McGregor maintains his winning ways at winter surfski series opener

With a big swell running and mild weather, Durban was showing off at the Thule Season Starter, the first leg of the Winter Surfski Series on Sunday morning. Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media

Durban –  Hot on the heels of his double at the national championships, Hank McGregor maintained his winning ways by posting a runaway victory at the Thule Season Starter that got the popular winter surfski series under way on Sunday morning.

Showing the peerless form he is in at the moment, the 43-year-old Fenn/Euro Steel racer was under little pressure as he raced away in the big swell running in Durban bay to win the two-lap, 12km race from Matt Bouman and Brandon van der Walt.

“There wasn’t too much wind out there but there was a big swell running,” said McGregor. “It was a lot of fun as Matt Bouman pushed me all the way to the finish line.

“Obviously racing SA Champs last weekend made it easy to get into a ski and I am happy to get the first race of the winter series under the belt, and to take the win is a bonus.

“It is great training for me and really enjoyable on a Sunday morning with so many paddlers out on the Durban beachfront,” he added.

In what has been a tough month for elite paddlers with many events squeezed close together into the adjusted national calendar, McGregor now has to focus on the Freedom Paddle in the Western Cape next weekend.

“It is all about staying race sharp,” he said.

Bouman however was taken to task by the KZN Canoe Union with a number of other paddlers who had not followed the race’s Covid-19 screening and check-in protocols and were disqualified, elevating Brandon van der Walt into the second place single ski position.

Shane Millward partnered Carl Folscher to win the double ski race, and posted the second quickest time of the day.

The women’s race produced some notable results, as Under 18 Saskia Hockly won the women’s single ski honours outright and the double ski race saw a return to the water for former world champion Hayley Nixon.

Nixon, who has been away from her paddles since the birth of her daughter Emma last year, found a willing ally in Hilary Bruss and they took the overall line honours in the women’s racing.

Backing up Hockly’s result, under 16 paddler Tannah Smith also raced onto the women’s overall podium, underscoring the depth of talent emerging from the junior surfski ranks at present.

The series takes a break next weekend as all eyes focus on Robben Island for the Freedom Paddle, before the second series race takes place on the long weekend at the beginning of May.

SUMMARY OF RESULTS
THULE SEASON STARTER
1 Hank McGregor 43:16.99 
2 Shane Millward/Carl Folscher 46:09.58 
3 Brandon van der Walt 46:15.10 
4 Gene Prato 46:52.03 
5 Jason Eckstrand 47:26.32 
6 Jean Luc Mauvis 48:02.93 
7 Matt Millward 48:15.34 
8 Brad Pearse/Craig Coombe 0:48:53.79 
9 Gary Waud/Glenn Hilliar 49:06.06 
10 Gary Behn/Tracey van Greunen 49:10.80 
Women
1 Hayley Nixon/Hilary Bruss 53:13.33 
2 Saskia Hockly 53:16.56 
3 Tannah Smith 58:55.27
4 Olivia Woodburn/Sarah Jones 1:02:00.95 
5 Nicki Irvine/Kate Frost 1:30:00.00 

Short Course
1 Matthew Hollinshead/Jonathan Hollinshead 28:14.02 
2 Tom O’Brien 30:05.79 
3 Tom Haines/Daniel Haines 30:29.27 
4 Wandile Dube 31:04.67 
5 Deon Woodley 31:26.98 
6 Keith Storey 31:41.97 
7 Karin Botha/Gary Clarke 32:43.64 
8 Mikaila Brown 32:49.29 
9 Terence Galloway/Leigh-Anne Fisher 33:04.38 
10 Aiden Furby 33:08.46 

WINTER SURFSKI SERIES 2021
Sunday 2nd May – Race 2 – Marine (8km /16km)
Sunday 16th May – Race 3 – Marine (9km / 18km)
Sunday 30th May – Bay Union King of the Bay (9km / 21km)
Saturday 12th June – Pirates – Umhlanga – Pirates (26km)
Saturday 26th / Sunday 27th June – Scottburgh2Brighton (47km)
More information can be found at www.wintersurfskiseries.co.za