World marathon champ Hank McGregor and his new K2 partner Jasper Mocké announced their arrival with an emphatic victory in the CMH East Rand Vaal marathon that decided the South African K2 river championship titles for 2013.
The duo, who are friends through their shared passion for surfski racing, finished the first stage together with the much-vaunted new Dusi crew of Andy Birkett and Sbonelo Zondi, but took their chances sublimely on the final stage to romp away to victory by more than six minutes.
McGregor, who is no stranger to winning the Vaal or SA K2 titles, was elated at the victory, particularly as the pair had not sat in a boat together before the race.
“Luckily we were able to settle into the boat almost straight away,” said McGregor. “We both sat straight, which meant that we were able concentrate on putting the pressure on the other guys.”
After early pacesetting from Len Jenkins and Greg Louw on Day One, McGregor and Mocké raced away to end the first stage with only Birkett and Zondi on their wave.
At the Benoude Boude rapids on the final stage, McGregor and Mocké managed to shake off Birkett and Zondi, and decided to break away alone.
“It was a solo charge, which is maybe not the cleverest thing to do. On the Vaal there is nowhere to hide, and you can pay a hefty price for going it alone on all that flatwater!
“But we quickly realised that we were dropping them and by the time we got to the Goose Bay weir we had a lead of a minute and a quarter, so we just went it alone.” said McGregor.
While McGregor and Mocké raced away almost assured of victory, Birkett and Zondi were caught by Jenkins and Louw, who snuck ahead of them in the last rapid of the race, 400 metres from the finish, and beat them to the finish line to claim the silver medals.
Jacques Theron, who has recently relocated to the KwaZulu-Natal midlands, secured the fourth place with his new partner Shaun Griffin, who also lives in that region.
In the women’s race Abby Adie and Donna Tutton were able to edge out the pre-race favourites Hilary Bruss and Olympic medallist Bridgitte Hartley to clinch the national K2 crown. Bruss and Hartley took a swim at the first rapid shortly after the start of the first stage, forcing them to play catch-up.
Then a swim on the final stage at Benoude Boude rapid opened the door for Adie and Tutton to scamper away to claim victory.
Talented youngsters Jenna Ward and Kerry Segal wrapped up the last spot on the women’s podium.