Triumph No 10 for Jenkins

2012-11-11 20:42

Pietermaritzburg  - Paddling enigma Len Jenkins racked up a record tenth win in The Unlimited Ozzie Gladwin on Sunday, winning a thrilling three-way dice over the 26km of the Upper Umgeni with Dusi champ Andy Birkett and Thulani Mbanjwa.

The trio dominated from the 4km paddle around Albert Falls dam and the 1km portage around the dam wall to the Umgeni river, flowing at a forgiving medium seven cumecs flow. Jenkins was the first onto the river and won the hot spot sprint to the Albert Falls weir before the front group started a cat-and-mouse battle trying to expose any weaknesses in their adversaries.

Mbanjwa tried hard to force his way clear during the middle stages of the race, but paid for it when he was dropped off the front bunch 500 metres from the finish, leaving Birkett and Jenkins to fight it out for the title.

“It was so competitive out there,” said Jenkins, whose record on this race is starting to reflect his decade of dominance on the Hansa Fish marathon.

“This is one of those races where a paddler that can run a bit can success,” said Jenkins. “The more Dusi oriented races favour the runners. I think that’s why I like this race so much.”

“With good prizemoney on offer, and everyone starting to think about The Unlimited Dusi, it was always going to be pretty intense. The guys were going away from me going up the portage, and I thought I was running out of steam. Luckily I was able to put in a burst just before the put-in and got ahead,” said Jenkins. ” It is going to be a very tough Dusi if this is anything to go by.”

Jenkins took a clever inside line to outsprint Birkett to the line. “I was outclassed by Len (Jenkins) in the end sprint,” conceded Team Best 4 Kayak Centre athlete Birkett. “It was a funny race because the pace wasn’t that hot. I think everyone realised that it was going to come down to the endsprint so they were keeping something in reserve.”

Mbanjwa settled for the last spot on the podium, but said he was happy with where he is with his Dusi base training. “I realised that I didn’t have the speed over the other guys so I tried to use my grind. I tried really hard to shake them off but it didn’t work.”

Visiting Czech Republic paddlers Jakob Adam and Michael Odvarko both finished in the top ten, but were flabbergasted by the local athletes speed on the portages. “”They were incredible. We really need to work on our running with the boat,” said Odvarko, paddling in The Unlimited colours. “In truth I don’t even know if I could run that fast without a boat.”

Maritzburg College star Don Wewege ran away with the junior title. The Team Best 4 Kayak Centre youngster finished eighth overall, just ahead of schoolmate James Speed in eleventh.

The women’s title fell for the fifth year in succession to Abby Adie. The gutsy Team Best 4 Kayak Centre ace was however continually worried about the whereabouts of Olympic bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley.

“I think I spent more time looking back over my shoulder than looking forward,” said a relieved Adie afterwards. “It is so good having Bridgitte (Hartley) in the field. She has done so much for the sport and to have her here really raised the bar,” said Adie.

“It was such fun,” bubbled Hartley. “I think I was actually in the lead for a short while on the portage, which I just couldn’t believe, but it didn’t last for long. River paddling is where I started and it was so good to be back in a big river race.”

Third place went to tenacious Team Racefood/Matelec star Hilary Pitchford. “The other girls were so strong. I could hear the crowd cheering for Bridgitte Hartley ahead of me, but I never got to see her! It was a very lonely race!” said {Pitchford.

“The big field of 690 paddlers enjoyed blazing sunshine after weeks of relentless rains, a good water release from Albert falls dam, and further water from the fast flowing tributaries that fed the river along the way. The Unlimited Ozzie Gladwin is the first major seeding race for the Unlimited Dusi in February.

Celebrity participant Unathi Msengana completed the 26km outing with her partner Craig Mustard as part of her preparations for The Unlimited Dusi in February, and bubbled enthusiastically about her first race experience on the river



1.Len Jenkins 1:55.45
2.Andy Birkett 1:55.49
3.Thulani Mbanjwa 1:57.07
4.Loveday Zondi 2;00.27
5.Sbonelo Zondi 2:00.32
6.Adam Jakub CZE 2:00.46
7.Michael Odvarko CZE 2:01.23
8.Don Wewege U18 2:01.25
9.Lucas Mthalane 201.43
10.Shaun Griffin 2:03.38


1.Abby Adie 2;13.16
2.Bridgitte Hartley 2:17.29
3.Hilary Pitchford 2:21.30
4.Jenna Ward 2:26.23
5.Kerry Segal 2:27.10