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Well, that was an awesome Umko race weekend, with a whole lot of fantastic firsts.   

28 Dabs guys flew our flag, and all who went, finished; so that was probably a first. Respect to Belkie and Mike Barry who limped home almost last on day 2 in a crippled craft, determined to chalk up yet another finish, which they duly did.

First time finishers included young Luke and young Jordan (who now paddles for some fancy school club but still merits a mention as he started out at Dabs) along with Jack, Brad, and Murray – all who were elated to finish; all who will now try make this a calendar event.

Our ex-Chairman who self-exiled to a land of sand, set a what we believe is a fantastic Umko first with 3 generations in one boat. Kelvin drove his dad Malcolm and his son Jordan down in a K3 to share the experience with them; how fabulous. We know Taff will be very proud of her boys. The first K3 home was driven by an ex-dabs man, Marco along with young Luke and Vern; well done guys!

Clive was stoked to say that 2023 was the first time in over 30 years that he finished an Umko without a swim; thanks to the cool driving of the competent Carnegie. It was also a first for him to enjoy his birthday in the valley with family and friends, a very special weekend.

John Barrow returned to the Umko after a 4-year absence to score his first Top 10 there, but he did pick a seriously good partner in Siseko, who knows a thing or two about rivers. Also in the Top 10 were Rob and Jack in 9th, and Alex and MJ in 8th. On the Umko podium for the first time and in 3rd place were Clint and Brad; fantastic job, well done boys. 

Then on the top step and in first place again were Hank and Wayne, with their 4th consecutive win together. They took a 3-minute lead on day one and then another 3-minutes on day two to comfortably beat Sam Butcher and Matthew Millward of TUKS. Not only the overall winners but also the first Veterans. Plus, Hank and Wayne were also first-time campers; that’s right, the race winners camped down on the river side; but far away from the likes of Scatter and  J-Bay, Belkie and MB. 

While most Umko paddlers are keen to go back, we are not sure all of the campers are eager to stay camping. The rain on Friday afternoon was testing and then the heat on Saturday soared towards the 40s making things even more trying, while most of the Dabs crew were far more comfortable at Nkonka Lodge, with clean sheets, air-conditioning and swimming pools, just down the river. What a pleasure. As the Garden boy said: “We came, we saw, we Nkonka’d.” Perhaps this will become the Dabblers first hit?

The river was neither high nor low, at 1.5m on day 1 and 1.3m on day 2. The first day of 48km’s might sound long but it’s way faster and way more fun than the same distance of day 1 at Fish. Busy but very doable. Day two is more testing. In the end 69 out of 72 boats that started finished – the 3 DNFs all ended their day at 5 & 6, which can easily be walked. So, if you enjoy the likes of Dusi and Fish, be like Murray, Brad, Jack, Jordan and Luke; commit and go experience a first Umko; it won’t be your last. 

Well done to all who flew the Dabs flag, well done to all who scored fantastic firsts.

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