The Drak Challenge certainly IS a challenge and what a wonderful exciting enjoyable stretch of river!  Among the challenges are the long drive for Gautengers to Underberg area, and of course never knowing what to expect water wise – good water ? too much ? too little?  this all makes a difference to the planning for the event but when it works out well, it sure works amazingly!   and the past weekend seems to have been one of the amazingly enjoyable Drak Challenges, nevertheless we are sure there were numerous boat repairs, and withdrawals on this busy exciting technically challenging enjoyable river most suitable for more experienced paddlers.

The top Gauteng finisher was (not surprisingly!?)  Siseko Ntondini (SOW) who really has become an amazingly talented young paddler with a great paddling future ahead of him thanks to Adreach and group of sponsors who helped build the Sowetan based club for many years offering opportunities for these youngers.  Siseko was the 5th K1 finisher in 3 hours 58 minutes so almost a 4 hour finish while the top finisher (Andy Birkett) only finished 5 minutes ahead of him so it was an excellent race for young Ntondini.

The next Gautengers to finish were in 18th, 19th and 20th position – Zonele Nzuza (SOW), Wayne Jacobs (DABS), Loveday Zondi (SOW) in times of 4 hours 8 minutes for the first two where Jacobs was the 2nd Sub Veteran podium finisher, and 4 hours 9 minutes for Zondi.

Well done to our Gauteng LADY finishers who all achieved podium positions in the ladies race!!!

Young Morgan Ziervogel never fails to impress when on a river.  The Under 23 year JCC paddler finished the race in 4 hours 7 minutes, K1 155, and F16, as the 3rd Lady Under 23 Podium finisher,

while on the other end of the age scale,

Caroline Henderson (DABS) soon after cracking the 60th age milestone,  finished in 5 hours 42 minutes, K1 242, Female 26, as the first lady Grand Master !  the first time this award was ever presented to a lady!

Sylvia Nel (LIK) also finished the difficult river race with her home training ground being the Vaal River – she finished in 6 hours 11 minutes as 281st K1, 32nd Female finisher and was the winning MASTER age group finisher, while

Janet Bartlet (DABS)  finishing in 6 hours 27 minutes, K1 300, 33rd Female finisher  was the 2nd Sub Master podium position holder!!

Alex Masina was the 3rd Under 18 finisher for his first ever Drak descent (JCC) in 4 hours 11 minutes as the 24th K1,  while Sibusiso Chwayi (SOW) also finished in the Under 18 age category in 4 hours 2 minutes.

A number of people have also brought it to my attention about how proud they were of our Chad Andrews from Canoe Concepts who sacrificed his race to assist others on the river who could have got into some serious troubles…  (in other words he didnt really take that long to finish the race – he selflessly DID stop and help others which resulted in him losing a potentially good finish time….) and was awarded some humanitarian / Hero-type Spiderman award – which reminds us of the TRUE spirit of a canoeist…..putting others and safety first – so well done Chad!  We are proud of you as we will always be proud of such actions.

Podium position finishers included Alex Roberts (DABS) as third Sub Veteran podium finisher in 4 hours 16 minutes, K1 38, as well as Kelvin Byres (DABS) who was 2nd Veteran finisher in 4 hours 19 minutes K1 42.   Gustav Smook (Lowveld) finished as first Sub Master  K1 81, 4 hourss 39 minutes and Barry Painting, K1 87, in 4 hours 41 minutes as 3rd Sub Master…..

Young Gustav Junior Smook (Lowveld) did exceptionally well to finish as 3rd Under 16 on this tricky highly challenging river but he cut his teeth on the Lowveld and Elands rivers so probably needed this upper level challenge – finishing in 4 hours 51 minutes.

While these young paddlers are impressively talented and able to do these exciting challenges I constantly find myself impressed with our Gauteng “ballies” who just never give up and are out there finishing races many paddlers are intimidated by.  well done to Noel Bessler (VLC) who finished as 6th Grand Master, K1 211, in 4 hours 25 minutes, as well as Tony Purchase (DABS) GM 8, K1 222, in 5 hours 28 minutes while Frank Dabrowski (DABS) missed the podium finishing as 4th GREAT Grand Master in 5 hours 33 minutes, K1 232.

The river has some tight technical spots between rocks in very fast flowing water and doubles are definately trickier to manouvre through the minefields so well done to the K2 finishers.  The first 3 Gauteng partnered K2’s were led by father and son team (Make that Son and Father team!)  Peter and Carel van Biljon (DABS)  K2 41, in 5 hours 18 minutes.  Daryl Dingley and Tim White (DABS) were K2 53 in 5 hours 26 minutes, while Bruce Dixon and Colin Mussett (DABS) finished as K2 60, in 5 hours 32 minutes.

Jennie Dallas

for GCU PR

082 857 8571