South African paddling star Hank McGregor made history smashed the race record as he won the Maui Jim Molokai Challenge over the weekend while surfski queen Hayley Nixon finished third in the ladies race.
McGregor, who has won the event on two previous occasions, showed his class in an exciting showdown with Australian Cory Hill that went right down to the final few kilometres.
It wasn’t plain sailing for McGregor who lost his 20 second advantage after taking a swim in the closing kilometres of the race but he was able to regroup and beat Hill on the flat section into the finish line.
“I was really happy to take the win at the Molokai and to break the record was also great,” Euro Steel/Fenn Kayaks’ McGregor said.
“It was a tight race all the way until about Port Lock, which to two-and-a-half kilometres from the finish and the surf was really big and I caught the shoulder of a wave and ran it for a while.
“We crossed another set of reefs about 500 metre later and I looked down and could see rocks so I turned the ski sideways and the wave broke over the top of the boat and I fell out.
“I was worried that I was going to take the rudder off the boat and that would have been a terrible end to the race but I managed to right myself and get back on the ski.
“Cory Hill closed the gap and then with a kilometre to go I started picking it up and was really glad to take the win.”
The field that takes on the Molokai is often as tough as it gets and with a World Championships later in the year, the win was a good gauge for McGregor and his form going into it.
“You are up against some of the best paddlers in the world and it is an honour to be there and racing against them.
“And to be at the front is also a privilege,” he added.
There was another fantastic South African performance from Josh Fenn who finished in fifth place overall. It was the 19 year-olds first outing in Hawaii for the gruelling race.
Tyron Maher was the other South African in the men’s race and he finished 14th.
In the ladies race Hayley Nixon came home in third behind Jordan Mercer, who also set a new record, and Georgia Laird.
Nixon was full of praise for the ladies that beat her and she feels she might have missed a trick tactically.
“I have huge respect for the way that Jordan and Georgia put their races together, they charged off aggressively off at the start and having done a Molokai before I thought that they wouldn’t be able to keep that pace up,” Nixon said.
“Unfortunately I didn’t race myself into a position where I could attack later on in the race and I had a slip up and fell in but thankfully I had practiced remounting so I got back in quite quickly.
“I wasn’t as in control of the race as I would have liked to be. It would have been a lot better to be closer to the other women.
“I am extremely proud to have fought back to get on the podium because I was in fifth for a lot of the race.
“You can’t win them all and it was a great day given the competitiveness of the ladies race,” she added.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS – Maui Jim Molokai Challenge
1.Hank McGregor 3:11:17
2.Cory Hill (AUS) 3:11:51
3.Patrick Dolan (USA) 3:13:00
4.Alastair Day (AUS) 3:16:39
5.Josh Fenn 3:17:48
1.Jordan Mercer (AUS) 3:47:22
2.Georgia Laird (AUS) 3:50:34
3.Hayley Nixon 3:54:57