The Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon 2015 was certainly an awesome ride with a magnificent water release! For the more experienced stable and confident paddlers it was the ride of their ride no matter how many FISH they had completed although for the newer first timers taking on their first novice friendly a grade river race it was pretty challenging!!!
The adventures frequently begin with the drive to the Fish - the +- 800 km challenge is often the most difficult part of the event and dodging veld legavaan and cape fox on the road takes much skill!
The weather couldn't have been organized better and it may have been the very best weather in a decade apart from a couple of wind storms which almost spoiled tripping opportunities before being sorted by the organisers, and certainly put a damper on the prizegiving with pollen grass ash sand blowing into the spectators eyes and drowning the sound of the speeches - it’s a jealous wind in the Eastern Cape!
Rumours indicate that this Fish had the most amount of swimmers at Soutpans and highest boat break rate i.e. +- 80% swim rate? and 100 boat breaks / non starters for day 2 and /or non finishers? But rumours true or not, those who have done more than 10 Fish all concede - it WAS the biggest they have seen FISH and Soutpans WAS a monster! Highly experienced seconders also confirm they have never seen so many swimmers at the infamous rapid either!
AND it meant there were also enormous exciting wave trains at other places along the river which were unexpected and unadulterated pleasure!
The organisers have agreed that the river did have a 30 cumec release instead of the normal guaranteed 26 and who would have thought it would make SUCH a big difference! The stopper waves at bottom of Double Trouble were massive and the speed of the boats pouring down was breath-taking!
Well done to all who finished as well as those who attempted and were unlucky! Glad to hear that those who got into troubles were helped to safety and it seems that it was another awesome FISH! Once again the lifesaving and marshalling points were superbly on track and wide awake!
Special congratulations go to Gauteng’s para-canoeist Constant Olivier, over 50, who took on this scary challenge that many able bodied paddlers were afraid to try and despite swims at Double Trouble, a long Soutpans swim and Gauging weir, Olivier had the ride of his life and is excited and keen to plan for next year!
Thanks so much to his partners who with experience and knowledge of rivers helped to get the Hansa K3 down the river - Hugh Raw (75) and Andrew Lake (KZN Safety Officer) as well as the portage crews from the local boys, and High school organized by the Hansa Fish River Race organisers - a fantastic job and magnificent support from ALL including the CSA safety team.
There were also a few paddlers and spectators who rushed to assist wherever needed – we paddlers and our support crews are a special breed indeed!
We all know who won the race as that is widely circulated and receives much press coverage, however from Gauteng's viewpoint here are the important details of OUR achievers and I apologize in advance if I did leave anybody out but please do not hesitate to contact me for corrections if I did – it’s quite a lot of analysis to be done to find our achievers among all the other province finishers!
In line with Gauteng’s policy to identify and recognise our lady paddlers, first up on this report is our congratulations to Sarah Robinson and Janet Bartlett (Dabs) who finished as 11th ladies overall in 6 :30, 235th boat overall, 203rd K2....... Asanda Ndlovu (SOW) partnered with KZN lady finished as 25th lady team in 8:08, while in 26th and 27th position of the ladies race, and times of 8:25 and 8:26, we can proudly congratulate Watuni's ladies Mariette Zandbergh and Natali Coetzee, as well as Sneziwe Gxobole (SOW) with her KZN paddling partner.
Morgan and Ryan Ziervogel (JCC) were Gauteng’s top Mixed Doubles finishers as 7th mixed double in 5h59, 16th Under 23!
It was Siseko Ntondini (SCARC) who took the 3rd place and top position from Gauteng, partnered with Len Jenkins Jnr, finishing in 4:48 over the two days and 82km while the first Gauteng BOAT containing Gavin Shuter AND Dave Hamilton Brown (DABS) finished in 5:02 11th overall.
Phineas Zulu and Alex Roberts were 18th finishers overall (Sow/Dabs) in 5:07, and in 5:10 Tom Ngcobo (SOW) with Kwanda Mhlophe (Natal) just missed the top 20 prestigious position!
Siyabonga Tyiki (SOW) finished as 3rd Junior Under 18 in 5h15 with his KZN partner, followed some seconds later by Loveday Zondi and Thando Ngamlana also from SCARC's Soweto based club in 27th overall. Nkosai Mzolo (Sow) partnered with Martin van den Bergh (JCC) to finish 30th overall, and it
Was Liam and Michael Stewart (ERK) finishing in 5:21 who won the Father / Son combination again as 34th finishers.
Andy Leith (Dabs) secured himself a position in the Chalupsky K3 to win the Masters top podium position, 37th in 5:21, as 3rd K3 finishers, while Lowvelders Gustav Smook and Wikus Loots finishing 40th, were 2nd Veterans in 5:22. Centurions Wally Fisher and Theo Smit were close on their tail finishing 41st in 5:23 as first Sub Master team, while the young 'uns managed to clinch a 45th overall - Tommy Booth and Nicholas Weeks (ERK) in 5:24.
Lowveld paddlers Mark and father Trevor Smith also roped in a ringer from KZN, Jeffrey Smith, to the family K3 to finish in 5:29 as 4th K3, in 49th clinching a top 50 finish!
James Dillon (Dabs) took the 50th K2 finish in a time of 5:30 with KZN partner and family member Patrick Dillon and that brings us to the TOP 50 finishers from Gauteng.
More Podium positions included Mark Garden partnered with Andrew Hall (DABS) in 5h38 as 2nd Sub Vets, K2 63, and Wihan Venter with Craig Lewis (LOW) as 3rd Sub Vets in 5:44.
Notable finishes also include our first finishing K1 was Gabriel van Wyk (ACD) 4th, in 5:58, while our first finishing Under 16's were Alex Masina (JCC) and Sibusiso Chwayi, 6th in that age category.
The short course introduced for less fit, or less experienced paddlers provides an excellent opportunity for Gautengers to ENJOY their first major white water challenge as we all admit that even if not shooting the major rapids with names, there is plenty on the river to provide excitement and challenge!
Our North West University Potchefstroom based team did very well, with Leo Kerhoff and Jason Spengler winning the event, and novice team of Groblersdam farmers who spend an awful amount of time driving to find rivers with rapids for training, Abel Rudman and Barend Du Preez (FLCC) as 7th K2. North West University Daniel Kershoff and Sarel Hendrikz finished the short course in K1's, finishing as 5th and 6th K1, and Daniel Barnard (LIK) finished in a K1 as well as Bertrand Van den Berg (LIK).
It was an awesome challenge and thanks to the Fish Organisers for superb organisation and great lifesaving marshalling ability as well as for Hansa SAB Miller Breweries for the fantastic sponsorship!
Jennie Dallas for GCU PR 082 857 857 1