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Wowza, what a weekend! The Fish is always challenging, both on and off the river, no matter who you are. There’s the testing rapids, the willows, the weirs, the thorn trees, and the prospect of a silly swim; and there’s the contest of racing your peers and mates; you trying to beat them, them trying to beat you, although they might say they are only there for the fun; that they are not really racing. Then there’s the lure of the Beer Tent, the Club, the Hotel, the Kom, and the danger of too much carbo-loading, and then there’s the testing drive home.

It was the SA K2 River Champs so we did have our racing snakes there, and the sharp end dicing was always going to be exciting. Pre-race favourites and 2017 winners Andy Birkett and Greg Louw swam at top of Keith’s and were lucky to get to the bottom with their boat unscathed. Some say that Clint & Hamish, Hank & Jeremy etc missed a trick in not putting the hammer down properly to drop Andy & Greg after this, but day one is long and by Soutpans they were back in contention. In the end Andy & Greg powered past the likes of Wayne and Brad and the Fenn’s to finish third, one second behind Hank & Jeremy, and two seconds behind Hamish & Clint. Day two for them started as elapsed time, so Hamish and Clint who won day one went down the Baroda Chute first with the other two crews on either side of them. Andy & Greg were on their right; at the bottom on the chute Clint braced on the right, and they broke his blade off. The pictures say it all. No one waited, and then Hamish & Clint had to play catch up, which they eventually did just before Cradock Weir, but only after burning lots of matches. Just as Double Trouble on day one became a compulsory portage, so too did Cradock Weir, and this determined the winners. Hamish & Clint tried to do a superfast marathon style put-in, but Hamish took a swim, while Jeremy battled to get his splashy on before the bridge, and with this Andy and Greg were gone. Well done all the same to Clint & Hamish who took third. Well done also to Wayne and Brad who were 5th and Rob & Young Luke who rounded off the top 10. Ricci, Michael and Piers were the first K3 and 11th over all, Young Jack was 16th with Heinrich from the EC, Alex and Mighty were 17th and Siseko was our top Scarcie in 18th. Alex and MJ were 1st Sub Vets, Ryan and Benji first Sub Masters, while Belkie and Bryan just missed claiming 1st sub Grand Masters, because their mates didn’t pull long or hard enough. Well done to Belkie for finishing 30 Fishes, and to Schumpie and Clive for their 20.

 

In the ladies race, Christie and Saskia were always the race favourites, although Bridgette and her international partner Krisztina Bedoc (who were favourites in 2017, but came second) were a real threat. Keith’s was also a threat so the leading ladies crews ran this, then Christie and Saskia extended their lead to finish day one 5minutes ahead of Bridgette & Krisztina. They then they gained another 6 minutes on day 2 to almost make the top 20, with Bridgette & Krisztina having to settle for second while Jade Wilson and Nix Birkett took third. Hockly summed up their win as “a walk in the park” – hopefully she learns fast and moves beyond this kind of youthful arrogance. 11th overall in the ladies were Sarah and Karen. They didn’t win any awards but we are super proud of them – our first ever mother daughter combo, well done the feisty Field females! Dabs actually had several family crews including the van Biljon’s, the Browne’s, Skid and Sonbon, the McFarlane’s, the Rheeders, the Flemmer’s (with almost family Brad; apparently it’s an EC thing), and the Steyn’s. We also had several first time Fish finishers, including Jordan with Sean, Claudia with Ryno, Michelle with Christo and Michelle with Chuck; fantastic, and we hope to see you doing more! Well done also to Jason Howell who came out from the UK to paddle with Paddy.

 

Respect to Flem Dog, Flem Pup & Brad B, along with Tim and Colin M, for finishing after epic day ones where they came last and second last respectively. The Flem crew’s boat broke badly while Colin M survived a very scary swim, but finish they did. Vince (Dad of Brad) who was paddling with Lloyde and Barry also had a nasty swim on day one, and their boat broke resulting in a DNF while Andy Leith who was going for his 33rd and paddling K3 with the Chalupsky’s ended up with a blue ribbon finish but no result after Oscar hurt his back and they had to substitute him. Sorry guys; get well soon Oscar.

 

Thank you to all the sponsors, the organisers, the helpers and the safety crew. Many also commented on how good the loo cleaning crew were. The incident at Cradock Weir which resulted in the closure looked very scary when the tower collapsed – so thank you to all who are literally striving to keep our little sport alive. Sadly Fish hit a low of just 180 boats finishing the race this year.

 

The gin storm below Cradock Weir was not harmed by the compulsory portage – instead it was amplified by Hams beat box and the gees of Basti who will hopefully be paddling next year. Then it was prizegiving, where Sarah won some jam, and then some good person who won the K1 lucky draw gifted it back to Cradock Cancer Care to raffle off and they then made an additional R12k for their worthy cause. While we all thought we were the best dressed club in our two tone shirts; the organisers gave that prize to the Rodents, which upset our chair lady no end, to the point where she wanted to pull the performance of the Dabblers. They did however end up doing their thing – well done boys! While that was happening England almost lost to Samoa, Ireland then hammered Scotland and the proper party people then went to the Kom, until they were kicked out at 3am. Then it was time for the long drive home. Made longer for Ryan and his mates after the pump attendant filled them up with petrol instead of diesel. Ouch.

Next up – some dieseling at the 10-in-1 on Thursday, the Lowveld Croc on the 21st/22nd, the MD TT on Thursday 26th and the 4 hour enduro on the last weekend of October. Lots and lots of fun to be had. Interestingly, talking to Krisztina (Bridgette’s partner) who is Hungarian but now represents Serbia, the vast majority of paddlers from both those countries only paddle competitively, the concept of recreational canoeing is foreign to them; so when she first came to the Fish in 2017 and heard people saying “good luck, have fun”; she could not comprehend that anyone would go to all the trouble of participating, just for fun, but she did go on to say she enjoyed their race this year and that Soutpans was especially fun and exciting. As the finest canoe club in the whole dam universe we have the power to offer fun and excitement, so the committee are busy trying to get more people involved in recreational canoeing; please be nice to any newbies you might see.