The final run in to the 2016 Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon is a frantic one as the over one thousand paddlers prepare for the journey to Cradock in twenty-four hours however despite the foreign influx, there are a number of locals in and around the small Karoo town that will be waiting patiently to get on the river and slug it out for the hometown prizes at this year’s race on Friday and Saturday.
2015 was a golden year for Eastern Cape paddling when one of their own, former Cradock local Greg Louw, partnered Andy Birkett to the overall title. Louw’s title was the first for an Eastern Cape male athlete since Daniel Conradie won the popular event back in 1998.
There are however also a handful of other awards handed out to Eastern Cape paddlers annually with one of them being the Border K1 or K2 award, given out in accordance with the event’s championship format each year.
In 2016 it will be the first K1 from the Border Canoe Club to cross the line that will be the proud recipient of the Breetzke Trophy.
The Eastern Province Canoe Union Trophy is another much desired local award, given out to the first paddler from the Eastern Cape home.
In 2015 the Border based pair of Kyle Friedenstein and Jayme Thompson clinched both the Breetzke Trophy and the EPCU Trophy with 2016 set to see each category’s first K1 across the line claim this year’s local spoils.
The final closed Eastern Cape trophy on offer at the Hansa Fish is the Fish River Farmers Association Shield for the first Cradock based paddlers across the line. The sought after trophy is tightly contested annually with the 2015 award going to the K2 duo of former race chairman, Pieter Marais and his partner James Jordaan.
“The competition for the local prize is always a really hard fought one but we are not going to be involved this year,” Marais said.
“It is great to have the title as the strongest local paddlers but we will leave it up to the younger, stronger guys in the K1s this year to fight it out for the title.
“There are a number of guys that will be in the running with Mike De Neuilly Rice, Jan Maree and Kyle Copeman likely be the top runners.
“The local guys take the race really seriously and it is good to see that they are willing to fight it out for the uniquely Cradock prize and the years’ worth of bragging rights that come with it!” added Marais.
While De Neuilly Rice, Maree and Copeman look set to battle it out for the Cradock top honours this year, the Border award appears a wide open affair in 2016 while the safe money for this year’s province’s accolade would be on Greg Louw as the Knysna Racing/Merrell paddler looks to paddle his way into the top five.
Louw will however have his hands full in the overall title race as another strong field assembles ahead of this weekend’s race, particularly as the 2016 edition of the Hansa Fish doubles as the South African K1 River Marathon Championships.
The two-day adventure attracts paddlers from all over the country with a number of national and provincial awards also up for grabs during the two days of racing.
The 2016 Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon takes place from Grassridge Dam to Cradock Sports Complex on Friday 7 and Saturday 8 October.