Paarl – World marathon champion Andy Birkett claimed the inaugural Push And Pull Paddle canoe marathon title on the Berg River while Bianca Beavitt wrapped up the women's equivalent in emphatic style.
Birkett started the final 15 kilometre stage from Blou Porselein to Delsma Guest Farm with a 47 second lead in the bank, and powered away on the full Berg River to take the spoils from the chasing trio of Kenny Rice and KZN youngster Stew Little.
"I knew from the start that Kenny (Rice) and Stew (Little) would be chasing me down, and with the river flowing so fast I knew it would be flat out the whole way," said Birkett, who is preparing for the defence of the global K1 and K2 crowns in China in October.
"I put my ears back knowing the stage would be less than an hour and managed to stay ahead of the two guys.
"The standard of the competition was really good. I saw when I tried to make a break on dday two that Nicky (Notten) and Kenny (Rice) are no push-over!"
"Stew Little is a real talent and is probably the best river paddler in the country at the moment and he was right in the race throughout," he added.
The women's race, which had been fraught with drama throughout, was won by the Berg stalwart Bianca Beavitt.
Despite a scare when she capsized in Klei Rapid on the queens stage on Saturday, she had done enough to take a lead of more than ten minutes into the last day over Nikki Birkett, but the day started badly for the seasoned Berg paddler.
"I slipped badly coming down to the river at the start and fell on my arm," said the Century City paddler.
"It was hurting a lot so I decided to pace myself carefully on the day and not make any mistakes," she added.
Nikki Birkett posted the fastest women's time on the final stage, but it was never going to threaten Beavitt's comfortable overall lead. Kim van Gysen finished third in the women's race.
Graeme Solomon and Andre Collins continued the form they found on the second stage to take the K2 race from Fanta Gous and Jason Goedhals.
The race was unique for a Berg River canoeing event as it included six Stand Up Paddleboarders, as well as a solitary brave K3, in line with the ground-breaking new race's philosophy of challenging canoeing conventions.
The big field of paddlers that took part thrived on the fully catered meals and a tented athletes village, evening live entertainment and special attention paid to families and seconders on the Women's Day long weekend.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
PUSH AND PULL PADDLE DAY THREE
1 Andy Birkett 0:52:48.53 3:59:36.53
2 Kenneth Rice 0:54:14.97 4:01:50.51
3 Stewart Little 0:54:12.82 4:01:51.41
4 Nicholas Notten 0:54:36.09 4:02:59.19
5 Mark Keeling 0:56:39.16 4:07:17.72
6 Murray Starr 0:56:45.19 4:09:14.14
7 Ernest Van Riet 0:56:59.72 4:09:15.01
8 Stuart Maclaren 0:56:41.78 4:10:18.26
9 Bartho Visser 0:58:06.01 4:12:18.13
10 Luke Stowman 0:57:18.54 4:12:18.71
1 Bianca Beavitt 1:00:00.91 4:27:39.34
2 Nikki Birkett 0:59:15.33 4:37:59.50
3 Kim Van Gysen 1:03:11.36 4:45:38.67
4 Christie Mackenzie 1:01:41.23 4:46:47.52
5 Candice Murray 1:02:13.62 4:49:54.85
1 Graeme Solomon Andre Collins 0:57:17.36 4:19:43.84
2 Jason Goedhals Fanta Gous 0:59:50.42 4:26:28.10
3 Kelvin Trautman Sabrina Chesterman 0:59:48.37 4:30:14.69
4 Chris De Waal Dominique Desmeules 0:59:25.32 4:32:37.57
68 Emanuel Zaloumis Kate Bussin Colin Whitfield 1:15:56.31 5:12:59.07
1 Rory Smyth 1:57:20.22 8:39:57.76
2 Jolene Harris 1:57:17.44 8:40:00.23
3 Guy Bubb 1:57:18.72 8:40:14.33
4 Elleni Smyth 1:57:26.07 8:40:22.60