The 2nd Annual Men’s Health Swartland Canoe Marathon, got off to a good start this morning in perfect weather – cloudless sky and no wind, but on a low river which as to play havoc with most of the paddlers but which ended in a sprint finish between race favourite, Milnerton’s under 21 star, Lance King and another Under 21 paddler, the Matie’s Pierre-Andre Rabie, and Peninsula Canoe Clubs Sub Veteran, Paul Marais, some 3 hours and 8 minutes later.
The race started approx. 200 m below the famous Skooltjie landmark on the Berge River at 10h00 this morning, when Peninsula Canoe Club Chairman, Mark Torrington ‘fired’ the gun to see some 130 paddlers take on what is the better part of the first day of the famous Berg River canoe marathons. An early casualty was PC.C’s Greg Barnard who snapped a rudder cable some 800 meters after the start, but this in no way deterred the better part of the top 12 paddlers who were locked in combat until the Berg’s one and only rapid – Klei Rapid, when King, Gavin White (Mil), Ernest van Riet (US), Tom Schilperoot (PCC), Edgar Boehm (jnr) Ian Trautmann (PCC), Paul Marais (PCC) and P-W Basson (Paarl) managed to breakaway. Tracking through the narrow channels, this group led the field, changing the lead as obstacles presented themselves.
Shortly after Grensplaas , at The Ribs, van Riet and White made their break but were caught by King and Paul Marais (PCC) at a tree block shortly after Grensplaas. Through the trees, the tree blocks and tree ramps, these 4 continued to lead the field with White dropping off before Roostuin allowing van Riet, King and Marais to dominate. At a huge tree block just before the Hermon Bridge, the field came together again, this time with Pierre-Andre Rabie (US) catching up. Van Riet sank at the Hermon weir (he was paddling with his splashcover off) allowing Marais, King and Rabie to take the fore on the final 15 ks from Hermon to Zonquasdrift.
And so it remained until about 15 minutes from the end, when, at a narrowing caused by a fallen tree, King and Rabie managed to shake off Marais, but he made a huge charge, catching the leading two, to have day one end as a flat sprint across the line, 1 sec separating each canoe.
In the ladies section, Abbey Miedema (PCC) was in a class of her own and had to rely on top men for competition to come through in 17th position overall and only some 20 minutes behind Lance King, which on a narrow, low and tree choked river was an excellent day ‘at the office’ for her . The 2nd lady home was Lisa Scott (MIL) and 3rd was Janet Vorster (PCC).
Paddlers and 2nds were again treated to the sight of one of the legends of canoeing in South Africa, Grandmaster, Roelof van Riet, in full flight, as he registered 21st position overall in the excellent time of 3 hours and 34 minutes.
Again it was interesting to note who the top paddlers home were today – 1st, 2nd and 4th were all Under 21 paddlers, which bodes well for the future and in 3 position, Paul Marais, now a Sub-Veteran showed his class – the question previously asked, was where are all the senior men? The answer is that they placed from 5th to 9th so we look forward to a resurgence of the seniors tomorrow and in the following W.C.C.U. races this season.
Tomorrow’s section, Zonquasdrift to Bridgetown is 48 ks, 5 further than today, and constitutes the full second day of the Berg River Canoe Marathon, which, from Gouda Bridge onwards, shouldn’t have as many tree blocks as today and so it is envisaged that it will be a battle royal up-front as it will be back to the basics of canoe racing – hard paddling, tactical moves and sharp eyes.
Media Liaison – W.C.C.U. and Peninsula Canoe Club