Pietermaritzburg - Andy Birkett and Lance Kime outwitted and outsmarted a class
field of canoeists to claim the key Ozzie Gladwin laurels on the upper Mngeni River on Sunday.
The Euro Steel duo were paddling together for only the second time, following a
skittish outing at the NCC Dice on Thursday evening, but put it all together on
the day to win their first race together, and sound an ominous warning at the
start of the Dusi season.
Racing in superb river conditions, thanks to a co-ordinated 10 cumecs water
transfer from Albert Falls Dam to Nagle Dam Birkett and Kime found themselves
locked in a needle three boat tussle with the ADreach pairing of 10-time
Ozzie Gladwin winner Len Jenkins and young Siseko Ntondini, and the early
season pacesetters Sbonelo Khwela (Euro Steel/Red Bull) and Banetse Nkhoesa
(Euro Steel/Computershare Change a Life Academy).
The three K2s were together going into the final three kilometres of rocky
rapids at the end of the 29km race.
First Jenkins made a tactical error, choosing a line down a rocky rapid that
left them high and dry, allowing the other two boats to scamper away.
"It all came down to line choices in the last few rapids," said an
elated Birkett afterwards. "Lance (Kime) drove beautifully - I think he is
one of the best river readers around at the moment.
"Luckily I had tripped this section earlier in the season, so I was able
to give him some advice about which lines to take.
"Every time we came out of a small channel or rapid it seemed we had made
ten or twenty metres on Sbonelo (Khwela) and Banetse (Nkhoesa) and each time we
put down the hammer and we able to open up the gap," said Birkett.
Khwela and Nkhoesa finished second, satisfied with their showing and bowing to
the superior knowledge of the intricacies of the lines in the closing stages of
"We ran well on the portage and got to the hotspot at the Albert Falls
weir first," said Khwela.
"It is still early days before the Dusi,
and we have got lots of work to do before that," he added.
The intriguing crew of World Champion Hank McGregor and former Dusi winner
Jason Graham looked like they were going to be a significant factor in the race
after leading the pack off Albert Falls Dam after the first three kilometres
However McGregor (Jeep Team/Euro Steel) struggled with his drinking system,
which hamstrung their progress on the two kilometre portage around the dam
wall, and by the time they put in on the Mngeni River they had been dropped by
the lead trio, and paddled the remainder of the race alone in fourth place.
Local Thulani Mbanjwa and Cape-based Shaun Rubenstein showed that their
plans to cobble together a serious Dusi challenge were to be taken
seriously as they raced into the top five, edging out Ant Stott and Carl
The women's race quickly fell into the clutches of pre-race favourites Abby
Solms and Jenna Ward (Euro Steel/MacSquad). After exiting the dam leg in a
tightly packed group of strong female K2 crews, they ran their way into the
lead on the portage and then paddled away to post a flawless day and a four and
a half minute victory over Bridgitte Hartley and Donna Tutton.
For Solms and Ward, they can look forward to extending their flourishing
partnership into next weekend's 50 Miler on the FNB Dusi course, before they
pair up with their respective partners for the three day classic from Camps
Drift to Blue Lagoon in February.
Promising Team Euro Steel juniors Cana Peek and Kyeta Purchase rounded off the
women's podium, and might have been able to improve on their overall result had
Peek not been battling with the after effects of having run the tough 21km Sani
Stagger the day before.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
1. Andy Birkett/Lance Kime 1:51:35.18
2. Sbonelo Khwela/Banetse Nkhoesa 1:51:55.30
3. Len Jenkins/Siseko Ntondini 1:52:09.18
4. Hank McGregor/Jason Graham 1:55:.93 (1st sub-vets)
5. Shaun Rubenstein/Thulani Mbanjwa 1:55:41.48
6. Carl Folscher/Ant Stott 1:55:45.83
7. Louis Hattingh/Damon Stamp 1:55:59.69 (1st u23)
8. Alan Houston/Owen Gandar 1:56:44.65
9. Mmeli Cele/Khumbulani Nzimande 1:58:25.47
10. Lucas Mthalane/Sipho Canham 1:58:34.86
1. Abby Solms/Jenna Ward 2:04:57.10
2. Bridgitte Hartley/Donna Tutton 2:09:14.13
3. Cana Peek/Kyeta Purchase 2:14:11.12
4. Christie MacKenzie/Caitlin MacKenzie 2:25:05.38
5. Kim Peek/Jordan Peek 2:26:49.31
1. Thembinkosi Ngcobo/Nosipho Mthembu 2:16:41.20
2. Shaun Dias/Anke Malan 2:19:04.84
3. James Hackland/Jean Hackland 2:21:01.97
More info can be found at www.ozziegladwin.co.za