A second successive day of peerless paddling saw Andy Birkett and Lance Kime extend the three and a half minute advantage after Thursday’s opening day of the 2016 FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon to over eight minutes over the chasing Hank McGregor and Jasper Mocké on day two on Friday.
Confronted by the prospect of very hot conditions and a medium level Mngeni River in sharp contrast to the opening stage rain, the Euro Steel pair managed to maintain their stranglehold on the rest of the field and more than double their overall lead.
“We would have taken any sort of lead going into today and to have eight minutes is incredible,” mentioned Birkett. “I am really happy and even a bit surprised considering that we were really tired on the dam.
“Yesterday was a really tough day with everyone pushing the pace so obviously there are some really tired bodies out there.”
Although the pair enjoy a formidable lead going into the final day of the 2016 event, Birkett – who has five FNB Dusi titles to his name – understands the challenges that the final day will hold and is trying to take the race section by section.
“There will be nerves tomorrow, there always is because you don’t want to make any silly mistakes on the day so hopefully once we have shot the last few rapids we can soak it up and enjoy the final pull into Durban – if we still having a clean race at that stage!” added a circumspect Birkett.
Building their lead, or at least consolidating it, would have been Birkett and Kime’s number one plan however there was a slight apprehension considering that the second day is often considered a day more favoured by the paddlers.
“I was scared going into today, to be honest,” Kime revealed. “Hank and Jasper have sorted us out in a few of the pre-races this season so I came in to today just hoping that we don’t see them.
“We are absolutely thrilled that they didn’t catch us and drop us and we still manage to have a lead,” Kime enthused.
With another tough day on the cards for the third and final day of the race making sure that they get through cleanly will be a priority for the leading pair.
“We still don’t know what is going to happen below the dam so depending on how much water there is we might have some additional portages but we will check that out in the morning.
“It is going to be another day that we are going to hurt a lot but if all goes according to plan then hopefully we will have the opportunity to ease up and cruise into the finish,” a hopeful Kime added.
Bridging the gap on a paddler’s day was well within the grasps of McGregor and Mocké and the Euro Steel/Mocké Paddling pair felt like they were in with a shout as they flew out of the blocks.
“There was only one way to catch them up and that was to put the hammer down from the beginning and we managed to close the gap by the bottom of Marianni Foley and then it seemed like the clock started going the other way and when we got to the dam we were about five minutes thirty behind,” McGregor said.
“We tried our hardest and we weren’t racing for second we were trying to catch them.”
In what was the second best time of the day, the Houston brothers produced a sublime performance to knock Sbonelo Khwela and Banetse Nkhoesa from the last spot on the podium.
Following cramp issues on the first day of the race the Under 23 Seed Co. pair patched it all together to finish at the same time as Khwela and Nkhoesa but it was enough to leap-frog them into third overall.
In the junior race overnight leaders Mark Keeling and Mphilo Zondi relinquished their lead to the pair of Craig Heenan and Bailey de Fondaumiere. The race into Durban will be exciting considering the gap between first and second is just 24 seconds.
Day Three, the final day of the 2016 FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon is a 36km stage from Msinsi Resort to Blue Lagoon in Durban.
STAGE TWO (46KM DUSI BRIDGE TO MSINSI RESORT)
1.Andy Birkett/Lance Kime 2:55:24 5:32:04
2.Hank McGregor/Jasper Mocké 2:58:18 5:40:14
3.Andrew Houston/Alan Houston (U23) 2:59:57 5:43:45
4.Sbonelo Khwela/Banetse Nkhoesa 3:03:04 5:44:00
5.Carl Folscher/Ant Stott 3:01:23 5:52:37
6.Damon Stamp/Louis Hattingh (U23) 3:03:57 5:52:37
7.Shaun Rubenstein/Thulani Mbanjwa 3:07:45 5:52:40
8.Murray Starr/Owen Gandar 3:04:30 5:55:45
9.Len Jenkins/Siseko Ntondini 3:07:05 5:55:46
10.Mmeli Cele/Khumbulani Nzimande (U23) 3:13:13 6:03:09
11.Jacques Theron/Piers Crukshanks 3:10:25 6:04:15
12.Greg Louw/Adrian Boros 3:10:14 6:06:43
13.Kwanda Mhlope/Loveday Zondi 3:09:17 6:07:05
14.Murray Haw/James Speed (U23) 3:12:26 6:08:26
15.Siyabonga Tyiki/Thando Ngamlana (U23) 3:14:24 6:09:22
16.Lucas Mthalane/Sipho Canham 3:11:04 6:11:58
17.Mzamo Zondi/Siyanda Gwamanda 3:15:12 6:11:59
18.Mthobisi Cele/Nhlanhlayakhe Cele 3:16:46 6:19:03
19.Shaun Griffin/Brandon Orpwood 3:17:36 6:20:19
20.Stuart Maclaren/Brandon van der Walt 3:18:48 6:21:40
Under 23 Men
1.Andrew Houston/Alan Houston 2:59:57 5:43:45
2.Damon Stamp/Louis Hattingh 3:03:57 5:52:37
3.Mmeli Cele/Khumbulani Nzimande 3:13:13 6:03:09
4.Murray Haw/James Speed 3:12:26 6:08:26
5.Siyabonga Tyiki/Thando Ngamlana 3:14:24 6:09:22
Under 18 Boys
1.Craig Heenan/Bailey de Fondaumiere 3:27.38 6:48:15
2.Mark Keeling/Mphilo Zondi 3:43:00 6:48:39
3.Emanual Zaloumis/Hamish Lovemore 3:36:07 7:04:15
Under 16 Boys
1.Warren Yoko/Craig Pitt 4:12:25 8:22:06