Dusi Canoe Marathon

It was a frantic start to stage one of the 2022 MyLife Dusi Canoe Marathon on Thursday.

Photo: Anthony Grote/
Gameplan Media

Dusi Canoe Marathon: Stage one drama unfolds on the river

Thulani Mbanjwa and Msawenkosi Mtolo took the men’s line honours on stage one of the Dusi Canoe Marathon.

Dusi Canoe Marathon

It was a frantic start to stage one of the 2022 MyLife Dusi Canoe Marathon on Thursday.

Photo: Anthony Grote/
Gameplan Media

Thulani Mbanjwa and Msawenkosi Mtolo took the men’s line honours on stage one of the Dusi Canoe Marathon while Abby Solms and Bianca Haw won the women’s stage.

Despite an opening stage from Camps Drift to Dusi bridge that threw up plenty of drama and twists, favoured pairs find themselves in the lead

The pair of Mbanjwa and Mtolo finished with a 33 second buffer over the duo of Andy Birkett and Dave Evans.

Birkett and Evans held the early advantage through Pietermaritzburg and onto the first portage of the day. 

Mbanjwa and Mtolo run into the lead

However, by the time the crews had put their boats back in the water after the Hole in the Wall portage Mbanjwa and Mtolo had snuck ahead.

At Mission Rapid the gap was just over 30 seconds. Once the leaders had gone through the Finger Neck and Cabbage Tree portages their advantage remained stable until the finish.

“It was very exciting to be here and come first today but we have still got two big days to come,” Mbanjwa said.

“The youngster Msawe put a lot of power in the back and it’s great to be at the front but we need to try and stay up there and maintain the lead.”

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Mbanjwa picked was cut by the rudder of another boat, but the veteran didn’t let the nasty gash phase him as he and Mtolo powered across the line to hold the overnight honours.

“We knew we had to push from the start to get to the front and at Ernie Pearce in the pushing I got my arm cut but we were able to get to the front and stay there.

“When we got to the front we wanted to get as comfortable as possible because we knew the move would come on the portage.

“Our biggest plan was to get to the finish in first and we managed to do that,” Mbanjwa added.

The Dusi Canoe Marathon is not over

Mtolo was more muted in his celebration.

“I am really excited that we finished first on day one but we can’t be took excited because the Dusi is three days of racing,” Mtolo commented.

It was an exciting day of racing for Birkett and Evans and they feel that can only bode well for what’s to come on Friday and Saturday.

“It was a great day out there and it was an awesome tussle with Banji and Msawe and I don’t think you can ask for much better,” Birkett said.

“There was a bit of cat and mouse with them getting away and us catching up but it was just a great day out on the river.

“Dave said I drove well but I don’t think so at all! I made a few mistakes out on the river; not being able to trip day one disadvantaged us but no excuses and I am looking forward to tomorrow.”

Women’s race full of drama

The women’s race was also steeped in drama from the start.

The highly-fancied pair of Jordan Peek and Christie Mackenzie spun out below Ernie Pearce Weir hurting their efforts.

Peek and Mackenzie swam at the innocuous Low-Level Bridge and then again at Taxi Rapid, giving Abby Solms and Bianca Haw an open opportunity to stamp their authority on the race.

Former champions Solms and Haw took the chance to finish over eight minutes ahead of Peek and Mackenzie.

Bridgitte Hartley and Pippa McGregor rounded out the top three.

Dusi Canoe Marathon contenders

“We knew that it was going to be a day about making sure we made the least mistakes,” Solms said after the stage win.

“It was a pretty clean day for us which was great but we need to focus on tomorrow because we know that anything can happen tomorrow on the second stage.

“We knew that we were in control but you do push yourself a bit so hopefully there is something left in the tank for tomorrow.”

Haw was equally uncertain about what lies ahead.

“We don’t really know what to expect tomorrow because we could get massive water or we could be on a low river so we are going to have to keep an open mind,” Haw said. “There is a big run at the end so it is a bit unknown but that is quite exciting.”

For Peek and Mackenzie are hoping their foul luck is confined to stage one.

“You can prepare as much as you want but the Dusi is always going to throw curve balls at you,” Peek said.

“Today we some issues along the way but it’s how it goes and we have two more days to overcome this and catch up so hopefully the next two days are smooth.”

