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There was a fair amount of trepidation amongst the Transvaal Navy last week; Windguru predicted a howling Easterly on the Thursday and Friday, and if that had pushed through into the weekend there may have been many non-starters. Fortunately, Saturday presented paddlers with a moderate Westerly and some swell make things interesting. Hank did what he does best and won again, followed by Josh Fenn and then Uli Hart. From the Navy, our podium was made up by Brad Boule, then Tex, then Boet. Our admirable Admiral made the proper podium and won the Great Grand Master category; by just 1 second. Salute! And well done to our Swan, Karen, not just for being our only lady there, but also for making the podium as second sub master; fantastic! For Vaalies the conditions were testing but not terrifying, one could sew together three or four runs and have a fair amount of fun, but as one able-seaman said, it’s very different to riding a wave at Emmies, and it took a lot of concentration. As with previous years, the lumps off the point at Yellow Sands caught several out and there were some shipwrecks on the rocks. The winning lady, Kira Bester, narrowly missed a whale, while many paddlers got to enjoy the company of dolphins.

The landing at Yellows was followed by the traditional Gin Storm and braai, kindly organized by the Flemmer family, although the storm wasn’t nearly as violent as the year before. Then the Border guys put on an evening braai for the Navy at the Nahoon club, and some people had a few more Soapy Cokes than necessary; perhaps because the Sunday weather was going to be far calmer, and the day was going to be way shorter.

Where the singles race started at Orient Beach, the doubles started at Nahoon, and after two beating two or three small waves there was very little wind or swell to spread out the field which resulted in big bunches and a bit of banter – it was very different to the day before. Even though the conditions were much calmer, the point at Yellow Sands still caught some paddlers out, and the run for beach was as exciting as it got. Then it was back to Nahoon for another prize giving. At the sharp end Matt Fenn won with Andy B, followed by his brother Josh (for a second second) with Bevan Manson while Uli and Hamish were third. In the women’s race Andy’s wife Nix won with Jade Wilson meaning it was a clean sweep for the Border Canoe Club. From the Navy we had Brad B paddling with a Capie called Jean Luke who came 4th overall, second was Ricci with an Eastern Capie, while third was Joe with a Durbanite meaning that Cotch and Boet were the first pure Dabs double home. Well done to Riaz for completing his first ocean race, respect to Raoul for doing what he does best – helping out others.

Our best Navy paddler is recognized with the Mark Feather Trophy, in memory of Mark who was tragically lost at sea during the 2014 event. This year the Trophy went to Brad B, well-earned Brad. It was very moving when the organizers then announced they had put up a brass bell in the club to be used only for last rounds, in memory of Mark, and asked Brad to be the first to ring it. The bell was kindly sponsored by the Fenn’s. Thank you to Kerryn whose idea it was and thank you to Keith for polishing it up; this really was a very special gesture, particularly for Cath, Erin and Mark’s family. The Eastern Cape and Slummies is full of good people, but the club clearly knows its customers – below the ‘in memory’ inscription is another little brass plate that clearly states, “If you ring, you buy.”

In the end we only had 21 Navy (mainly elderly) representatives (and one ‘associate member’) meaning there were some noticeable absentees, who will need to produce doctors’ letters. 249 boats finished what was the SA S1 Champs and at the rate it’s growing, the Pete Marlin may soon eclipse both the Drak (288 finishers in 2023) and the Dusi (272 finishers in 2023). The singles day was just 22km, while the doubles day was only 17, so distance wise it’s not hard, and if conditions are really kak, you can always just stay on the beach and have a party. So, you might want to think about entering the Pete Marlin next year; not only is it one of the best organized races in the country (with a great goody bag) but it’s also one of the most fun paddling weekends there is – both on and off the water.

Well done and thank you to Geachie and Tex for towing the trailer. Well done and thank you to the title sponsors Biogen, and also to Fenn, Mocke, Investec, VOS and Seymour Properties. Well done and thank you to John and his time keeping team and last but not least well done to Charl and his Border Canoe Club team for putting on such a great event. Thank you!

Next up, it’s the boat auction this weekend and it’s also the Orange Descent, then it’s the Vaal Marathon next weekend. For the real sea dogs, it’s the PE2EL in a month’s time and two weeks later it’s Cape Point. Otherwise at Dabs there’s the Morning School on Tuesdays at 6, the Noon Group that goes at all sorts of times around noon, the Thursday Evening TT, the pub evening afterwards, the Saturday Sessions and the Sunday Morning TT’s; all waiting for participators. Go enjoy!