The FLCC Tops Spar race, part of the series of races, took place on Sunday 28 August on a superb Spring day with green buds appearing on the willows and a few Legavaan basking on the banks in the sun while swallows played on the surface of the water!

Nearly 100 paddlers including sweeps and marshalls participated in the event eager for training now that the weather has warmed up and with a month left before we head for Cradock for the Hansa Fish Marathon event.

Mine Rapid being so close to the start once again was the major challenge on the race as bunches arrived simultaneously to tackle the shallow rocky ledges on the left side of the rapid, without gaps between the paddlers.

On the right side, a huge tree log is parked across above the pinnacle rock which caused the marshalls some concern as there was a fear that the boat nose could dive below it which could create danger for the paddlers, however the fears were unfounded as the boats bounced over the log, but there were some swimmers as they dropped from the log  into the turbulent water.

On the left, those boats who were able to maintain a straight direct line in the eddy, close to the left bank  – with good pace, managed fine, however there are always some boats that seem to get into the current further into the middle of the river and then are turning LEFT to get back to the LEFT line, and are sideways on the river coming into the path of other paddlers.  Also,  the less confident paddlers who didnt have sufficient pace to slide over the rocky ledges, got stuck, eddied out and also ended up sideways – blocking the narrow line.   Nevertheless, the race was better than last year’s carnage at the same event!

Broken Weir as the next quite serious obstacle where half a dozen or so boats swam unfortunately also a fast flowing but rocky bruising swim.  Usually the swims are in the turbulent water at the bottom of the rapid mostly because paddlers put in a stroke slower than the speed they are travelling in the fast flowing turbulent water so within 1 second, their paddle is BEHIND the paddler hence putting on brakes and causing a swim.  Double Drop also had a handful of swimmers possibly needing a little more speed to make it through the two drops with a little pace.

Caravan Park at different water levels also claims unsuspecting victims from time to time providing entertainment for those waiting at the finish – it makes such an awesome finish spot!

And the winners were!????  well thank goodness it was the first Under 23 Siseko Ntondini (SOW) followed by 1st Under 18  Alex Masina (JCC) and Robert Crighton (Dabs) as first senior, in the top 3 positions – it was becoming quite worrying that so many older age categories have been winning our races!  But we do have young strong up and coming paddlers in Gauteng !  The top 3 finishers times were 1 hour 21, 1 hour 22, and 1 hour 25, while the first veteran, Kobus Filmalter (WAT) crossed the finish line in less than a second after the third place finisher.

The first lady was Under 23 Morgan Ziervogel (JCC) in 1 hour 37 minutes,  with Holly Spencer taking 2nd place in 1 hour 42 (Dabs).  Sneziwe Gxobole (SOW) was the third lady finisher handling herself very well through Mine Rapid, finishing in a time of 2 hours 6 minutes,  followed by Under 14 Fourth Place K1 lady – Ayanda Chwayi also extremely confident through the difficult rapids!  Well done ladies!

Under 16  Zanenhlahla Mbala (SOW) finished the +- 22km race in 1 hour 34

The winning K2’s in 5th and 6th place were Loveday Zondi  (SOW) with Rod Penaluna (DABS), followed by Kelvin Byres and Keith Flemmer (Dabs) in 1 hour 26, while the first K3 from VIC which finished in 1 hour 34 was also the first Mixed Double bringing in Richard Cele, Rene Schutte, and Josh Loots.

Cobus Wagner and Marlise Swanepoel (Dabs) were the first K2 Mixed Double in a time 1 hour 35 as first Sub Veteran finishers.  They must be feeling very good about their sport this year – I remember a year back when they were nervous to do their first Fish and not sure they were ready as swims on Klip were a regular occurance, however this year they are winning podium positions and category achievements!  Spreading hope for all newbies!!

Gerrie Du Plooy (Dabs) was the first K1 Sub Veteran finisher in 1 hour 42 minutes,  with Anton Nel (Dabs)  the leading  Sub Master age category finisher in 1 hour 40 minutes.  With no Master age category K1 finishers, it was Dave Ivy and Rodney Carpenter (JCC/ERK) who brought in the first Master boat in 1 hour 39 minutes.  Carel van Biljon (Dabs) was the first Sub Grand Master finisher in 1 hour 47 minutes, and the first Grand Master was Meyer Steyn (Dabs) in 1 hour 54 minutes.

The Great Grand Master finishers were only seconds apart finishing in 1 hour 40 and 41, being Vince Buttrick (ERK) and Frank Dabrowski (Dabs).

It was a lovely day of training and good racing with excellent weather and thanks to all who helped make the day a great success!

Jennie Dallas

for GCU PR

082 857 857 1