Hometown surfski heroes Hank McGregor and Michelle Burn bagged the plum titles in the single ski races at the Fenn SA Surfski Championships help over 26km from Durban Undersea Club to Amanzimtoti on Saturday afternoon.
Racing in a moderate North Westerly wind, McGregor successfully defending the crown he won on the canals of St Francis last year by holding off a dogged challenge from Capetonian Nick Notten.
“The wind pulled in on the day making it a great race ,” said McGregor.
“It was pretty much a straight run from the harbour wall to Toti. You couldn’t have asked for better conditions.
“I managed to get my nose ahead after about four or five kays then pushed the pace at the Cutting and opened up a small gap,” said the team Fenn/Euro Steel racer.
With victory in sight he almost threw it away within a few hundred metres of the finish.
“I didn’t know there was a buoy we had to go around before coming in to the finish so I had to go back out to sea a bit, which made it into a real race to the finish with Nick Notten.
“That’s a third national single title in a row, so I am really happy with the hat-trick against an awesome field,” he added.
Fish Hoek stalwart Dawid Mockeé rounded out the overall podium by getting the better of the young East Londoner Josh Fenn and the evergreen Umhlanga surfski ace Matt Bouman.
Cape racers filled positions six to ten, led by Kenny Rice, the silver medallist at the last surfski world champs.
In the women’s race Michelle Burn revelled in the familiar ocean conditions to canter away from the stacked women’s field to claim an almost five minute victory margin over Cape racers Kira Bester and Melanie van Niekerk.
As a seasoned downwind racer Burn said that the conditions had been hard to come to grips with.
“I definitely thought the runs would be a bit easier,” said Burn. “I found then a bit trickier and slow.
“Looking at the speeds I was getting on the runs I realised it was going to be a long, hard paddle.
“I went too hard in the first few kilometres of the race, hustling at the start after I got stuck behind some others at the start.
“I was racing with Melanie (van Niekerk) for a while but then I just decided to put blinkers on and paddle my own race, which went quite well,” said Burn.
She squealed with delight when reflecting on winning the national title after many years as a benchmark female downwind racer.
Durban teenager Saskia Hockly finished fourth and claimed the Under 18 national title, while her younger sister Valmajean took the Under 16 national laurels just ahead of Holly Smith, both racing into the top ten overall.
The attention will turn to the northerly course option on Sunday when the field contesting the SA double ski titles will tackle the 23km route from DUC to Mdloti, with the abating winds threatening to make it a tough grijnd for the double-ski crews.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
FENN SA SINGLE SURFSKI CHAMPS
1. Hank McGregor 1:45:12
2. Nick Notten 1:45:20
3. Dawid Mocké 1:46:18
4. Joshua Fenn 1:47:15 (U23)
5. Matt Bouman 1:47:59
6. Kenny Rice 1:48:46
7. Dom Notten 1:348:54
8. Uli Hart 1:49:46 (U23)
9. Dan Jacobs 1:51:01 (U23)
10. Mark Keeling 1:51:02 (U23)
1. Michelle Burn 1:58:20
2. Kira Bester 2:03:08 (U23)
3. Melanie van Niekerk 2:06:25
4. Saskia Hockly 2:11:44 (U18)
5. Candice Murray 2:12:53
6. Sharon Armstrong 2:14:48
7. Jade Wilson 2:15:40 (U23)
8. Valmajean Hockly 2:19:00 (U16)
9. Holly Smith 2:19:18 (U16)
10. Christie Shrimpton 2:23:30 (U23)