13 October 2023 View online

Hi {name},

Mistakes and mishaps characterised the fortunes of all three of the podium finishers in the men's category of this year's SA K2 championships on the Fish river over the weekend.

Given the class of the field, it was always going to be a humdinger of a battle. A mixture of younger, faster upstarts against some seasoned campaigners.

Ultimately, it was the experienced crew of Andy Birkett and Greg Louw who ended up with the laurels. To some extent it was almost handed to them on a plate after various degrees of mismanagement at the very last portage allowed them to get away from their two rivals.

An uncharacteristic swim by Birkett and "Cradock local" Louw, at Kieth's Flyover, on the first day forced them to burn a few matches in their efforts to catch back up to the leading group of 3 boats, which, at that stage, included the slummies pairing of the brothers Fenn. A slow leak in one of the cockpits (jury is still out) forced the brothers to fall off the pace after Soutpans, leaving the youngsters Lovemore and Cook to display their turn of speed at the end sprint, winning the first day.

Their elation was short lived, as a broken paddle, at the very first obstacle of the second day, forced them to  also reach for the match box, in an effort to reunite themselves with the leading duo.

Under normal circumstances, the result of the race is often determined by the boat that manages to shoot Cradock Weir first. This premise was thrown on its head when the officials were forced to make the weir a compulsory portage, after a previous "incident" at the weir had resulted in the lifeguard tower falling over.

The Andy/Greg combination kept the coolest heads, in what was a do-or-die effort by all three crews over the short portage. Hank's partner, Frenchman Jeremy Candy had some splash-cover admin, resulting in the boat taking on a lot of water. Speedsters Lovemore and Cook made an even bigger hash of getting back into their boat, and despite a valiant effort, could only get the time deficit down to seconds seconds in the race for silver.

The women's race, in complete contrast, was a casual demolition job by Saskia Hockly and Christie Mackenzie. They simply took the lead and stretched their advantage with every stroke, finishing over 10 minutes ahead of veteran sprinter Bridgitte Hartley and her international partner Krisztina Bedoc, with the Eastern Cape pairing of Jade Wilson and Nix Birkett finishing a further ten minutes back, but ensuring that the Birkett husband and wife pairing both visited the podium.

One of the stand-out performances of the race was that of  the U23 duo of Matt Coetze and Uli Hart, who, after some boat and paddle admin on the portage around the Grassridge dam wall, managed to pull themselves from stone last in the A batch to 6th overall by the end.

Despite a small field, the organisers once again displayed their legendary Eastern Cape hospitality and level of commitment to the event. The sharp end of the field certainly did not disappoint.

From a national championships to a continental championships ...

This past weekend saw the hosting of the African Canoe Polo championships at Emmarentia dam.

The result of the event is used to determine who qualifies to compete in the world championships, which will be held in China next year.

Unfortunately, Namibia is the only other African country who is active in the discipline. That is, however, not any fault of our dedicated teams.

Both the senior men and the U21 men won their games. The women did not have a team to play against, so it means that they qualify automatically.

From reports received, it was an exciting and active few days of competition.

I lament that fact that all of us do not have unlimited funding, nor unlimited time.

The exorbitant cost of travel, coupled with hectic lifestyles and a full calendar, forces almost all of us to make some hard calls.

Having just returned from the world marathon championships in Denmark, and then the Fish last weekend, I look at the phenomenal events lined up for the next few weeks with tears in my eyes, knowing that I won't be able to get to them all.

My largest regret is the Lowveld Croc, on the 21st and 22nd of this month.

As I have expounded on numerous occasions, this race, in my opinion, is the best river race in the country. It is a true test of river skill without the fear of large rapids or the boredom of long flats.

Raced in a time trial format, it is pretty much just you against yourself and the river. The longest flat stretch on the river is about 50 metres. The organisers this year have changed the format slightly, allowing for a tripping day on the Saturday and a race day on the Sunday. This is great news for those who are planning a long trip to the event, as it gives you a double bite at the cherry.

I have also been informed that, besides a single hippo (which stays in the same place), the river has been cleared of this potential danger. Those who have done the race before will need no convincing. For those who have not, do yourself a favour and knock that piggy bank off the mantlepiece and get down there.

Two weeks after the Lowveld is this year's SA Surf ski Championships on November 4-5.

This year it is a two day affair, with the single ski championships on the Saturday and the double ski championships on the Sunday, being held in conjunction with the ever popular Biogen Pete Marlin Surfski Race in East London.

The entries, so far, have exceeded the expectations of the organisers, with over 80 paddlers going from KZN alone.

The conditions rarely fail to provide an awesome downwind test, and the "who is who" of the country's elite will be there to scrap over the slim pickings of podium opportunities.

The significant prize money, across all categories, as well as the usual fantastic giveaways, are a massive attraction, as is the awesome vibe that is created by the organisers.

The very next weekend is another absolutely superb river race, which is unrivalled by the effort and hospitality of the locals.

The Orange Descent, in Upington, in contrast to races like the Lowveld Croc, is characterised by massive volumes of crystal clear water, providing a few exciting wave trains and long flat sections which travel through some beautiful scenery.

Although the river is well worth the experience, much of the enjoyment of the weekend happens off the water.

Closer to home, and a lot less expensive, is the start of one of KZN's favourite surf ski series'.

The Pirates "Wall and Back" series starts this evening, and runs for the next few weeks.

The predicted conditions look superb and the racing will be fierce.

Many, however, attend the Friday evening classic, not to kill themselves on the water, but to be part of Dave Harker's entertaining prize givings, which descend into disarray the more often the bar counter is visited.

CSA will be holding its annual strategic planning meeting this coming Monday.

The board and the chairs of the technical committees will be discussing reports from last year's activities and tabling plans for the coming season.

The issue of declining membership will also be discussed.

In the interim, I have attached bar charts reflecting the state of membership in each union. It makes for interesting viewing.

That's all for this week.

Your SG

A couple was Christmas shopping at the mall on Christmas Eve and the mall was packed. As the wife walked through the mall she was surprised to look up and see her husband was nowhere around. She was quite upset because they had a lot to do. Because she was so worried, she called him on her mobile phone to ask him where he was.

In a calm voice, the husband said, "Honey, you remember the jewellery store we went into about 5 years ago where you fell in love with that diamond necklace that we could not afford and I told you that I would get it for you one day?"

The wife choked up and started to cry and said, "Yes, I remember that jewellery store."

He said, "Well, I'm in the Pub right next door to it."

Modify your subscription    |    View online
Facebook Twitter Instagram