One of the biggest canoeing races in the country, and one of the most popular river marathons worldwide, saw 15 Lowvelders from Lowveld Canoe Club take to the Fish River this past weekend.
Top honours went to the Smook family from Mbombela, with Gustav winning the Masters Class with his partner Piet Engelbrecht from East Rand Kayak. Gustav Junior, who was recently selected to represent South Africa in Canoe Marathon racing, won the under-18 class with his marathon partner Bartho Visser from Paarl Canoe Club. Smook, a grade 12 pupil from Hoërskool Nelspruit, will soon represent his country at the world champs, from October 17-20 in Shaoxing, China.
VA: Ontmoet kranige roeier, Gustav Smook
Overall, having trailed by just a second overnight, it was the pairs of Stu Maclaren and Jasper Mocké, and Jenna Ward and Kyeta Purchase who claimed the overall Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon spoils after an enthralling second and final stage on Saturday.
It was effectively going to be a sprint over the final 36 kilometres from Knutsford to Cradock, with both the men’s and women’s top two boats separated by a second each. The added pressure of a national river marathon title also seemed to add another dimension to the contest.
Neither Mocké nor Maclaren had won the Fish before, so it was going to be a test of nerve up against a five-time K2 champion in Hank McGregor, however in the final five kilometres it was the Western Cape pair who came up trumps to claim the national K2 river championship crown.
Stu Maclaren and Jasper Mocké just pipped Hank McGregor and Wayne Jacobs to win the race. Jenna Ward and Kyeta Purchase claimed the ladies title.
Other honours went to Gerhard Steyn, a Lowveld Canoe Club member who now lives in Herolds Bay, who was second in the grandmasters category, racing with his brother Meyer from Dabulamanzi Canoe Club in Johannesburg.
The Butcher family pairing of Stuart and his 13-year-old son Robbie did well, finishing 101st K2 overall. Other competitors from LCC included; Wihan Venter and Andreas van Tonder, Allison Hay and Eric Dixon, Kyle Hay and JC Kriek, Clive Brown and Mike Adams.
The Lowveld was also represented by a K3 manned by Dave Notten, Tony Roche and Matt Hulley-Miller.
After injuring a knee on day one, Tony was forced to withdraw, leaving his partners to complete day two paddling a 3-man craft on their own, which they did with style, shooting the last major obstacle of the race, Cradock Weir, successfully.
October is a busy month for paddlers in the Lowveld. October 12 sees the running of the most popular local race, the Lowveld Croc.
This race has iconic status amongst paddlers from around the country, many of whom return year after year to participate. The race runs over 31 kilometres from Kwena Dam to just near Old Joe’s Kaia in Schoemanskloof.
This year’s race, sponsored by TRAC, promises to be an exciting event. Spectators can get access to some locations along the river to watch the paddlers, including Carisbrook Rapid which always
delivers some excitement.
LCC overall positions
18 Gustav Smook Jr and Bartho Visser
49 Gustav Smook and Piet Engelbrecht
114 Wihan Venter and Andreas van Tonder
121 Stuart and Robbie Butcher
123 Gerhard and Meyer Steyn
170 JC Kriek and Kyle Hay
181 Erick Dixon and Allison Hay
238 Clive Brown and Mike Adams
324 Dave Notten, Tony Roche and Matt Hulley-Miller.