In a dramatic power shift sisters Tamika and Bianca Haw took control of the women’s race in stage two of the 2020 Dusi Canoe Marathon, while men’s race leaders Andy Birkett and Khumbulani Nzimande recovered from a mishap to take a second-stage victory.
It was a day of high drama on a full uMngeni River as an unexpected swim by Birkett and Nzimande at Gauging Weir meant that their overnight lead was completely erased while the Haw sisters turned the tables on day-one leaders Christie Mackenzie and Cana Peek to take a more than eight-minute lead going into the final stage.
The potential procession into the finish was curtailed early when the leaders Birkett and Nzimande fell out of their K2 kayak and chasers Thulani Mbanjwa and Sbonelo Khwela were on hand to make them pay as they scampered away to lead the race just above the Marianni-Foley Causeway.
Birkett’s initial reaction was race over, however he and Nzimande showed resolve to work their way back into the lead despite the mishap.
‘I said to Khumbulani before the race that we will make mistakes and it’s important that we just keep calm and keep on pushing,’ Birkett said. ‘I won’t lie the first thing that came to my mind when we popped out of the boat was that our Dusi challenge was out the window! When we got back in the boat we knew we didn’t have to try and catch them in the next two kilometres and just pace ourselves.
‘Luckily we had put a bit of time into Sbonelo and Banji before Gauging Weir so we also had enough time to catch them.’
It was an unfortunate day for the women’s overnight-leaders Christie Mackenzie and Cana Peek, who bent their rudder above the Washing Machine section of the river shortly after the Msundusi meets the Mngeni and spent a lot of time trying to repair it before replacing it all together.
Despite this the Haw sisters had made a charge early and reduced the deficit considerably in the first third of the stage and were strong throughout the second and longest stage of the race.
‘It was hard work out there but Yanks [Bianca] drove like a star,’ Tamika Haw said. ‘We knew today well because we had done our homework and that played into our hands. We have a good lead going into day three and from what I remember it is a lot of fun.’
Photo: Haw sisters, by Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media