All systems go for KZN Marathon Champs!

Natal Canoe Club (NCC) is gearing up to host the KwaZulu-Natal Canoe Marathon Championships on Camps Drift this weekend after a very successful test event this past weekend in which Louis Hattingh and Czech ace Jakub Adam claimed the men’s win.

Andy Birkett and Greg Louw were pipped into second place, while Bryan le Roux and Jarryd Gibson hung with the front-runners until near the end.

Birkett commented: “It was quite nice that we were all racing K2s. It was a nice change and exciting racing against Louis and Jakub.”

He added: “I am enjoying sitting in the back of the boat at the moment. I have always spent so much time in the front of the boat. It is quite a big change for me, but I am enjoying just being a passenger and not calling the shots.”

The five-time Dusi champion will team up with Hattingh this coming weekend, with Adam forming a strong looking combination with Michaelhouse schoolboy Jean van der Westhuyzen, who previously won the junior title at the 2014 World Championships with Hattingh.

Commenting on Hattingh’s long distance form, Birkett said: “He really has picked up his game. It is nice to see that he is pushing it.

“At the Drift at the moment, there is a lot of depth, whenever there is a race, or even training. It is always exciting. There are never big gaps.”

In his typical self-effacing manner, Hattingh said: “I have done one race with him [Birkett] before, the South African Champs’ 5km last year. To be honest, that race was almost a disaster. We were really bad in the boat together. I looked around and told myself I was drowning in the back. Now it feels much better.”

Commenting on the differences between paddling in the front or the back of the boat, he added: “The two are totally different. They both have unique aspects, and I enjoy both. It’s a little bit of a toss-up between who drives and who sits in the back.”

Both Birkett and Hattingh said they were enjoying the 2017 World Championships’ course, which is run clockwise on Camps Drift, whereas it has traditionally been an anti-clockwise course in the past.

NCC General Manager Brett Austen Smith commented: “The single biggest change has been the shift from an anti-clockwise to a clockwise race course on the recommendation from the ICF Marathon Committee after the recent test event. We’ve been using this format for our weekly NCC dices and paddlers have slowly gotten used it.”

The alteration is set to heighten the on-the-water action and also makes sound viewing sense as the flat water sport’s popularity continues to gather momentum.

“The change makes a significant difference as the flow of boat traffic is now much easier, while from a spectator’s point of view it is also a big improvement because the put-in at the end of the portage is now right in front of the NCC clubhouse,“ Austen Smith explained.

The battle for women’s honours looks set to be a clash between Abby Solms, who is a strong favourite, Nicole Russell and Natasha Bulbring.

Two-time World Championships bronze medal winner in the under-23 category, Jenna Ward, will headline that competition, while all eyes will be on Kyeta Purchase and Donna Hutton in the junior ranks.

Dusi star Banetsa Nkhoesa will be out to challenge Hattingh for the under-23 K1 crown, while the under-18 boys’ race will likely be the most competitive event of them all, although Jean van der Westhuyzen will be the favourite to take home the honours.

“JL won. They pipped us to the line, close range, lekker, Bryan le Roux and Jarryd Gibson stayed with the top two for most of the way.”

“He really has picked up his game. It is nice to see that he is pushing it.”

“At the Drift at the moment, there is a lot of depth, whenever there is a race, or even training. It is always exciting. There are never big gaps.”

“It will be tight racing, for sure.”

“It is really nice at the moment. We probably do portages three times a week in our sessions.”

Natal Canoe Club is preparing to host the KwaZulu-Natal Canoe Marathon Championships this weekend after a successful test event this past weekend, which produced some top racing between a number of powerful crews, with Louis Hattingh and Czech ace Jakub Adam taking the win.

For the better part of the men’s racing, three boats were in contention, with Greg Louw and Andy Birkett being pipped right at the end, while Bryan le Roux and Jarryd Gibson stayed with the other two crews until deep in the race.

“It was quite nice that we were all racing K2s,” Birkett said in an interview with The Witness yesterday. “It was a nice change and exciting racing against Louis and Jakub.”

“I am enjoying sitting in the back of the boat. I have always spent so much time in the front of the boat. It is quite a big change for me, but I am enjoying being in the back of the boat, just being a passenger and not calling the shots. It’s an enjoyable change.”

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