Daylight between the leaders and the chasers become more apparent after the second stage of the 2022 MyLife Dusi Canoe Marathon as Andy Birkett and Dave Evans took control of the men’s race while Abby Solms and Bianca Haw consolidated their advantage in the women’s tussle.
The men’s and women’s races had contrasting starts with Team MyLife’s Thulani Mbanjwa and Msawenkosi Mtolo holding a narrow advantage over their Euro Steel rivals Birkett and Evans; while it was Team MyLife’s Solms and Haw who held all the cards in the women’s race.
The first serious portage of the day saw the men’s crews come together with the 33 second gap dismantled and from there the prowess of Birkett and the tenacity of Evans came to the fore as they carved out a significant gap over the proceeding 37 kilometres.
By Gauging Weir Birkett and Evans had a ten second lead and that was maintained over the Ngumeni portage before a mistake from Mbanjwa at Hippo Rapid opened the door and the leaders took full advantage to finish with a three minute and 15 second lead going into stage three.
“It was great today and took off at the start to catch Banji and Msawe and we managed to do that quite early but as soon as we made a gap they would close it and it felt similar to yesterday,” Birkett said.
“Dave was really strong on the dam and put in a lot of power and as soon as the pace dropped he would pick it up.”
Leading the Dusi is an unfamiliar position for Evans to be in, however to have someone like Andy Birkett to shoulder the burden with makes it easier.
“Andy is an incredible driver and he’s taught me so much during this time and it’s been a privilege to paddle the Dusi with him.
“It was a really clinical day for us today and Andy drove really well through the rapids and I’m really chuffed that we are three minutes ahead going into the final stage tomorrow,” Evans said.
After losing the lead, Mbanjwa and Mtolo continued to put in as much effort as they could and with a tough final portage before Inanda Dam they were made to work even harder.
“We didn’t think that the portage was going to be that long and with Andy and Dave a minute and half ahead it was hard,” Mbanjwa said.
“We got that down to about 20 seconds and wanted to get back onto the wave before the portage but we couldn’t make it and when we got to the dam they got away so we knew we needed to settle into a rhythm.
“It was hard across the dam and we tried our hardest to minimise the gap to the guys at the front.”
Nqobile Makhanya and Sbonelo Khwela consolidated their third place and will start stage three just over ten minutes behind Mbanjwa and Mtolo and five minutes ahead of Hank McGregor and Matt Millward in fourth.
For women’s race leaders Solms and Haw it could have been a tricky day resting on a significant lead however the pair made sure they kept calm and minimalised the chance of mistakes to consolidate their lead.
“It was a nice steady day but maybe a bit too steady because we lost a bit of time today,” Solms said.
“We had a good day and we can’t complain because we still have a nice buffer going into the final stage tomorrow.
“I think we got into the portage nicely and got up a nice pace which was good and I didn’t find it too bad; it was long but it was relatively flat.”
Once again there is a slight unknown for the paddlers about water levels for the final stage, but for Haw it’s exciting to be leading the Dusi going into the final day.
“Abby tells me it’s going to be massive (the water level)!” Haw laughed. “So I actually don’t know, so I’m going to have to look at what we are going to do at Island and Pumphouse so we are going a little bit into the unknown.”
In a complete contrast to their stage one, Euro Steel duo of Jordan Peek and Christie Mackenzie had a day to remember on Friday as they chiselled away slightly at the overnight deficit and they finished more upbeat than they did on Thursday.
“We had such a clean run today and we shot everything amazingly and Christie was really powerful in the back of the boat so we are super stoked with how today went,” Peek said.
“We’ve got a lot to give tomorrow and we’re going to have a good rest and then give tomorrow another good go.”
Despite the pressure of trying to close a gap on the crew ahead, Mackenzie knew that they still had to be careful to avoid making any crucial mistakes that could cost them.
“I think we knew it was a long day so we went into the rapids knowing that we had to have a clean run so we slowed it down through the rapids and made sure we got everything right,” Mackenzie said.
“Then we worked really hard all the way to the end, so I’m really happy with how today went and I’m looking forward to another exciting day of racing tomorrow.”
Rounding out the top three in the women’s race was Team MyLife’s Bridgitte Hartley and Pippa McGregor who will start with a 38 minute and 55 second deficit from the leaders.
There will be an exciting race for third in the women’s race with the Euro Steel pair of Hillary Bruss and Hayley Nixon two minutes and 20 seconds behind Hartley and McGregor.
Sandile Mtolo and Mvelo Ngidi have held on to the lead in the Under Men’s race with Ross Leslie and Hamish Mackenzie just four seconds behind them with Jack Edmonds and Scott Little in third.
