The most fun you can have canoeing! 28, 29 January 2023

Hamish and Christie spoil the Birkett celebrations

UNDERBERG – Hamish Lovemore spoiled an Andy Birkett fairytale when he claimed a maiden N3TC Drak Challenge victory on Sunday and stopped his rival and overnight leader from claiming a rare tenth-in-a-row triumph.

The pair started together on the second day of the race on a low Umzimkhulu River which forced organisers to move the start downstream and saw paddlers competing over a repeat of the first half of Day 1, from Swartberg Bridge to Callaway Bridge.

In a double disappointment for the Birkett family, Andy’s wife Nix finished second to the women’s overnight leader, Christie Mackenzie. Like the men’s race, the two leaders paddled together for the entire shortened second leg and the result was only decided in a sprint for the line.

Lovemore was not too phased about preventing Birkett’s ten-wins-in-a-row.

“Andy and I had a a great race out there and I am just very happy with the win,” he said with a smile after the race. “In my head I thought he has nine wins and I just wanted one!

“Now I have my name there as a winner, I am over the moon.”

Birkett, somewhat surprisingly, said he was not disappointed that he was unable to add to his nine wins this year.

“I do not think of it as disappointing. I think racing is awesome and I said to my wife and my Dusi partner Matt Fenn before this weekend that if it was a foregone conclusion that I would walk away with the win, then I would not be coming back to the Drak.

“It is a race and that is why I like the Drak. You never know what the water level is going to be like and the level of competition is always really high. That is why I enjoy it.

“So was I disappointed? No. I had a tough race on both days and Hamish was half a boat length ahead of me today. If I had been five minutes behind I would have been disappointed, but I had a good race so I was stoked with the race.”

Mackenzie said she had a few moments of concern but was happy to have defended the title she first won in 2023.

“I had a nice and clean race with no mistakes today. It was very short, which was a bit of a shock to the system, because obviously the speeds were a little higher.

“I pulled most of the way, so I was bit worried I had done a bit too much work by the time I got to the end sprint, but I timed it well.

“I had been thinking about the sprint pretty much the whole river. Same as yesterday, I wanted to be pulling through the Gorge section of rapids so I had clean water in front of me. But by the time I came to the end of the Gorge I knew I had been pulling for about 15 kays.

“Nix had been sitting on the wash, so that was running through my head, but I was feeling really strong and I knew I still had a few matches to burn and it worked out for me.”

Almost 400 paddlers entered the event which celebrated its 30th Anniversary this year.

(listed under: pos; name; (Day 1, Day 2) Total
1. Hamish Lovemore (2:24:32, 1:10:52) 3:35:25
2. Andy Birkett (2:24:29, 1:10:57) 3:35:26
3. Hank McGregor (2:27:18, 1:11:47) 3:39:06
4. Matthew Fenn (2:27:39, 1:11:28) 3:39:08
5. Scott Little (2:27:20, 1:11:52) 3:39:12
6. Jeremy Maher (2:29:25, 1:12:23) 3:41:48
7. Joshua Simpkins (2:29:29, 1:13:05) 3:42:35
8. Wayne Jacobs (2:31:30, 1:13:08) 3:44:38
9. Msawenkosi Mtolo (2:30:51,1:13:47) 3:44:39
10. Sbonelo Khwela (2:31:28, 1:14:49) 3:46:17

1. Christie Mackenzie (2:44:14, 1:20:04) 4:04:18
2. Nix Birkett (2:44:16, 1:20:03) 4:04:90
3. Saskia Hockly (2:48:30, 1:20:10) 4:08:40
4. Bridgitte Hartley (2:47:41, 1:22:17) 4:09:59
5. Abby Solms (2:50:03,1:21:36) 4:11:39 ENDS

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