Cradock – Defending champions Hank McGregor and Grant van der Walt have a firm grip on a unprecedented hat trick of victories after totally dominating the 49km first stage of the Hansa Fish River canoe marathon.

The duo blitzed a four and a half minute lead at the end of their total domination of the first stage that saw several top contenders sidelined by dramas on the river.

“It was just a perfect day for us, one you always dream of having at the Hansa Fish,” said McGregor, who is preparing for the world marathon championships in a fortnights time. “We’re really stoked to be here in one piece and leading going into day two.”

Barring a disaster of seismic proportions, they have done all the hard work to set up another title, and the national K2 river marathon titles, with the race for the minor places on the podium being led by national sprint squad members Greg Louw and Mike Arthur.

German stars Tobias Bong and Achim Overbeek led the chasing pack, despite a spate of disasters on the stage. They started last in the seeded A batch after a spate of mishaps at the start, including another paddler standing on their paddles at the Le Mans style start.

The Cape surfski combination of Tom Schilperoort and Jasper Mocké provided another talking point with their fourth place on the stage.
“River paddling is almost like a completely different sport. It requires a lot more precision than surfski and is all about making no mistakes,” said Schilperoort.

The women’s race mirrors the men’s race with pre-race favourites Hillary Pitchford and Abby Adie well clear of their challengers The duo made kids work of the nasty Keith’s Flyover rapid, before streaking away to register an overnight six minute lead.

The big field of paddlers celebrating the race’s 30th anniversary enjoyed clear Karoo weather over a full river, with only a persistent headwind to dog their progress downriver.

The36km final stage into Cradock features three big weirs, with the last, Cradock weir well known for moulding the final outcome of the results. More information can be found at www.fishmarathon.org.za

SUMMARY OF RESULTS - HANSA FISH RIVER CANOE MARATHON
DAY ONE
Men
1.Hank McGregor/Grant van der Walt 2:43.57
2.Greg Louw/Michael Arthur 2:48.32
3.Tobias Bong/Achim Overbeek 2:48.58
4.Tom Schilperoort/Jasper Mocke 2:48.59
5.Jacques Theron/Piers Cruickshanks 2:49.07
6.Robert Knebl/ Tomas Slovak 2:49.09
7.Andy Birkett/Pierre-Andre Rabie (U23) 2:50.27
8.Michael Mbanjwa/Eric Zondi 2:52.51
9.Mark Mulder/Lance King 2:54.30
10.Alasdair Glass/Edgar Boehm Jnr 2:54.30

Women
1.Hilary Pitchford/Abby Adie 3:10.45
2.Jen Hodson/Tiffany Kruger 3:16.52
3.Kim Brugmann/Angie Gafney 3:21.10
4.Jenna Ward/Brittany Petersen (U18) 3:21.23
5.Debbie Germiquet/Carmen Blakeney 3:23.50