KZN paddlers dominate the Fish River Canoe Marathon


Christie Mackenzie and Bridgitte Hartley raced to win the SA K2 title at the Fish River Canoe Marathon in Cradock this weekend.

Defending Dusi singles champions Andy Birkett and Christie MacKenzie took top honors with their partners at the Fish River Canoe Marathon this weekend.

Birkett and Nicky Notten won the men’s race while Mackenzie and Bridgitte Hartley won the women’s competition in what doubled as the SA K2 Championships at Cradock, Eastern Cape on Saturday. Other Dusi stars from KwaZulu-Natal were part of a winning K3 team – Thulani Mbanjwa, Khumbulani Nzimande and Nkosi Mabaso for Team MyLife.

Gameplan Media reports that after overcoming the deaths of two competitors on a tragic opening day of the two-day race on Friday, Pietermaritzburg-born Birkett and Western Cape teammate Notten played a last-minute trump card to come back from behind to win the race of Jasper Mocké and the passing Frenchman Cyrille Carré.



1. Andy Birkett/Nick Notten 4:43:42.23

2. Jasper Mocké/Cyrille Carré (FRA) 4:44:16.30

3. Hank McGregor/Hamish Lovemore 4:49:05.72

4. Clinton Cook/Wayne Jacobs 4:52:31.17

5. Joshua Fenn/Matthew Fenn (U23) 4:53:08.41


1. Christie Mackenzie/Bridgitte Hartley 5:17:43.45

2. Jenna Nisbet/Saskia Hockly 5:20:20.28

3. Jordan Peek/Pippa McGregor 5:38:00.07

4. Candice Murray/Holly Smith 5:55:36.36

5. Tracey Campbell/Kirstin Scott 6:10:10.93

Men Under 23

1. Joshua Fenn/Matthew Fenn 4:53:08.41

2. Ross Leslie/Hamish Mackenzie 4:56:42.92

3. Sam Butcher/David Evans 4:56:57.51

Women under 23

1. Shannon Parker-Dennison/Tracey Oellerman 6:27:43.63

2. Jade Dundas-Starr/Tabitha Hulett 6:30:16.95

Men Under 18

1.Jack Edmonds/Matthew Millward 4:55:29.26

2. Jordan Fenn/Luke Swinney 5:12:24.31

3. Joshua Simpkins/Matthew Coetzer 5:16:47:24

Women under 18

1. Jessica Behn/Rachel van Deventer 6:37:07.57 (U16)

2. Laila Maher/Amy Hulett 6:43:11.01

3. Lizanne Conradie/Sarah Jones 6:51:52.51

Organizers of the Fish River Canoe Marathon confirmed the deaths of two participants during the first leg of the race on Friday. Pretoria paddler Axel Marggraf (53) died after falling from his K3 canoe in the Soutpansdrift rapid. Amanzimtoti resident Dean Chiazzari (31) died of a suspected heart attack after retiring from the race. The entire paddling community was shaken by the double tragedy and Fish River Canoe Marathon President Roy Copeman sent his condolences to the families and friends of both paddlers.

Mocké and Carré were the first to negotiate the great Cradock Weir with 20 minutes remaining in the race, and had all the cards in hand as Birkett and Notten turned to detailed local knowledge gleaned over their many days training on the river.

Earlier in the day, a crash in the Coccyx Rapid ended the challenge from overnight co-leaders Hank McGregor and Hamish Lovemore, and nearly dragged Birkett and Notten down with them. They paddled into a submerged rock at Coccyx Rapid and grazed Birkett’s left forearm in the process.

Thrilling duel

The women’s race provided a thriller of a duel between the crew of Durban-born Christie Mackenzie and Pietermaritzburg’s Bridgitte Hartley and World Marathon Championship medalists Jenna Nisbet and 17-year-old Saskia Hockly.

After initially deciding to follow the experienced Nisbet and her partner Hockly, the couple of Hartley and Mackenzie put aside their conservative plans halfway through the scene and decided to charge alone.

They capsized in the big Coccyx Rapid, but quickly recovered to keep control of the race.

Nisbet and Hockly took the women’s silver medal, while another KZN crew of Jordan Peek and Pippa McGregor made up the rest of the podium. Meanwhile Michaelhouse speedsters Matt Millward and Jack Edmonds excelled winning the Junior K2 title and Canoeing SA Junior K2 gold medals with a remarkable sixth place overall.


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