Underberg - Six-time world marathon champion Hank McGregor has lined up a shot
at a fourth title at the Drak Challenge Canoe Marathon on January 23-24, hoping to overturn a two year run of misfortune on the popular two-day
race through the foothills of the Southern Drakensberg.
"I am full go for the Drak Challenge," enthused McGregor, who is
training for his K2 challenge for the Dusi title with team-mate Jasper
"The Drak is a fantastic race, and when there is good water it has to be
one of the best river races on the calendar," he added.
McGregor, like hundreds of regular Drak paddlers, is anxiously watching
the daily reports on the level of the Mzimkulu River which has been hard-hit by
the drought gripping the region.
"I must admit that the lack of water at the moment is a concern but
hopefully the heavens will play ball on race day," said McGregor.
"We are all hoping for rain, otherwise rock-hopping will be the only thing
on the Drak menu. I have faith that we are due a full Drak again," he
The Jeep Team/Euro Steel ace, who will turn 38 on the final day of the Drak Challenge, became the first paddler to win a hat-trick of victories
at the Drak Challenge when he took back-to-back titles from 2010 and
2012. However he skipped the 2013 race before his bids in 2014 and 2015 ended
He was locked into a thrilling duel with Andy Birkett in tricky low
conditions in 2014 when he ran out of water in the technical Mhkulu Rapid 20 minutes from the end of the race, allowing a grateful Birkett to scamper
away to claim his maiden Drak title.
Last year he looked to be in a dominant position on Day 1 before his race was
effectively ended when the rudder wheel of his kayak hit a rock, crimping the
rudder cable against the rudder wheel, leaving him unable to steer his boat
through the tight rocky rapids.
He eventually had to stop and wrench loose the rudder cable, costing him three
positions in the race, which was once again won by Birkett.
"Last year just wasn't my year and the boat admin cost me," said
"Hopefully I will have a clean, admin-free race this year and
I'll be there in the mix for the title."
McGregor said that the timing of the Drak made it ideal training for the Dusi, and while he would have to put his K2 training with Mocké on hold
that week, both regarded the Drak is as an essential part of their Dusi
He added that the Underberg race was high on his list of priorities because it
always attracts the cream of the country's river racers.
"I am sure that all the big guns among the SA paddlers will be there and
maybe one or two of the internationals out for the Dusi will put their hand
up," said McGregor.
The race organising committee is keeping a close eye on the level of the
Mzimkulu River in the build-up to the race, and have slated a number of options
for the race should the desperately low conditions persist.
The Drak Challenge takes place on Saturday, 23 and Sunday, January 24, 2016.
More information can be found at www.drak.co.za