Spills coast fancied pair

Mackenzie lamented the wasted energy of the two swims but feels they showed fight.

“We worked hard and it was good to see us making up positions and we were running and paddling well but trying to catch up between the swims blew us a little bit.

“I felt like after Devil’s Cauldron we started to get our rhythm back and hopefully we can keep that rhythm going into the next two days,” a positive Mackenzie commented.

Sandile Mtolo and Mvelo Ngidi are leading the Under 23 men’s race overnight ahead of Ross Leslie and Hamish Mackenzie in second and Khwandokuhle Mzolo and Sandile Mbanjwa in third.

Cara Waud and Tracey Oellermann who are sixth overall, lead the Under 23 women’s race. Meanwhile the first Under 18 women are just behind them in the form of Jessica Behn and Jenna Goddard.

Sarah Jones and Rachel van Deventer are not only third in the Under 23 Women’s class but also second Under 18.

Jack Shooter and Joshua Simpkins hold the advantage over Benjamin Maehler and Matthew Coetzer in the Dusi Canoe Marathon Men’s Under-18 race with James Goble and Ross Palframan in third.

Friday’s Queen Stage of the Dusi Canoe Marathon takes paddlers 44km from Dusi Bridge to the Msinsi Resort at Inanda Dam.

Dusi Canoe Marathon Stage One (Camps Drift to Dusi Bridge)

Overall

1. Thulani Mbanjwa/Msawenkosi Mtolo 2:39:48

2. Andy Birkett/Dave Evans 2:40:21

3. Nqobile Makhanya/Sbonelo Khwela 2:42:29

4. Hank McGregor/Matthew Millward 2:48:59

5. Siseko Ntondini/Banetse Nkhoesa 2:50:44

6. Sandile Mtolo/Mvelo Ngidi (U23) 2:51:55

7. Damon Stamp/Andrew Houston 2:25:57

8. Ross Leslie/Hamish Mackenzie (U23) 2:56:20

9. Jacques Theron/Piers Cruickshanks 2:56:50

10. Kwandokhule Mzolo/Sandile Mbanjwa (U23) 2:57:21

11. Mfanufikile Radebe/Hlelani Radebe 2:58:59

12. Mpilo Zondi/Khumbulani Nzimande 2:58:59

13. Hunter Houston/Dirk van den Berg 3:00:44

14. Jack Edmonds/Scott Little (U23) 3:00:59

15. Stewart Little/Bongani Ntinga 3:03:11

Women

1. Abby Solms/Bianca Haw 3:05:52

2. Jordan Peek/Christie Mackenzie 3:13:58

3. Bridgitte Hartley/ Pippa McGregor 3:21:18

4. Hilary Bruss/Hayley Nixon 3:28:49

5. Jenna Nisbet/Nix Birkett 3:29:42

6. Cara Waud/Tracey Oellermann (U23) 3:29:46

7. Jessica Behn/Jenna Goddard (U18) 3:44:32

8. Sarah Jones/Rachel van Deventer (U18) 3:48:09

9. Amy Hulett/Melonie Croeser (U18) 3:48:13

10. Tamzin Gace/Emma Hatfield 4:01:18

Under 23 Men

1. Sandile Mtolo/Mvelo Ngidi 2:51:55

2. Ross Leslie/Hamish Mackenzie 2:56:20

3. Kwandokhule Mzolo/Sandile Mbanjwa 2:57:21

4. Jack Edmonds/Scott Little 3:00:59

5. Alex Masina/Matthew Fenn 3:03:13

Under 23 Women

1. Cara Waud/Tracey Oellermann 3:29:46

2. Daniela Vonkeman/Katja Vonkeman 4:04:31

3. Jade Dundas-Starr/Tabitha Hulett 4:16:11

Under 18 Men

1. Joshua Simpkins/Jack Shooter 3:06:56

2. Benjamin Maehler/Matthew Coetzer 3:20:30

3. James Goble/Ross Palframan 3:21:09

4. Smilo Mthethwa/Lungelo Gumede 3:21:11

5. Dominic Furby/Robert Butcher 3:26:56

Under 18 Women

1. Jessica Behn/Jenna Goddard 3:44:32

2. Sarah Jones/Rachel Van Deventer 3:48:09

3. Amy Hulett/Melonie Croeser 3:48:13