time split I got was at Train Bridge – close to two
hours and forty five minutes into the day – so it was pretty tough,” he added.
Starting the day with a near three minute advantage, McGregor looked to ensure
he finished ahead of his chasers, regardless of how big his lead may be.
“When you’re on your own your mind also places games with you and while trying
to remember where I went yesterday, I unfortunately made some silly mistakes
but I’m just glad to have gotten here in one piece and I’m still leading so I
couldn’t be happier.
“I said to my wife (Pippa) last night that if I could just make sure I got to
Bridgetown at the end of the day with a couple seconds lead – even if I just
won the end sprint – then that would be enough to set me up for the next two
“To have a buffer of over two and a half minutes is a huge achievement and I’m
really happy!” said McGregor.
Friday’s racing sees paddlers bank whatever time advantage they may have
notched up over the previous two days and start in batches once more, affording
race leader McGregor the opportunity to sit back and mark the moves of his
opponents without having to dictate proceedings much himself.
“It’s just been about trying to take things one stage at a time for the past
“I have two big stages ahead but now it’s back to marathon racing and the
tactics that go with that is what I enjoy so hopefully I can sit on someone
else’s a wave for a change.
Thursday’s stage victory won’t be the only occasion the McGregor’s will raises
a celebratory toast to as the day also marks their son Thorsten’s first
“I thought about my little boy a couple times while I was on the water today;
hopefully one day when’s he older he’ll remember that I won a stage of the Berg
on his first birthday!”
Starting some way behind McGregor, defending race champion Andy Birkett had his
work cut out for him from the get go however the Euro Steel star soon found
good company in Spain’s Kiko Vega.
“I battled to find a bit of momentum in the first thirty minutes and so Kiko
Vega caught me quite quickly.
“For the first hour of the race I wasn’t feeling so lekker but we were working
well together and so slowly we started building up a bit of momentum even
though Hank was still opening up quite a bit of a gap.
“Finally we got some time splits that were a bit more positive and we realised
were closing in on Hank a bit,” said Birkett.
Even hunting as a pair didn’t see Birkett and Vega catch McGregor though and
instead the pair had to settle for each other’s company for the day, despite
very little conversation exchanged between the two.
“It was awesome paddling with Kiko; he’s such a lekker guy and helped me out a
few times paddling when I got stuck in some trees.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t chat much with Kiko speaking very little English; I
was trying to remember the few Spanish phrases that I know but he kept looking
at me quite strangely when I tried to say them so I clearly wasn’t pronouncing
them right!” laughed Birkett.
The evergreen Graeme Solomon was another to enjoy good international company
throughout the second stage as Czech Republic’s Jakub Adam and Joep van Bakel
of the Netherlands soon closed the gap to last year’s runner up with van Bakel
(Kanocentrum Arjan Bloem), Adam and Vega going on to post the three fastest
times of the day.
In the women’s race Beavitt was once again in a league of her own as she
extended her half an hour overnight lead to go into Friday’s third stage with a
fifty-five minute buffer over Robyn Henderson and stage two mover Jane
Not even a second swim in as many days dented the Century City/Pink Lady paddler’s
dominance of the women’s clash.
“I’m glad just to have survived!” laughed a relieved Beavitt afterwards. “It
wasn’t too bad overall even though I did have one swim – three hundred metres
down from the place where I swam yesterday!
“I heard the motor boat coming up behind me and as I turned I went into a tree
and over I went.”
With such a sizeable lead, Friday’s longest stage of the race is all about
staying out of trouble and keeping company around her for Beavitt.
“Everyone always tries to go into each day with a game plan and then five
kilometres in everything changes but hopefully I can get into a good bunch that
doesn’t look to work me over too much early on tomorrow and then just staying
Friday's third stage starts at Bridgetown and finishes at Zoutkloof before the
race finishes at Velddrif on Saturday. More information can be found at www.berg.org.za
SUMMARY OF RESULTS - 2015 BERG RIVER CANOE MARATHON
STAGE ONE (ZONQUASDRIFT - BRIDGETOWN)
1. Hank McGregor 3:39.28 8:32.48
2. Andy Birkett 3:39.05 8:35.23
3. Kiko Vega (ESP) 3:37.59 8:35.25
4. Jakub Adam (CZE) 3:37.56 8:39.49
5. Graeme Solomon 3:38.27 8:39.50
6. Joep van Bakel (NED) 3:37.34 8:39.51
7. Keith Moule (GBR) 3:45.27 8:50.59
8. Brendan Rice (AUS) 3:46.31 8:50.59
9. Louw van Riet 3:51.02 9:01.01
10. Edgar Boehm 3:54.12 9:12.01
11. Heinrich Schloms 3:55.38 9:12.02
12. Siseko Ntondini (U23) 4:00.12 9:20.55
13. Banetse Nkhoesa (U23) 3:52.36 9:22.03
14. Paul Marais 3:52.54 9:22.20
15. Thulani Mbanjwa 4:09.04 9:27.06
16. Greg van Heerden 3:58.47 9:32.04
17. Kyle Friedenstein (U23) 4:00.36 9:35.32
18. Luke Stowman (U23) 3:55.46 9:37.14
19. Tyron Maher (U23) 4:02.36 9:37.33
20. Jermaine Pietersen 3:58.48 9:42.04
1. Bianca Beavitt 4:10.20 9:53.31
2. Robyn Henderson 4:33.42 10:48.50
3. Jane Swarbreck 4:30.38 11:10.47
1. Siseko Ntondini 4:00.12 9:20.55
2. Banetse Nkhoesa 3:52.36 9:22.03
3. Kyle Friedenstein 4:00.36 9:35.32
1. Siyanda Gwamande 4:10.22 9:58.22
2. Msawenkosi Mtolo 4:10.21 10:05.03
3. Anders Hart 4:05.36 10:05.33