Pietermaritzburg – Msawenkosi Mtolo and Sbonelo Khwela fired the first salvoes in the Dusi war and won the first battle when they edged to victory in the Kindo Covers Ozzie Gladwin, the opening leg of the John Oliver Dusi Series, on Sunday.
Mtolo and Khwela emerged with a narrow victory over Siseko Ntondini and Banetse Nkhoesa following a tight 27km race from Albert Falls Dam to Sunnyside Farm on the Upper Umgeni river.
The event signalled the start of the so-called Dusi Season as crews begin their final phase of intensive training and preparation for the iconic Dusi Canoe Marathon which takes place on February 15-17.
On Sunday, a big bunch of 10 boats started the portage together after the flatwater stretch across Albert Falls Dam. However, the Mtolo / Khwela and Ntondini / Nkhoesa crews proved to be the star of the days and managed to open a gap on their rivals on the run around the dam wall and the paddle down to Sunnyside Farm.
In the dash for the line at the finish, Mtolo and Khwela were able to get ahead and hold on to claim the psychological victory. Former Dusi winner Thulani Mbanjwa and Kwandokuhle Mzolo finished third, a minute back.
In the women’s race, Abby Solms and Jessica Behn were too strong for Hilary Bruss and Bridgitte Hartley and they earned themselves a solid two-minute victory and early bragging rights.
In a tightly contested mixed doubles race, a swim in a treeblock nearly robbed multiple world champion Hank McGregor and his wife Pippa of victory. However, they were able to recover and fight back to edge out Euro Steel teammates Bradley Boulle and Emma Hatfield over the closing kilometres, while Jenna and Luke Nisbett finished third.
The John Oliver Dusi Series action moves onto the Dusi route proper this weekend with back-to-back races on Saturday and Sunday. The SMG 50-Miler, which takes place from Dusi Bridge to Mfula Store on Saturday, and the Inanda Dam to Durban on Sunday, gives paddlers a chance to experience most of the final two days of the Dusi under race conditions.
1 Msawenkosi Mtolo / Sbonelo Khwela 1:48:55
2 Siseko Ntondini / Banetse Nkhoesa 1:48:59
3 Thulani Mbanjwa / Kwandokuhle Mzolo 1:50:00
4 Minenhle Ngubane / Lindokuhle Maphumulo 1:50:30
5 Thabani Msia / Nqobile Makhanya 1:52:21
6 Sandile Mtolo / Bongani Ntinga 1:52:38
7 Murray Behn / Ross Palframan 1:53:35
8 Trenton Lamble / Joshua Simpkins 1:53:38
9 Mfanufikile Radebe / Hlelani Radebe 1:55:15
10 Smilo Mthethwa / Sanele Mbanjwa 1:55:44
1 Hank Mcgregor / Pippa Mcgregor 1:58:25
2 Bradley Boulle / Emma Hatfield 1:58:53
3 Jenna Nisbet / Luke Nisbet 2:00:41
1 Abby Solms / Jessica Behn 2:05:16
2 Hilary Bruss / Bridgitte Hartley 2:07:31
3 Lorna Oliver / Debra Lewis 2:21:58
1 Paul Hatfield 2:07:20
2 Zamokuhle Meyiwa 2:07:55
3 Warren Cooper 2:12:50