The 2016 Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon will double as the South African K1 River Marathon Championships as well as the national provincial championship, adding to the prestige of the 35th edition of the coveted two-day showdown that concludes at the Cradock Sports Complex on Saturday, 8 October.
The winning Western Province team in 2015 comprised of two K2 combinations which included Brandon van der Walt and Stuart MacLaren, who finished fifth overall, and the duo of Owen Gandar and Ben Bradford, who finished eighth in the two-day contest.
However the 2014 K1 edition of the Hansa Fish saw paddlers from KwaZulu-Natal take the Slabbert Trophy for the first Provincial team across the line after Hank McGregor, Andy Birkett, Grant van der Walt and Thulani Mbanjwa all crossed the line inside the Top 10, handing them the lowest combined time and with it the year’s provincial bragging rights.
With no competitive entry from Grant van der Walt expected for this year’s Hansa Fish, the KZN team will look to another of their stars to step into that position with Euro Steel/Red Bull’s Sbonelo Khwela eyeing a maiden top ten finish and recent K2 World Marathon Championships bronze medallist Louis Hattingh threatening to make the step up into the big league of river marathon paddling in South Africa too.
The team travelling from the Western Cape will most likely provide KZN with the biggest threat come race weekend with MacLaren, who finished eighth in the last K1 year, along with the Brandon van der Walt, Jasper Mocké and the impressive Stellenbosch brothers Andrew and Alan Houston being the region’s stand out K1 paddlers.
“You don’t go into the Fish hoping to win the provincial trophy, it is more a case of your personal effort contributing to the overall provincial effort,” Euro Steel’s Stuart MacLaren mentioned.
“It works two-fold in that often the winners of the inter-club title, which is a hugely prestigious award, will come from the provincial winners, so you always want to make sure you are finishing as well as possible to give your club and province a good chance to win.”
2014 saw Euro Steel/Mocké Paddling’s Jasper Mocké finish as the strongest Western Cape paddler when he crossed the line in Cradock in third place in the K1 race and with some good form going into the clash in October he may well be the catalyst that helps Western Province to victory.
“It’s always going to be difficult to beat the likes of Hank McGregor and Andy Birkett because they are on top of their game but we have got some strong paddlers of our own that I think can push those guys; guys like Jasper, Brandon and myself, so it will be interesting.
“It’s always exciting to see how the race pans out and how the results unfold when you combine the times of the paddlers to work out the eventual winners!” MacLaren added.
The Top 10 in 2014 had a mix of paddlers from KZN, Western Province and the Eastern Province with KZN and Western Province having four places each whilst the host province had two.
Greg Louw, who finished in fourth place in 2014, won his maiden Hansa Fish title in 2015 with Andy Birkett and will lead the local charge once again.
Port Elizabeth local Richard von Wildermann rounded out the top 10 two years ago and along with Heinrich van Rooyen, Jordan Zeelie and Louw, gave the host province third place, just ahead of Gauteng, in the Provincial championship.
The 2016 Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon takes place from Grassridge Dam to Cradock Sports Complex on Friday 7 and Saturday 8 October.