The 2015 Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon on Friday 9 October and Saturday 10 October will see a reunion of the K2 crew that won the title 23 years ago, as Shaun Rice flies in from Australia to rekindle his paddling relationship with his former partner as well as the iconic race.
Rice, who emigrated to Perth shortly after he won the 1992 edition of the Hansa Fish with Colin Simpkins, will return to Cradock to take part in the event, entering in the K3 class with Simpkins and Richard Starr.
“Colin and I have always enjoyed paddling together,” said Rice. “It’s some kind of an odd feller relationship. One is very serious, organised to the point of obsessive and the other a little more relaxed – and it seems to work.
“We have spoken over the years about doing a race for old time sake, maybe the Sella Descent in Spain,
“Colin has been keen to scratch the Avon Descent off his bucket list or maybe even a surf ski race like The Perth Doctor, but nothing has materialised. When the Fish was mooted we both saw this as a good chance.”
“So it has been a while since we spent any real time in a boat together,” said Rice.
The pair have raced together since their triumph at the Fish some 23 years ago.
“Our last outing was at the World Marathon Masters Cup in Perth eight years ago. We combined well and had a good win”.
“As I get older the mind wanders back to the good old pioneering days of warm water, full rivers, and sunny skies,” reminisced Rice.
Rice is using every South African contact to ensure that Simpkins is fit enough for the 82km two stage race.
“I have not had the colonial advantage of early retirement and endless fun races,” he pointed out. “Please give Copper (Colin Simpkins) every encouragement, as he will need to do a little more than half the work.
“Expectations are not high, however when we are on the water things may change,” he added.
Simpkins for his part is excited to reunite with his Fish champion partner from over two decades ago and has been rummaging through dusty archives of photographs and old race booklets to rekindle the memories of the year they won the race.
“Shaun is getting really old, and in his twilight years, has realized that I was a legend to paddle with,” Simpkins pointed out. “He could not help himself.”
Simpkins, who is currently the Canoeing South Africa Secretary General, has completed 26 editions of the Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon, while Rice will be starting his seventh.