A Victoria Lake Canoe Club couples quintet is excitedly readying themselves – many for the first – for this year’s Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon which takes place in Cradock on 7 and 8 October.
Wayne and Karen Saunders, Michael and Christina Sears, Danny Stevens and Berdine Nel, Richard and Linda Carter as well as Anthony and Theresa Welsh are looking forward to making the journey down from Gauteng to the Eastern Cape for the 35th edition of the event in a few weeks’ time.
Teaming up with their respective husband or partner, Karen, Christina, Berdine and Linda will all make their Hansa Fish debut in a few weeks’ time while Theresa looks to add a second finish to her name having completed her maiden effort in 2015.
“The five of us ladies have all come through the Victoria Lake Canoe Club novice programme, which was started last year and aims to bring new faces into the sport of canoeing,” explains Karen Saunders.
“The programme gets underway at the start of the paddling season and culminates in taking on the Fish (River Canoe Marathon), which 14 people – including Theresa – managed to do successfully last year.
“After taking Theresa down the Fish River for her first one last year, Wayne decided he wanted to paddle his tenth Fish with me.
“I resisted the idea for as long as I could but eventually I gave up and joined the VLC novice programme.
“Like all the other ladies, I’ve now one through all the proficiency tests, desperately done all the Fish qualifying races and am now just trying to get as much experience on a river as possible.”
While simply finishing the Fish would be an achievement for the five mixed doubles, an internal rivalry and personal pride see each of the couples secretly aiming to outshine the other four as well.
“Wayne and I are in our fifties while Michael and Christina are in their twenties, but there’s no ways I’m letting those youngsters beat us!” laughs Karen.
“We haven’t spoken about it yet, but I definitely think we’re going to have to come up with some kind of reward for the K2 that finishes first or punishment for the pair that finish last!”
Embracing the Hansa Fish atmosphere remains key for the Gauteng group who are looking forward to enjoying the trip with both friends and family alike.
“We didn’t really know the other couples before paddling but VLC is such a tightly knit group that we’ve all become very close since we started canoeing.
“We’re staying together in Cradock and it should be a great few days for us all.
“Our eldest daughter will be seconding Wayne and I, Danny’s two sons will also be paddling and the Carters’ daughter is coming with too, so it will be a great family trip for many of us as well.”
With just six weeks to go to the race, Karen can’t quite contain her excitement ahead of her maiden appearance as a Hansa Fish participant.
“Wayne and I love going down to Cradock for the race each year – the people are always so friendly and the organisers do such a fantastic job!
“The Fish is Wayne’s favourite race on the calendar and now, for the first time, I finally get be part of it all properly and I can’t wait!”
The 2016 Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon takes place from Grassridge Dam to Cradock Sports Complex on Friday 7 and Saturday 8 October.