Young turks Msawenkosi Mtolo and Thabani Msiya held their nerve to win the 2020 Non-Stop Dusi Canoe Marathon on Friday, in the process denying Sbonelo Khwela what would have been his tenth title in the ultra-endurance paddling event.
The battle for ascendancy in the 'Dusi in a day' was a ding-dong one throughout with Mtolo and Msiya fighting it out with the experienced crew of nine-time champion Sbonelo Khwela and Banetse Nkhoesa.
Racing on full rivers an in near perfect, cool weather conditions, the two crews traded places at the front of the race several times as mishaps befell both crews at key stages of the race.
Through the early stages of the race it seemed that Khwela and Nkhoesa had control of proceedings and they were setting the pace on the front of the race.
"We knew they were the crew to beat if we wanted to win this race. When we saw emptying their boat at Hippo Rapid and I said to my partner 'This is the time to catch them',"said Mtolo.
"They were so strong and they caught us and then ran away from us on the second portage on Inanda dam," he added.
"We managed to catch them by the start of the Burma Road portage, and when Banetse (Nkhoesa) started cramping, we knew that was our chance to take it."
With an exhausted Nkhoesa struggling, Khwela ran their K2 over the brutal portage on his own, and waited patiently for his cramp-wracked partner to rejoin him, as Mtolo and Msiya paddled away their maiden Non Stop Dusi title.
After a solid string of top five results in the Dusi and Non-Stop Dusi, both acknowledged their win as the high point in their paddling careers, and paid tribute to Martin Dreyer and the FNB Change A Life Academy for the achievement.
Khwela for his part was magnanimous in defeat, but said he had made a mistake leading the front bunch over the Burma Road portage.
Their measured race plan was hamstrung by damaging their boat shooting Thombi and Hippo Rapids, forcing their seconding crew to try and effect running repairs on the two portages on Inanda dam.
They fought their way back into a controlling position until Nkhoesa's cramps ended their title challenge on the brutal Burma Road portage.
"We should have paddled around Burma," said Khwela. "We ended up walking almost the whole way over Burma. We should have gone around, taken it easy at Island and Pumphouse. It would have been much faster.
Third went to the tenacious Under 23 crew of Jabulani Gwamanda and Mpilo Zondi, just five minutes behind Khwela and Nkoesa.
In arguably the stand-out result of the day 'Dusi Duke' Martin Dreyer and his wife Jeannie Dreyer finished in sixth overall and the first mixed double crew home.
"I have done a few of these and today was special," said Dreyer. "The conditions made it a lot more enjoyable than it could be. The water was good. The company was good. Our support crew were out of the top drawer."
"This was a bucket list event for me," he wife Jeannie added. "It was just spectacular, from the supporters on the banks, the water, the weather, it was just superb."
Bruce Brauteseth was the first K1 finisher, ahead of Stuart Roberts, Derek Stutterheim and Ric Whitton.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS - 2020 Garden City Commercials Non-Stop Dusi Canoe Marathon
1. Msawenkosi Mtolo/Thabani Msiya (U23) 8:17:15
2. Sbonelo Khwela/Banetse Nkhoesa 8:24:38
3. Jabulani Gwamanda/Mpilo Zondi (U23) 8:29:06
4. Richard Cele/Mfaniseni Nyambose 8:42:01
5. Shaun Dias/Konrad Karcz 9:01:23
6. Martin Dreyer/Jeannie Dreyer 9:09:38 (1st MD)
7. Jody Taylor/Duane Taylor 9:23:54
8. Bruce Brauteseth 9:39:10 (1st K1)
9. Stuart Roberts 9:48:53
10. Derek Stutterheim 9:48:55.