Birkett and Notten bag Breede title on first river race together

Andy Birkett (front) and Nicky Notten race into the finish of the second stage to win the Breede River Canoe Marathon on Sunday. John Hishin/Gameplan Media

Swellendam – Andy Birkett and Nicky Notten wrapped up victory at the 2021 Breede River Canoe Marathon on the final stage that saw the leaderboard shaped by drama at the compulsory portage halfway through the 35km leg from Bonnievale to Kam’Bati resort on Sunday.

Starting with an eighty second lead over the two-boat chasing bunch Birkett and Notten, paddling in their first river race together, showed signs of the combination gelling as they started extending their lead as they approached Drew Bridge.

Due to the high river level the bridge was deemed a compulsory portage and Birkett and Notten as race leaders had to guess where to exit the water for the run around the bridge.

“I messed it up and we landed up having to bundu-bash through mud and bush, which cost us quite a bit of time.” said Birkett.

As they returned to the river they could not see their chasers but knew they had to work hard to restore the time they had lost.

“We got into a great rhythm and we were feeling more and more solid in the rapids,” said Birkett. 

“After the Waterfall Rapid I was relying on my memory of taking all the channels going left, which all worked out on the day,” added Birkett.

“The whole idea behind racing the Breede was to spend time in the boat together and that worked out well for us,” the Euro Steel racer said.

They covered the 35km stage in just over two hours to claim the line honours to give Birkett his second Breede title and Notten his maiden Breede title.

Behind them drama at the portage at Drew bridge decided the thrilling duel for second place.

The gutsy Under 23 crew of Bartho Visser and Dan Jacobs made a similar mistake to Birkett and Notten and were left floundering in mud and crashing through the undergrowth while the wily Graeme Solomon and his partner Kenny Rice paddled past to a take-out out much closer to the bridge.

That earned them a crucial two minute buffer that they were able to preserve all the way to the finish.

Behind them the new crew of veteran Carl Folscher and Sam Butcher raced through the field posting the third quickest times on the final stage to leapfrog up from overnight sixth place to finish fourth.

The Peninsula crew of Angie Austin and Kira Bester wrapped up the women’s honours, adding five minutes to their two minute lead over the Maties pair of Tracey Oellerman and Shannon Parker-Dennison.

The race jury was called in to decide the eventual make-up of the women’s podium after a protest was lodged against Bianca Beavitt and Robyn Henderson starting in A  batch instead of elapsed time, and Beavitt and Henderson ended up in third position.

The mixed doubles class proved to be one of the talking points of the race. Overnight leaders Ian Traumann and Stephanie von der Heyde started the final stage with a slim thirty second advantage over the exciting Under 16 crew of Holly Smith and Zac Jacobs.

They surrendered that lead to the scholars in a dramatic days racing on the full river, allowing the scholars to win the end-sprint by less than a boat length.

SUMMARY OF RESULTS
BREEDE RIVER CANOE MARATHON STAGE TWO
1.Andy Birkett/Nicky Notten 2:00:10 4:04:54
2.Graeme Solomon/Kenny Rice 2:03:01 4:09:34
3.Bartho Visser/Dan Jacobs 2:05:08 4:11:11 (1st U23)
4.Sam Butcher/Carl Folscher 2:03:14 4:13:12
5.Ernest van Riet/Heinrich Schloms 2:04:33 4:13:23
6.Phillip Smith/Riccardo Talevi  2:05:19 4:15:16
7.Josh Smith/David Evans 2:09:03 4:19:26
8.Evan Knight/Robert Pike 2:09:37 4:23:08
9.Ross Leslie/Hamish Mackenzie 2:09:39 4:23:09
10.Dyllan Farrell/Luke le Roux  2:10:08 4:26:18 (1st U18)

Women:
1.Kira Bester/Angie Austin 2:15:33 4:38:08
2.Tracey Oellerman/Shannon Parker-Dennison 2:20:47 4:45:36
3 Bianca Beavitt/Robyn Henderson 2:37:08 5:01:59

Mixed doubles: 
1.Holly Smith/Zak Jacobs2:14:56 4:36:20
2.Ian Trautmann/Stephanie von der Heyde 2:15:22 4:36:11
3.Melanie van Niekerk/Gary Luke 2:16:47 4:40:29

More information can be found at www.breedemarathon.co.za