Durban - The four-leg Bay Union Open Ocean Surfski Challenge drew to a close with an innovative team format race for the JD Sebenza Geriatskis race that saw Gene Prato become the only the second paddler to race onto the top step of the overall podium in the Sunday morning series.
In a deliberate effort to shake up the hotly contested surfski racers and to focus on fun and a new tactical format, paddlers were able to race in teams of two singles, singles and doubles or two doubles, with the full team taking on the first and fourth laps, and individual boats alternating in the middle two laps.
Prato partnered the on-form Luke Nisbet, and they blasted space between themselves and chasers Hamish Mackenzie and Brendon Delport on their solo laps to win by a cavernous four minute margin.
"That was a great way to end the series," said Prato. "It shakes things up a bit and makes it interesting."
"It would have been really interesting if Hank (McGregor) had been here," he added.
"The team format was great," added Nisbet. "Initially it seemed to make sense to go flat out, but then the team legs were timed by the last paddler home so we worked together on those legs."
Third overall was the women's team of surfski world champ Hayley Nixon and Olympic sprint medallist Bridgitte Hartley, winning the women's title by over three minutes from the pairing of Jenna Ward and Donna Winter, who finished seventh overall.
The outing was key training for Nixon and Hartley as they prepare for the marathon world championships in Portugal in early September.
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"The race felt good for me today and it was exciting to see how strong Bridgitte (Hartley) was today," said Nixon. "Every time she gets onto the ocean she gets better and better."
"It was so exciting to see another very strong women's field," she added.
The only other double winner of the series Andy Birkett enjoyed the outing with his wife Nikki, making her comeback to racing after the birth of their child, finishing sixth overall.
The team of Jason Ekstrand and the doubles pairing of Alex Masina and Hamish Lovemore won the single and double format ahead of Richard Lowe and the double ski of youngsters Callam Davis and Stewart Little.
Continuing their excellent run of form, the Bay Union development team of Umnini coach Mhlengi Mngadi and the crew of Minenhle Ntombela and Paulos Shozi raced into the top five once again, missing a spot on the podium by one place.
The all doubles format race was won by Malcolm Pitt and Craig Greenland, partnering Greg Worthington and Michel De Rauville.
The race was made up of four laps designed to make the most of the choppy onshore winds, giving the paddlers a downwind leg into the finish at Vetch's Beach.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS- JD SEBENZA GERIATSKIS RACE- LEG FOUR OF THE BAY UNION OPEN OCEAN SURFSKI CHALLENGE:
1 Gene Prato/Luke Nisbet 1:01:36.49
2 Brendon Delport/Hamish Mackenzie 1:05:33.20
3 Bridgitte Hartley/Hayley Nixon 1:06:13.41 (1st women)
4 Steve Cohen/Brad Pearse 1:07:14.03
5 Herman Chalupsky/Colin Simpkins 1:07:22.85
6 Andy Birkett/Nikki Birkett 1:07:52.30 (1st MD)
7 Jenna Ward/Donna Winter 1:10:07.21 (2nd women)
8 Grant Fowlds/Gareth Miles 1:11:57.49
9 Stuart Carter/Gavin Botha 1:14:06.75
10 David Maehler/Jordan Maehler 1:14:49.26
11 Duncan Cartwright/Charl Massyn 1:15:05.93
12 Duane Taylor/Jody Taylor 1:18:19.59
13 Lunga Mngadi/Ayanda Dube 1:19:50.56
14 Cara Waud/Sabina Lawrie 1:20:01.68 (3rd women)
15 Wally Bodin/Lungelo Shange 1:21:26.03
16 Johann Terblanche/Reynard Van Antwerpen 1:21:56.29
17 Jarryd Walker/Ian Walker 1:22:41.34
18 Senzo Ngcobo/Mark Smith 1:22:56.40
19 Jacqui Boyd/Tracey Nuss 1:27:01.01
20 Tayla Gilmore/Alice Edward 1:28:10.47
21 Thea Van Der Westhuizen/Dave Macleod 1:29:03.41
1 Malcolm Pitt/Craig Greenland Greg Worthington/Michel De Rauville 1:05:06.56
2 Steve Evans/Nigel Oxenham Trevor Vernes/Skye Prato 1:05:55.80
3 Richard Hogg/Craig Mcintosh Ian Marais/Bruce Glenday 1:07:19.29
4 Allan Hold/Paul Chalupsky Geoff Thompson/Anthony Scott 1:09:04.39
5 Gary Waud/Melissa Van Rooyen Emmi Wood/Gavin Dundas-Starr 1:10:09.96
6 John Dimmick/Keith Lyons Jorg Wellinger/Derek Hauptfleisch 1:12:14.04
7 Louisa Van Staden/Wilma Deyzel Debbie Gillet/Lyn Bennett 1:12:43.82
8 Murray Smith/Dylan Smith Lance Howarth/Lauren Howarth 1:13:24.78
9 Kyeta Purchase/Tamryn Mckie Bruce Pender-Smith/Matthew Pender-Smith 1:16:13.89
10 Eugene Swanepoel/Monique Boshoff Siobhan Sharp/Darren Stone 1:17:16.19
SINGLE and DOUBLE
1 Jason Ekstrand/Alex Masina/Hamish Lovemore 1:00:43.72
2 Richard Lowe/Callam Davis/Stewart Little 1:01:45.16
3 Grant Smith/Nicholas Horn/Gavin Searle 1:06:22.20
4 Mhlengi Mngadi/Minenhle Ntombela/Paulos Shozi 1:09:18.10
5 Dave Fraser/Peter Manning/Richard Strickland 1:12:00.81
6 Stuart Roberts/Lance Benn/Brad Cooper 1:12:28.06
7 Claudio Manfron/Craig Bruton/James Tutton 1:13:28.88
8 Marcel Gerhard/Solly Segal/Brett Hancocks 1:14:27.66
9 Jonty Dobrowsky/Kelly Biljoen/Jon Ivins 1:17:22.19
10 Warren Lancaster/Stuart Hancocks/Trevor Hellens 1:25:31.23