Seven-time Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon champion Hank McGregor has a plan to make up for his lack of K1 river racing time, and the veteran says he is race fit and raring to go at this year’s edition of the race that gets underway from Grassridge Dam on Friday.
McGregor’s racing calendar has been jam-packed throughout the year and with a K2 FNB Dusi title to his name, a K2 Marathon World Championships gold medal to his name as well as a plethora of surfski crowns his K1 has been gathering dust.
“The last time I raced a K1 in a river was the Drak Challenge!” the king of marathon paddling said. “I have not done a lot of river training but that will make the racing this weekend exciting.
“I have done a lot of other racing this year so it’s a case of I’ll either have it or I won’t but I know what to expect at the Fish and I am looking forward to it.”
McGregor will go head-to-head with good friend, Euro Steel team mate and K2 partner Andy Birkett for a shot at the 2018 title. Birkett is yet to win a K1 Fish crown, and McGregor believes that they will leave it all on the water.
“Things have changed a lot since we last had a Fish K1 dice in 2016. Andy is great guy and full of talent.
“We are going to have such a good time dicing it out over the two days and I am sure that the better paddler is going to come out on top.”
The Fish is not a short race with days of 48km and 36km respectively. Despite this, the fast-flowing nature of the river and the intensity of the rapids does make the race exciting and a slip-up can cost valuable time and ground.
“It is always a fast race and it’s about making sure that you are in touch at the end of the first day.
“You never want too much time to catch up on day two because then you expend energy that you will need for the final push to the finish.
“Whoever makes the least mistakes is going to be the one in control because, although you can make up time, it can be really difficult.
“The race is so unique in that you have a sprint across the dam, a hard portage and then you have to hold on through the rapids to the finish of day one.
“Day two is a race to Cradock Weir and then the short, sharp sprint to the line,” McGregor analysed.
Despite Birkett potentially being his biggest threat, McGregor knows that there are other paddlers that can upset the apple cart.
“Every year there are names mentioned and in the past it has been Len Jenkins and Greg Louw but they aren’t going to be there this year.
“Stu Maclaren and Jasper Mocké have been paddling well and are familiar with the river so they will be tough competition.
“I always feel it comes down to who can handle day one the best. If you don’t expend too much energy on day one and avoid trouble you will have a chance on Saturday,” McGregor explained.