As the hundreds of paddlers head into their final preparations for the 2016 Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon the members of the Stellenbosch Canoe Club are planning their annual pilgrimage to the small Karoo town in a bid to re-claim the inter-varsity crown they won in 2015 when the race takes place from 7-8 October.
The Hansa Fish provides paddlers from many of the universities in the country the opportunity to fight it out for the ultimate paddling intervarsity crown as the Hansa Fish hosts the University Sports of South Africa (USSA) canoeing championships every year.
2016 will be no exception as Maties, as Stellenbosch students are known as, plan another assault on the coveted USSA title and Maties stalwart Andrew Houston believes that the team have what it takes to win the trophy again in 2016.
“We had a really strong team last year and we won the boys section but lost out in the girls section but we will be competitive again this year,” he mentioned.
“We have lost a couple guys but have also gained a strong paddler or two which will make the race that much more exciting.
“Last year we lost out on the Gees award – which was a lot of beer! So maybe that will be our priority this year, who knows!”
Without the opportunity to compete for a title of this nature at any other time of the season Houston relishes the chance to go up against his friends from other universities.
“This year we have done quite a bit of racing with the guys from UCT which has led to a bit of banter flying around about Fish but it is all in good taste and we get along well most of the time,” he said tongue in cheek.
“There is going to be tough competition again from the guys from Cape Town but also Varsity College who are always strong and have some good new paddlers coming through.
“Winning the Varsity title isn’t something that we go there to do but it is always in the back of our minds and if we win, we win – we are going to give it horns!”
Stellenbosch will be joined by the University of Cape Town, Varsity College, the University of KwaZulu-Natal and Rhodes University as the main challengers for the title and Houston is grateful for the opportunity to compete against students from such a variety of universities.
“It’s great having people from so many different varsities and we wouldn’t normally see a lot of the guys from UKZN or Rhodes so being able to interact with students from other areas makes the Fish very unique.
“You don’t get a race like this anywhere in the country especially when you are roping in guys from other varsities to join you for a drink afterwards – it’s a great experience for everyone,” he added.
The Maties are in the final stages of preparing their famous road trip from Stellenbosch to Cradock and Houston believes that he is nearly more excited for the trip than the race.
“I would say the road trip is one of the best parts of the weekend! We take a few buses and have a good party on the way up stopping in certain places and just having a good time,” he mentioned.
The 2016 Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon takes place from Grassridge Dam to Cradock Sports Complex on Friday 7 and Saturday 8 October.