Veteran Hank McGregor paddled to an emphatic win in the National S1 Surfski Championships sponsored by the World Surfski League, adding the single ski title to the national double ski title he won in Durban last weekend.
The surfski race was the first of three successive event making up the P.W. Harvey & Carey Olsen St. Francis Paddle Fest, and attracted a big field eager to challenge for national honours over a course changed on the day of the 14km race to avoid the adverse weather conditions.
McGregor broke away in a six-boat pack with his doubles partner Hamish Lovemore, Nick Notten and Kenny Rice, Brandon van der Walt and Josh Fenn, and turned on the taps as they returned from the Krom River leg and into the canals of St Francis to bag the elusive surfski national crown double once again.
With the back-to-back national flatwater marathon titles up for grabs on Sunday and Monday, McGregor could pull off the improbable feat of winning four titles inside nine days.
Notten finished in the silver medal position, several boat lengths behind McGregor, with Rice completing the podium, finishing third ahead of the first Under-23 Lovemore.
In the womens’ race Durbanites Jenna Ward and schoolgirl Saskia Hockly broke clear at the end of the Krom River leg of the race, with Ward taking the sprint to the finish line at the small craft harbour. Olympic sprint medallist Bridgitte Hartley took the last spot on the podium.
‘We started with the juniors and the first few minutes of the race were chaotic,’ Ward said. ‘I got away with a few of the guys but then we were all out of our skis portaging over sandbanks.
‘I ended up on my own for forty minutes before Saskia (Hockly) and Bridgitte (Hartley) caught me. Saskia and I were on the same small wave at the turn back to the canals and I knew from training with her that I had to get into the last canal ahead of her, which I managed to do’ she said.
Under-16 speedster Josh Simpkins won the junior title overall, edging another Under-16 paddler Jordan Fenn, with the first Under-18 paddler home Luke Swinney in third.
Image: Andrew Grote/Gameplan Media