011 486 0979 info@dabulamanzi.co.za

The SA Sprint Championships, and the SA Schools Sprint Championships took place over the weekend at VLC with lots at stake as they were the selection events for 5 different international tours including the Paris Olympics, the Senior World Championships, World Cup events, the Junior and U23 World Championships, and the Olympic Hopes International Development Regatta. The three-day event included 227 races, across 200m, 500m, 1km and 5km distances with 226 competitors participating. A massive undertaking.

Of the 227 events, there were two standouts, the K2 men’s and women’s 500m races. Two South African boats had qualified to go to the Olympics for the K2 men’s and women’s 500m races; thanks to Chrisjan Coetzee and Dabulamanzi’s Nicholas Weeks, along with Esti Olivier and Helen Jansen van Vuuren who went to Lake Abuja in Nigeria, late last year and emerged as African champions. With the SA Sprint Champs being the decider for who would fill those 4 places, the prospect of competing at the world’s greatest games meant that several big names from the river, marathon, and surf ski community (including Hank Mc Gregor & Uli Hart, Hamish Lovemore & Andy Birkett, Christie Mackenzie & Saskia Hockly) were lured to these trials, and with this the organizers ran the 500m races on the first day, so all would be fresh for the big showdowns.

The ladies raced first without heats on the Friday, with the rules being that if a boat could win by 1.5%, they would get a direct qualification, if not then they would have to go through to a shoot-out. Somehow some girls got into the wrong lanes and the start had to be delayed and rearranged, not ideal for all. Esti had changed partners to paddle with Tiffany Koch, and they led from the start, but couldn’t shake off Bridget Hartley and Michelle Burn who finished on their wave to ensure a shootout on the Saturday. Christie and Saskia never got going and came 4th.

In the men’s heats no one seemed to want to show themselves, the winners from both races (Hamish & Andy and Chrisjan & Nic) seemed to slow down at the halfway mark and just cruise home, so it was almost impossible to tell from this who the favourites were. There were 5 boats in the mix for the first half of the final, then it became clear that Hamish and Andy had the lead over Shaun Rubenstein and Dab’s Mike Arthur, and the race ended that way with Hamish and Andy doing enough to ensure their ticket to the Olympics without having to go into a shootout. Dreams come true for one crew mean dreams shattered for another; in one event that lasted just 91 seconds; such is life for those who want to compete at the Olympics. Nic and Chrisjan were utterly devastated, understandably so, given that they had put their lives into specializing for this quest. They could only manage third with Nic saying they had no excuses, that they simply weren’t strong enough. We believe that they self-funded their qualification efforts, and if so, we hope that CSA will reimburse them.

Congratulations to Andy and Hamish; Hamish having just pipped Andy at the Drak and Andy having just won yet another Dusi; they would probably relish really rough conditions when they get to Paris. Hank (who passed up on the potential of a 5th Umko win with Wayne) to contest these heats with Uli came a distant 6th. Given that Hamish’s brother just won the Umkomaas, and that Wayne and his brother were second, it would be really interesting to also see Andy and Hamish in next year’s Umko skirmish. Notably, most of the elite guys who contested for the Olympic spot didn’t bother to participate in any of the other events.

On Saturday morning, while the vast majority of South Africa’s canoeing community were totally unaware of what was happening, the shootout between Esti & Tiffany versus Bridgette & Michelle took place at 08hoo. Bridgette & Michelle didn’t only beat Esti & Tiffany, they won by over 9 seconds (almost 3 boat lengths, after Esti appeared to give up) but because they had each now won a race there had to be a second shootout, which kept us guessing.

On Sunday morning the racing was neck and neck. Esti & Tiffany just crossed the line first, winning by 0.2 of a second, but not without drama. Esti feinted and fell in the water as they finished; Tiffany had to jump in to save her, and she was then taken by the ambulance guys. We wish Esti well and while she and Tiffany won the right to go to the Olympics, we remain guessing as to what the future holds for them.
Well-done to all our Dabs and Scarc medalists and those who have booked their spots to go off on international tours, including Aara, Aayan, Alexa, Amile, Asher, Ben, Buhle, Bruno, Cassandra, Christie, Daniel, David, Gcina, Gunther, Jordan, Kayla, kwando, Kyle, Lesedi, Matt, Matthew Kuhl, Nkosi, Phineas, Ruoxi, Sarah, Sikhanyisele, Wonga – and anyone else we missed.

Well-done also to Lorna, Jodie, John and all the officials and organizers for making so much happen. John, who does so much for our sport, launched the SA Schools Regatta 30 years ago and is still running it; a really fantastic effort. Now he has Lorna burning both ends of the candle to get programs and results out. Not easy with so many races and participants. Sadly, we can’t commend the promotion of the event. For those not in the inner sanctum of CSA or sprints (most of us) the program and results were impossible to find; were it not for the Dabs WhatsApp groups most of us wouldn’t have seen or heard much. Unfortunately for all, SuperSport were contracted to cover the event on their school’s channel, but somehow that didn’t happen. Very sad; canoeing needs as much support and airtime as it can get and despite all the hard work that was done, we failed ourselves here.
While the sprinters were busy chasing fast times, glory and gold, we had a big bunch of Dabs Darlings and guys down in Fish Hoek on a surf ski tour; there simply for fun times.

When interviewed, one of our Darlings said: “What a lekka tour! We had SO much fun and learnt a lot! Every day was different. TT at Oceana, surf ski lesson at Fish Hoek, paddle at Blouberg, Century City Canals, Fish Hoek to Muizenberg and back, hikes, sunset sundowners on a giant boulder, fines evening and party and ended off with delicious fresh mussels lunch (cooked by Bri) at Fish Hoek club house. Many thank you’s. Brad, Raoul, Admore (Fish Hoek Canoe Club), Richard (Milnerton Canoe Club), Tarryn & Renschi (all Darlings plans), Sifiso (driving).”

Well-done to all who made this what it was, from the organizers to the participants, it looks like this will become another annual event, plus there are talks of trips on shorter and less intimidating sections of the Umkomaas for fun and learning purposes, so there’s always lots happening – fun stuff and serious stuff for all.

More kudos and thanks to Brad Fish for all the work he is doing to get the marathon portage put in at Emmarentia. Many enjoyed watching him hack away at bushes in front of the Divers Club, but it’s great now that we can see through. It’s also great to see that the municipality has cleared the weeds and shrubs from the dam wall, which now looks picture perfect (like Alexis’ artwork).

Marathons start in the first week of April with that short course event of just 3.6km including a couple of portages and in the second week of April it’s the HASSC! Phone a friend, borrow a boat – and as our Admiral says: “Don’t be scared.”