In the Under 18 Men’s race Josh Simpkins and Jack Shooter hold a significant advantage over Benjamin Maehler and Matthew Coetzer in second while James Goble and Ross Palframan are in third.
In the women’s age group tussles, it’s Cara Waud and Tracey Oellermann and leading the Under 23 race significantly. They are ahead of two Under 18 crews in Jessica Behn and Jenna Goddard, who lead the Under 18 women’s race, and Amy Hulett and Melonie Croeser.
The third and final stage of the 2022 MyLife Dusi Canoe Marathon takes paddlers 36km from Inanda Dam to Blue Lagoon.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS – MyLife Dusi Canoe Marathon Stage Two (Dusi Bridge to Inanda Dam)
1.Andy Birkett/Dave Evans 02:56:29 05:36:50
2.Thulani Mbanjwa/Msawenkosi Mtolo 03:00:18 05:40:06
3.Nqobile Makhanya/Sbonelo Khwela 03:07:49 05:50:19
4.Hank McGregor/Matthew Millward 03:06:29 05:55:29
5.Siseko Ntondini/Banetse Nkhoesa 03:07:36 05:58:21
6.Andrew Houston/Damon Stamp 03:06:23 05:59:20
7.Jacques Theron/Piers Cruickshanks 03:11:42 06:08:33
8.Mpilo Zondi/Khumbulani Nzimande 03:09:38 06:08:37
9.Sandile Mtolo/Mvelo Ngidi (U23) 03:16:46 06:08:41
10.Ross Leslie/Hamish Mackenzie (U23) 03:12:25 06:08:45
11.Jack Edmonds/Scott Little (U23) 03:11:22 06:12:21
12.Robert Pike/Jabulani Gwamanda 03:14:57 06:12:25
13.Mfanufikile Radebe/Hlelani Radebe 03:15:06 06:14:05
14.Kwandokuhle Mzolo/Sandile Mbanjwa (U23) 03:21:45 06:19:07
15.Hunter Houston/Dirk Van Den Berg 03:20:57 06:21:41
1.Abby Solms/Bianca Haw 03:23:47 06:29:39
2.Jordan Peek/Christie Mackenzie 03:22:13 06:36:12
3.Bridgitte Hartley/Pippa McGregor 03:47:16 07:08:35
4.Hilary Bruss/Hayley Nixon 03:42:05 07:10:55
5.Jenna Nisbet/Nix Birkett 03:47:14 07:16:57
6.Cara Waud/Tracey Oellermann (U23) 03:50:00 07:19:47
7.Jessica Behn/Jenna Goddard (U18) 04:08:21 07:52:54
8.Amy Hulett/Melonie Croeser (U18) 04:20:12 08:08:26
9.Daniela Vonkeman/Katja Vonkeman (U23) 04:30:20 08:34:52
10.Jade Dundas-Starr/Tabitha Hulett (U23) 04:20:05 08:36:17
Under 23 Men
1.Sandile Mtolo/Mvelo Ngidi 03:16:46 06:08:41
2.Ross Leslie/Hamish Mackenzie 03:12:25 06:08:45
3.Jack Edmonds/Scott Little 03:11:22 06:12:21
4.Kwandokuhle Mzolo/Sandile Mbanjwa 03:21:45 06:19:07
5.Benjamin Mntonintshi/Wongama Makasi 03:23:21 06:57:54
Under 23 Women
1.Cara Waud/Tracey Oellermann 03:50:00 07:19:47
2.Jessica Behn/Jenna Goddard (U18) 04:08:21 07:52:54
3.Amy Hulett/Melonie Croeser (U18) 04:20:12 08:08:26
4.Daniela Vonkeman/Katja Vonkeman 04:30:20 08:34:52
5.Jade Dundas-Starr/Tabitha Hulett 04:20:05 08:36:17
Under 18 Men
1.Joshua Simpkins/Jack Shooter 03:28:30 06:35:27
2.Benjamin Maehler/Matthew Coetzer 03:28:04 06:48:34
3.James Goble/Ross Palframan 03:38:01 06:59:10
4.Dominic Furby/Robert Butcher 03:46:43 07:13:40
5.Smilo Mthethwa/Lungelo Gumede 04:07:59 07:29:10
Under 18 Women
1.Jessica Behn/Jenna Goddard 04:08:21 07:52:54
2.Amy Hulett/Melonie Croeser 04:20:12 08:08:26
3.Tamzin Gace/Emma Hatfield 04:46:36 08:47:55