Durban – The 2015 surfski season got underway on Friday evening at the first leg of the Varsity College FNB Marine Surfski Series and the favourable conditions drew large numbers as they took on the long and short courses with an impressive Hank McGregor and equally exciting Jenna Ward drawing first blood at race one of the ten leg series.
A light South Westerly wind was blowing for the FNB Surfski Challenge which meant that conditions were great for all and offered every paddlers the chance to get the most out of either the 4km short course or the 8km long course.
The men’s race started frenetically as expected but the status quo was established by the first turning buoy as multiple Canoe Marathon World Champion Hank McGregor (Team Jeep/Epic Kayak) got himself ahead of the chasing bunch and showed his class in relatively flat conditions as he powered away to a convincing win.
“It is always good to get a win in the first race of a series like this,” McGregor said. “I have been training really hard over the festive season and it is always great when you see the hard work paying off.”
McGregor was happy with the way in which the race panned out for him and following an early tussle he managed to get himself ahead of the field and dominate the race.
“It was close going into the first turn, but that is always going to happen, then I managed to get clear of the guys and open up a good gap.
“It was such a close series last year and we all love coming back and racing here so I am going to have to be strong throughout the series if I want to win it,” a satisfied McGregor added.
The 2014 Series was tied between McGregor and Epic Kayaks’ Matt Bouman who had to play second fiddle to the race winner McGregor at the FNB Surfski Challenge on Friday and he reiterated the fact that you have to be on top of your game throughout the ten races.
“It’s never great coming second but when you up against the best in the world week-in and week-out you have to be on form every single week and today Hank was just too strong for me,” Bouman added. “Sometimes you up, sometimes it’s someone else’s race, in a series like this it is always changing!”
The Varsity College FNB Marine Surfski Series is something that Bouman relishes at the start of the year and with such stiff competition he knows that just competing against some of the top paddlers in the country is motivation enough.
“I absolutely love this beach and all that comes with this series. It is such a tough field and sometimes I come down here not feeling too competitive but as soon as you get onto the beach you don’t need any more motivation to be competitive!
“I do prefer when the wind blows and more runs are on offer but I guess at a race like this you have to be able to win in all conditions if you want to win the series!” Bouman said.
The ladies race was also dominated by a Marathon World Championship medalist as 2014 U23 bronze medalist and Fenn Kayaks’ star Jenna Ward used the favourable conditions to her advantage as she powered away to a good win in race one of the series.
“I got quite a lucky start as I was the first one out even amongst the doubles so it was good being out there in the lead and I love the flatter conditions so I was able to get ahead and stay ahead.
“Surprisingly I managed to get on some good runs out there and keep my nose in front. I train with Kyeta and so I know how to race her but she never let up and she made me race all the way to the finish which was exciting!” Ward explained.
For the young Purchase, being able to come second to her training partner was a result that she was happy with and she was quick to mention the difficulty of paddling against her training partner Jenna Ward.
“It was really really tiring,” a visibly exhausted Purchase said. “I am pretty happy with how I did today but it is really tough taking on Jenna, she is really strong but I am happy!”
Friday 16 January is the second leg of the 2015 FNB Varsity College Marine Surfski Series with the McCarthy Toyota Durban Kingsmead Surfski Challenge at Marine Surf Lifesaving Club at Addington Beach at 17h30. More information can be found at www.marineseries.co.za
SUMMARY OF RESULTS – FNB SURFSKI CHALLENGE
RACE ONE OF THE VARSITY COLLEGE FNB MARINE SURFSKI CHALLENGE
1. Hank McGregor 36.35
2. Matt Bouman 37.29
3. Grant van der Walt 38.28
4. Wade Krieger 38.52
5. Adam Nisbet 39.22
1. Jenna Ward 44.03
2. Kyeta Purchase (U18) 44.26
3. Hayley Arthur 46.04
1. Paul Scruby/Duncan Nisbet 40.29
2. Gary Albers/Ross Fountain 41.27
3. Buckey Symonds/Dave Fraser 41.53
1. Paul van Achterbergh/Sam Rowe 42.10
1. Thomas Lovemore 22.23
2. Brendan Sharp 24.43
3. Ryan Roberts 25.42
1. Mkwaba Banda/Sandile Shanga 22.32
2. Clinton Cook/Carole Adam (mixed) 25.25
3. Sharon Armstrong/Lisa Armstrong 26.08