Having trailed by just a second overnight, it was the pairs of Stu Maclaren and Jasper Mocké, and Jenna Ward and Kyeta Purchase who claimed the overall Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon spoils after an enthralling second and final stage on Saturday.
It was effectively going to be a sprint over the final 36km from Knutsford to Cradock with both the men’s and women’s top two boats separated by a second each. The added pressure of a national river marathon title also seemed to add another dimension to the contest.
Neither Mocké nor Maclaren had won the Fish before so it was going to be a test of nerve up against a five-time K2 champion in Hank McGregor, however in the final five kilometres it was the Western Cape pair who came up trumps to claim the national K2 river championship crown.
“This is an absolute dream come true for me,” a visibly emotional Maclaren said. “I am about to tear up here! It’s just incredible. And to do it with Jasper is even more special.
“I won my first major with him and it’s so cool to be able to add this one to the belt as well.”
Mocké has finished second at the Fish with McGregor and to finally get that monkey off his back and to win it against such a strong field was the cherry on the top.
“You never want to win a race against competition that might not be that strong and I think that that was so far from the case in this race,” Mocké said.
“Well done to Hank and Wayne they were incredibly strong over the two days and luckily for us we took our moment today and we did well to do that, but they were super strong.
“Winning in front of the people here makes it so much more meaningful and to do it in front of the paddling community is incredible.”
McGregor couldn’t add to his tally of Fish wins as he and partner Wayne Jacobs settled for second spot while it was Jacques Theron and Bryan Leroux who came home in third spot to claim the final podium place.
The women’s race was filled with just as much drama and intrigue and it was also a straight shoot from start to finish for the win.
Overnight it seemed that Christie Mackenzie and Bridgitte Hartley were going to be the stronger of the two, however it came down to Cradock Weir and the pair Mackenzie and Hartley took a race-defining swim that saw them end second.
Ward and Purchase just kept on chipping away at the more fancied pair and they took their opportunity when it came which gave them a memorable win and a second K2 win in a row for Ward.
“In the build-up Kyeta said that she thought that the race was going to come down to Cradock Weir and I wasn’t sure but to be kept on our toes for two days was really exciting!” Ward said.
“It just shows how strong women’s paddling is at the moment in South Africa and hats off to Christie and Bridg who were so strong over the two days and kept putting us under pressure.
“It was fantastic racing and we are just so glad to have kept it clean and come out on top!”
The last time the pair paddled the Fish was Purchase’s first river race in 2015 and to have come away with a win four years later shows how well the pair have developed over the years.
After a solid day on the first day, Nikki Birkett and Amy Peckett came home in third place to wrap up the final podium position.
In the age group contests Hamish Mackenzie and Stewart Little won the men’s Under 23 title while Tracey Oellermann and Sabina Lawrie were the strongest Under 23 women’s crew in the race.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS – 2019 HANSA FISH RIVER CANOE MARATHON
1.Stuart Maclaren/Jasper Mocké 1:57:02 4:42:39
2.Hank McGregor/Wayne Jacobs 1:57:08 4:42:43
3.Jacques Theron/Bryan Leroux 1:57:30 4:45:06
4.Greg Louw/Phillip Smit 1:57:34 4:45:09
5.Simon van Gysen/Kenny Rice 2:00:06 4:46:57
6.Clinton Cook/Kiko Vega 1:59:23 4:48:52
7.Alan Houston/Lance Kime 2:00:03 4:49:35
8.Hamish Mackenzie/Stewart Little (U23) 1:59:44 4:51:27
9.Sbonelo Khwela/Thulani Mbanjwa 2:00:07 4:51:48
10.Ant Stott/Michael Arthur 2:00:47 4:53:30
1.Jenna Ward/Kyeta Purchase 2:07:50 5:10:15
2.Christie Mackenzie/Bridgitte Hartley 2:09:45 5:12:09
3.Nikki Birkett/Amy Peckett 2:20:49 5:31:24
4.Tracey Oellermann/Sabina Lawrie (U23) 2:20:23 5:38:05
5.Kim van Gysen/Alex Adie 2:29:28 5:51:54
6.Georgina Howard/Lizanne Conradie (U16) 2:30:24 5:54:56
7.Cayleigh Shaw/Fraces Forsyth (U18) 2:36:22 6:12:38
8.Tamara Sneyd/Hilary Bruss 2:39:37 6:14:55
9.Cara Waud/Shannon Parker-Dennison (U18) 2:34:03 6:21:11
10.Laila Maher/Hannah Bruni (U16) 2:37:51 6:25:06