One of the modern day greats of the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon Andy Birkett will have the opportunity to extend his record to nine wins out of the last ten editions of the iconic three day race when he takes on the upcoming event from 14 to 16 February 2019.
Birkett’s domination of the Dusi started when he won his first title as a school boy in 2010. From there he has only missed out on one title and that was 2013 when Lance Kime took the title in an enthralling race, decided by Birkett taking a swim at Thombi rapid on the second day while he was leading the race.
Over the ten years, Birkett has won every edition of the K2 category, twice with Jason Graham and then once with Sbonelo Khwela, Lance Kime and most recently Hank McGregor.
Having completed 14 Dusi’s out of the past 15, and recently relocating to East London with his wife Nikki and their new-born son David, Birkett is starting to get himself in the mood for another shot at a Dusi title.
“I am starting to get excited for the Dusi next year,” the Euro Steel star said ominously.
“I always try and make sure I keep my training fresh and exciting in the build up to the race.
“With the move down to the Eastern Cape we are on the ocean so if I want to mix it up and go for a surfski paddle I can which makes training more exciting.”
Birkett’s 2018 has been one to remember with a Marathon World Championship gold medal in both the K1 and K2 to savour as well as the SA K1 River Marathon title at the Hansa Fish, along with the FNB Dusi and N3TC Drak Challenge crowns to his name.
Preparing for the 2019 edition of the FNB Dusi will be slightly different for Birkett as he will be far from the Valley of a Thousand Hills, however he doesn’t see this as an issue.
“Last year I think I only tripped in the Valley once before the race so I will probably do something very similar this year.
“I’ll be coming up for the Drak Challenge and so I’ll use that time to cram in some tripping and a seeding race.
“I’ve always believed that if you put in the work for Dusi, if you run with your boat and put in the paddling training you will be fine,” he added confidently.
Birkett’s strangle hold on the Dusi is even more impressive when you realise that he is only 28 years old. Birkett’s career has never been defined by the pursuit of records; however his competitive nature will be put to the test in February.
“There are some strong paddlers in KZN and don’t you worry I keep an eye out on them from down here,” he laughed.
“I’ve got my spies and I see the results every weekend, I know who to look out for!
“The Dusi is always a hugely competitive race and I expect nothing less in 2019,” he mentioned.