McGregor and Van Der Walt snatch Hansa Powerade Fish title in spectacular come-from-behind victory

Cradock – Hank McGregor and Grant van der Walt retained their title in the Hansa Powerade Fish River canoe marathon with a stunning come-from-behind victory to beat overnight leaders Len Jenkins and Matt Bouman, whose race imploded with a spate of small errors on the final stage.

McGregor and Van der Walt started the 36km stage into Cradock almost two minutes behind the race leaders Jenkins and Bouman, and took the tactical gamble to shift McGregor to the front seat of their boat.

"Grant was battling with fatigue after the world marathon champs last weekend," said McGregor. "So we decided that I'd drive the boat for the final stage."

They set off on a tigerish pursuit, and red-anted into Jenkins and Bouman's lead, until they caught the leaders just above Marlow Chute, three quarters of the way through the final stage. The two boats raced side-by-side to the massive Cradock weir fifteen minutes from the finish that has so often defined the outcome of this race.

With adrenaline coursing through their veins, McGregor and Van Der Walt won the flat-out sprint to the weir, and shot the massive drop successfully before pinning their ears back for the final fifteen minutes of rough water to the finish.

Behind them Jenkins and Bouman also shot Cradock weir successfully, but a popped splashcover that saw them taking on a lot of water, effectively scuppering any chances they might have had of winning the race.

Deflated and frustrated, Jenkins gave credit where it was due. "Hank (McGregor) and Grant (Van der Walt) were brilliant today and they fully deserve their victory," he said.

The last spot on the podium was decided by a ferocious tussle between German stars Max Hoff and Stephan Stiefenhoefer, and the classy Czech Republic combination of Robert Knebel and Tomáš Slovák, with the Germans exploiting better lines in the final turn to edge to Czechs onto the inside of the river, and off the podium.

The race was a very successful one for the visiting internationals, who scooped four of the top eight places, with expat Stephen Bird and his Aussie sprint team partner Jesse Phillips finishing seventh, and the energetic Frenchman Loic Vinysale and Quentin Bonnetain.

Pierre-Andre Rabie and new Dusi champ Andrew Birkett rounded out the top five, in the process winning the Under 21 title.

The women's race fell predictably to the polished crew of Robyn Kime, last years K1 winner, and Eastern Cape Olympian Michèle Eray. They started with an eight minute overnight leader over Jen Hodson and Tiffany Kruger, which they managed to inflate to fourteen minutes by the end of the race, despite blemishes at Marlow Chute and Cradock Weir.

After racing in searing 40 degree heat on the long first stage, the race concluded with far milder Karoo weather for the shorter, easier final stage into Cradock. Despite numerous mishaps along the way, there were very few major medical incidents, with the medics only reporting a fractured cheekbone and a dislocated shoulder as the major incidents.

The event also saw the athletes themselves stage a fundraiser and awareness drive for the Cradock Cancer Care Unit by paddling in specially made pink caps, which raised close on R100 000 in a drive that coincided with the national breast cancer awareness week.

1.Grant van der Walt/Hank McGregor 04:43:26
2.Len Jenkins JNR/Matthew Bouman 04:45:01
3.Stephan Stiefenhoefer/Max Hoff 04:49:26
4.Robert Knebel/Tomas Slovak 04:49:27
5.Pierre-Andre Rabie/Andrew Birkett 04:54:07
6.Douglas Bird/Nicholas Burden 04:57:06
7.Stephen Bird/Jesse Phillips 04:57/27
8.Loic Vinysale/Quentin Bonnetain 04:58:06
9.Gavin White/Zaren Courtney 05:01:00
10.Mark Mulder/Lance King 05:02:32
11.Paul Marais/ Alasdair Glass 05:05:04
12.Joe Kearney/Edgar Boehm Jnr 05:05:10
13.Brandon van der Walt/Ivan Kruger 05:06:55
14.Michael Stewart/Michael Mbanjwa 05:07:31
15.Bryan Cordes/Cavill Cordes 05:07:52
16.Adrian Bam/Rory Sandberg 05:08:25
17.Lance Kime/Richard Fly 05:08:47
18.Trenton Lamble/Stuart Clifton 05:09:14
19.Christopher Birkett/Shane Millward 05:09:15
20.Mark Essery/Dirk van den Berg 05:15:01

1.Michèle Eray/Robyn Kime 05:17:54
2.Jen Hodson/Tiffany Kruger 05:31:30
3.Abby Adie/Lindi-May Harmsen 05:34:12