Andy Birkett and Bridgitte Hartley were crowned SA K1 River champions after wrapping up victories in the men’s and women’s races at the 40th Fish River Canoe Marathon on Saturday.
A week after he won the world marathon title, Birkett showed his class and form as he added another four minutes to his overnight lead as he posted a flawless final stage to claim the title.
With pressure off, Birkett said that he was able to enjoy the 38 kilometre second stage from Knutsford to the finish in Cradock.
“I just had a lot of fun out on the river today,” said the East London-based Euro Steel ace.
“The nerves always go through the roof at Cradock Weir. You just never know at Cradock. You could have a swim, and swim for a long time. Luckily I was clean on the river today,” said Birkett.
Birkett added that since his move to the Eastern Cape he had enjoyed the intensity of the Border training squad, and highlighted the performances of Josh Fenn in Portugal and Matt Fenn racing onto the overall Fish podium as the Under 23 champion.
The win comes off the back of Birkett’s victory in the K2 championship race with Nicky Notten last year, making him one of the race’s rare back-to-back champions.
Clinton Cook claimed the runner-up honours, edging home ahead of local Matt Fenn, who won the Canoeing South Africa Under 23 CSA gold medal.
From her elapsed time start Hartley said her first challenge was to get onto a fast group of male paddlers.
“It was super tough! I few weeks ago I did a time time and the guys really worked me over, so I decided I had to stay with that group and work hard,” said the 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist.
“I lost the group above Gauging Weir but I decided to just paddle within myself and make sure I made no mistakes,” she added.
The reward for her efforts was the luxury to opt to portage around Cradock Weir before completing the twenty minute victory procession into the finish at the sports complex in Cradock to successfully defend her K1 Fish title.
The women’s podium was rocked by the omission of Christie Mackenzie, who missed her early morning A batch start, assuming she was starting in elapsed time. She finished second fastest women overall but was omitted for the official results by the race officials.
That left the door open for Jordy Peek to claim the silver medal and Kirsten Scott to sneak onto the small step of the women’s podium, and allowed Tracey Oellerman to claim the CSA Under 23 gold medal.
Matt Fenn was full value for his win in the Under 23 men’s division while Jack Shooter wrapped up the Under 18 gold medal.
While race focussed its attention on K1 craft as a singles championship year, the only boat beaten to the finish by Andy Birkett was the K3 of Ricci Talevi, Nic Weeks and Mike Arthur. The mixed double of Emma Hatfield and Brad Boulle was the first K2 to the finish.
As the race toasted it winners across all the age categories, there was a special moment as Rory Anderson was called up to receive the first ever Fish Hawk award as the first paddler to complete 40 Fish Marathons, and the staggering feat of finishing every single edition of the popular Eastern Cape classic since it’s inception in 1982.
More information can be found at www.fishmarathon.org.za.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS – Fish River Canoe Marathon (Stage Two – Knutsford to Cradock)
1 Andy Birkett 2:04:21.05 4:59:08,80
3 Clinton Cook 2:08:32.79 5:10:21,59
4 Matthew Fenn (U23) 2:08:49.56 5:10:38,94
5 Greg Louw 2:10:17.26 5:12:07,24
6 David Evans (U23) 2:11:18.43 5:16:20,12
7 Scott Little (U23) 2:12:39.26 5:17:40,33
8 Wayne Jacobs 2:11:08.42 5:17:59,04
9 Thomas Lovemore 2:12:10.77 5:19:02,51
10 Jack De Swardt (U23) 2:11:03.72 5:19:26,72
1 Bridgitte Hartley 2:24:19.00 5:49:07,63
2 Jordan Peek 2:28:47.35 5:59:58,68
3 Kirstin Scott 2:33:55.20 6:15:39,98
4 Tracey Oellermann (U23) 2:34:46.69 6:19:53,99
5 Tracey Van Der Walt 2:32:48.03 6:20:34,26
Under 18 Boys
1 Jack Shooter 2:16:54.16 5:31:11,84
2 Joshua Glyn-Cuthbert 2:20:20.40 5:43:49,72
3 James Sharpe 2:25:31.90 5:47:32,29
4 Ian Hemingway 2:24:59.67 5:52:17,12
5 James Goble 2:21:22.35 5:55:30,09