Bridgitte Hartley, London Olympic Games canoeing bronze medallist in 2012, Sean Rice, the 2013 World Surf Ski Champion, Shaun Rubenstein, the 2006 K2 World Canoe Marathon Champion and Cam Schoeman, the 2007 World K2 Canoe Marathon Champion will be lining up amongst a ‘Who’s Who’ of South African canoeists this weekend to compete in the annual Breede River Canoe Marathon. Also in the mix are the current (2013) Dusi canoe marathon championships, siblings Lance and Robyn Kime, Lance paddling with SA National paddler, Stuart MacLaren and Robyn with Bridgitte Hartley.
The annual 71km Breede River Canoe Marathon (co-sponsored by Viljoensdrift Fine Wines; Skins.net; Hippo Rock Clothing; Pink Lady Apples and ClareMart Auction Group) due to be raced this coming weekend, Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th September and with the river running at a high level after the recent heavy and extensive rain and snow in the watershed areas of the river along with a quality field that will be racing, paddling of the highest order can be expected.
Whilst last weekends river flow of 600 cumecs is a thing of the past – the level at Secunda Weir this morning, Wednesday 4th September was at 242 cumecs and dropping – the expected levels for the weekend will be way in excess of what has been raced upon in recent years and so this will add to the excitement of it all. Throw into the mix the excellent race organization that paddlers have come to expect at the event and all the ingredients for a monumental weekend of outstanding canoeing is predicted.
The favourites for the marathon are the WCCU pairing of Graeme Solomon and Ivan Kruger (Peninsula CC/Century City CC) based on their 4 wins during the 2013 K2 season as well as Solomon’s excellent knowledge of the river. He is also been a member of K2 crews that have previously won the Breede River K2 Marathon, the last time being last year!
However, this outstanding crew will be challenged, not only by local paddlers, but also up-country crews such as Andy Birkett/Cam Schoeman (both from KZN and silver medallists at this year’s S.A. Canoe Marathon Championships) and Len Jenkins jnr (KZN) and Greg Louw (East Cape), both top rated paddlers, Jenkins being known as the King of the Fish for his 10 wins at that event and being a TopTenner in K1 at World Canoe Marathon Champs several times whilst Louw also has his national colours for canoeing. Birkett/Schoeman will be travelling to Copenhagen, Denmark a week after the Breede to compete in the World Canoe Marathon Championships, Schoeman a World Champion with Ant Stott in 2007.
Locally, Shaun Rubenstein/Sean Rice (Pen/Pen), both World paddling champions (Rubenstein K1 in 2006 and Rice, Surf Ski this year), the gold medallists at the S.A. Canoe Marathon Championships this year and the winner of one of the WCCU K2 series races, are in excellent form and the lower river level will suit them. (Rice, paired with Solomon in 2012, won the event). They will also be representing S.A. at the World Canoe Marathon Championships later this month in Copenhagen, Denmark, so are in fine form right now. In addition, the likes of Tom Schilperoodt/Japer Mocke (Pen/Pen), 2nd in last weekends Breede race, Ben Biggs/Ali Glass (UCT/Pen), Gavin White/Louw van Riet (Cty/US), Ernest van Riet/Edgar Boehm (US/Pen), Lance King/Sibonelo Zondi (Mil/KZN), whilst the late entry of the 2013 Men’s Dusi Champion, Lance Kime (US), teaming up with Stu MacLaren (UCT), recently back from the World Student Games in Kazan, Russia, are all extremely experienced campaigners and in the high, fast flowing waters on the Breede, one small mistake resulting in lost time will be extremely difficult to make up, such is the speed of the flow of the river.
In the Senior Women’s race, the Peninsula Canoe Club pairing and S.A. Canoe Marathon Champions for 2013, Alexa Cole/Eloise (van Gysen) Horne, who along with Rubenstein/Rice and Birkett/Schoeman, will be travelling to the World Marathon Championships a week after the Breede, are clear favourites as they are peaking for the WMC and have won with ease the women’s section of the numerous one-day K2 races this season. However, the exciting pairing of Robyn Kime (the 2012 WMC U23 K1 Women’s Silver medallist and 5th overall in the Senior Woman’s section K2) as well as being the current Dusi Champion, with London Olympic Games 2012 500m canoe sprint bronze medallist, Bridgitte Hartley, is a crew the Cole/Horne will have to keep an eye on. The downside for Kime/Hartley is that unlike Cole/Horne, this will their first race in a K2 this season but their credibility and pedigree as canoeists is virtually unsurpassed and as with the men’s event, just one small mistake by the leading crew can result in a major set-back in the current high, fast flowing waters of the Breede. Kirsten Flanagan/Alex Adie (Pen/Pen) will also be in with a shout for the podium, although off the pace against the other two crews mentioned whilst Anna Notten/Samantha Murray (Pen/Pen) and Kim van Gysen/Kirsten Gelderbloem (Pen/Pen) will be competing with them to get that third place on the podium.
The mixed doubles section – always a popular one on the Breede, sees Dawid and Nikki Mocke (both current World Surf Ski Series Champions – WSK/WSK)) teaming up and who will most probably have an edge on Peter Cole/Samantha Alford (Pen/Pen) and Chris de Waal/Lisa Scott (Mil/Mil), whilst in the U18 division, it should be a straight shoot-out between KZN’s Wickus Vorster/Johan Fourie and Michael Farringer/Michael Pretorius (Prl/Mil) and Stuart Bristow/Tyrone Smolders (Pen/Pen). With the latter two crews having home-ground advantage, the KZN pairing will have to work hard, so your scribe is not able to predict a winner here.
Day 1 of the event starts at the McGregor Bridge, just outside Robertson at 10h00 on Saturday 7th September (race briefing at 09h30) and ends 37 km downstream on Riggton Farm, Bonnivale whilst Day 2 will start from Riggton Farm at 08h30 (race briefing at 08h15) and finish 31km downstream at the Kambati River Resort. Prize giving will be held at 14h00 sharp.
Media Liaison – WCCU.