15 JUNE 2016, CAPE TOWN – In a fierce showdown, multiple world-champion paddler, Hank McGregor (Jeep Team), claimed the K1 2016 South African Canoe Marathon Championship title just split seconds ahead of Andy Birkett and Brandon van der Walt at the 2016 South African Canoe Marathon Championships, which took place at Zandvlei, Cape Town, on 11 June 2016.
The result was a reversal of the 2015 outcome where Birkett narrowly pipped McGregor to the title after a similar hard-fought sprint finish.
It was set to be a nail-biting championship from the get go, with South Africa’s best paddlers fighting for the limited two spots per age category on the South African team heading to the 2016 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in Brandenburg, Germany, in September.
Following the weekend’s results, both McGregor and Birkett will be representing South Africa in the Senior Men’s K1 event at the World Championships, where McGregor will be gunning for a fourth consecutive K1 World title.
Saturday’s K1 race took place in tough cold and windy conditions at the Peninsula Canoe Club in Zandvlei. At the fourth portage, a set-back saw Birkett fall out his boat. In a show of true sportsmanship, McGregor waited while Birkett climbed back into his boat, with the duo then racing to catch up with the group of paddlers in front.
In the final 200m of the race, McGregor, Birkett and Van der Walt edged ahead of the pack, leading to the exhilarating final sprint, with the three paddlers finishing within split seconds of each other in 2h14m17s.
Said McGregor, “It’s an exposed course, and pretty much the first port of call when the wind coming from the South Pole hits Africa. On Saturday it was windy, but these unpredictable conditions turned it into more of a surfski race, so the experienced surfski paddlers definitely had the advantage! I am stoked with this win. Thanks to everyone for all your support on the bank and well done to all the competitors on a solid, very challenging race.”
On Sunday in the K2 SA Championships, a last minute change of plans saw McGregor partner with Siseko Ntondini, instead of Jasper Mocke who withdrew due to illness.
Birkett / Louis Hattingh won the K2 event with Van der Walt / Stu McLaren in 2nd, and McGregor / Ntondini in 3rd.
RESULTS: SENIOR MEN K1
1. Hank McGregor - 2:14:17
2. Andy Birkett - 2:14:17
3. Brandon van der Walt - 2:14:19
RESULTS: SENIOR MEN K2
1. Andy Birkett/Louis Hattingh - 2:00:26
2. Brandon der Walt /Stu McLaren - 2:00:28
3. Hank McGregor/Siseko Ntondini - 2:01:28
PHOTO CAPTION: Hank McGregor and Siseko Ntondini during the 2016 K2 SA Canoe Marathon Championships in Zandvlei, Cape Town. Photographer: John Hishin / Gameplan Media