Cradock – A star studded field is ready to battle it out for the men’s and women’s spoils at this year’s Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon and the year’s South African K1 River Marathon Championship titles when the red-hot action from the 82km, two-day Eastern Cape event from Grassridge Dam to Cradock Sports Complex takes place on Friday and Saturday.
Fresh off clinching K1 and K2 gold at the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championship in Germany, Hansa Fish K1 defending champion Hank McGregor is eager to go in hunt of a record-equaling seventh title at the event this weekend.
McGregor’s title challenge will however be under constant threat from multiple sources as a dozen paddlers from throughout the country and the rest of the globe look to overcome the iconic Euro Steel/Kayak Centre paddler.
McGregor’s World Champs runner-up, Euro Steel’s Andy Birkett, Euro Steel’s Spanish marathon ace Kiko Vega, Birkett’s 2015 K2 Fish winning team mate, Greg Louw (Knysna Racing/Merrell) and McGregor’s K2 World Champs gold medal team mate, Jasper Mocké (Euro Steel/Mocké Paddling) will all hope to be a thorn in McGregor’s side.
Darkhorse of the field, Simon van Gysen, Euro Steel pair and regular K2 team mates, Brandon van der Walt and Stu MacLaren, Czech Republic flyer, Jakub Adam and the consistent performer, Owen Gandar will also all seek to make their presence felt in the men’s titanic top ten tussle.
Build it/Williams Hunt’s Thulani Mbanjwa, Euro Steel/Red Bull’s Sbonelo Khwela, the evergreen Jacques Theron, SCARC’s Euro Steel ace and 2015 Hansa Fish podium finisher, Siseko Ntondini, Seed Co.’s Andrew Houston and World Champs K2 podium finisher, Louis Hattingh will too have high aspirations ahead of the Cradock clash.
The women’s title sees Euro Steel/Gara Racing Paddles’ Abby Solms start this year’s clash as pre-race favourite as the 27 year-old, who has won four out of the last five Hansa Fish crowns, goes in search of a record fifth victory at the popular race.
Solms will however be hard chased by triple Olympian and 2012 Olympic bronze medallist, Bridgitte Hartley (Knysna Racing), double Under-23 Marathon World Champs bronze medallist, Euro Steel’s Jenna Ward and junior ace Kyeta Purchase (Euro Steel/Mocké Paddling).
The event’s popularity as a K3-friendly race continues to draw three-person entries from all corners of South Africa and is even enjoys international appeal in 2016 with Australian trio, Steve Bird, Jesse Phillips and Pete McBain and Austrian wildwater talents, ýManuel Filzwieserý, Christopher Kremslehner and Lukas Grünanger taking on this year’s challenge.
This year’s Hansa Fish will again see another chapter of the much-anticipated annual Inter-Varsity rivalry written while the Inter-Provincial tussle will be another interesting sub-plot that unfolds throughout this weekend’s racing.
While the racing promises to be action-aplenty on the water, the weekend’s festivities will continue off the water too as the legendary pre-race lamb potjie on Thursday nights, DJ Dee Steyn tracks on Friday evening and the renowned sounds of Desmond and the Tutus as well as Rubber DUC keeps crowds well entertained.
The 2016 Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon takes place from Grassridge Dam to Cradock Sports Complex on Friday 7 and Saturday 8 October. More information can be found at www.fishmarathon.org.za.