The new K2 crew of Andy Birkett and Khumbulani Nzimande laid down a bold marker ahead of the 2020 Dusi Canoe Marathon by winning both the 50 Miler and the Mfula to Inanda races.
The two races give paddlers the perfect opportunity to test their skills on the middle section of the Dusi course in near race conditions on a release of water from Henley Dam. This replicated typical Dusi water conditions and gave crews a chance to test themselves against the river and the portages against a strong field of aspirant Dusi K2 crews.
The 50 Miler takes on arguably the toughest river section of the whole Dusi as paddlers navigate from Mission Rapid, through the Msundusi and Mngeni confluence to Mfula Store, including the infamous big three rapids, Gumtree, Thombi and Hippo Rocks, as well as the challenging Nqumeni portage.
Birkett and Nzimande sounded an ominous warning to the rest of the challengers as they cruised to victory by over two minutes at the 50 Miler on Saturday ahead of veteran Ant Stott and Carl Folscher in second and Banetse Nkhoesa and Msawenkosi Mtolo in third.
Interestingly the feared duo of Sbonelo Khwela and Thulani Mbanjwa finished in a distant tenth place overall.
The ladies race was won by Jenna Ward and Kyeta Purchase who seem to be in good form early on. They beat Bridgitte Hartley and Tracey Oellermann into second, with Shannon Parker-Dennison and Frances Forsythe in third.
Tamika Haw and Bianca Haw came home in sixth place in the women’s race; however they will improve as they approach the Dusi at the end of February.
The next major Dusi seeding race is the Ozzie Gladwin which is takes place on 26 January.
The 2020 Dusi Canoe Marathon takes place for 27 to 29 February 2020. Entry details and more information can be found at www.dusi.co.za
RESULTS (50 Miler Canoe Marathon)
1 Andy Birkett/Khumbulani Nzimande 2:41:58
2 Ant Stott/Carl Folscher 2:44:17
3 Banetse Nkhoesa/Msawenkosi Mtolo 2:45:15
4 Stewart Little/Jacques Theron 2:46:17
5 Andrew Houston/Alan Houston 2:48:32
1 Jenna Ward/Kyeta Purchase 3:21:11
2 Bridgitte Hartley/Tracey Oellermann 3:27:06
3 Shannon Parker-Dennison/Frances Forsythe (U18) 3:43:30
RESULTS (Mfula to Inanda)
1 Andy Birkett/Khumbulani Nzimande 56:14
2 Jacques Theron/Stewart Little 56:16
3 Hamish Mackenzie/David Evans (U23) 56:20
4 Piers Cruickshanks/Roger Mortlock 56:21
5 Zonele Nzuza/Trenton Lamble 56:31
1 Jenna Ward/Kyeta Purchase 1:02:37
2 Johanna Hockly/Georgina Howard (U18) 1:05:20
3 Carol Reeves/Hillary Bruss 1:05:58
Image: Andy Birkett and Khumbulani Nzimande courtesy Andy Grote/Gameplan Media