Race Report : Hansa Fish : 10 / 11 October 2014



The annual mass Gauteng trek to the Eastern Cape took place during the past week with numerous paddlers from upcountry eagerly taking on the Hansa Fish River Marathon 2014, which while being a K1 championships race, also hosted the SA K3 river championships race.
The race took place on 10 and 11 October from the Grassridge dam to Cradock, covering a distance of some 80km of wild exciting white water with numerous rapids that are portagable for those who prefer not to risk shortening their race, and still leaving plenty of excitement to make the race worthwhile for all participants.

Novice paddlers often aim to paddle this river race as their first A grade river experience and it is quite an effective wake up for those who have been cutting their teeth on the placid Gauteng winter rivers where no rainfall results in slower manageable rivers during the months preceding the guaranteed 26 cumecs of water provided on the Eastern Cape Fish River.


While there were over 50 withdrawals from the official race by the end of Day 1, due to boat damage or numerous swims, more than 600 nevertheless did manage to finish the adrenalin rushing exciting river race with all its challenges.


Among the challenges, the tight corners through the willow trees on the narrower upper Fish were certainly one of the most scary and a number of swimmers had some potentially dangerous experiences, while the majority of the major rapids can be portaged, this section has to be navigated and it was very difficult especially for K3’s to manoeuvre through, although novice first timers would also have found this section pretty daunting, especially with some drops and wave trains around the fast corners hardly visible as a result of the overhanging willows, and tight sneaks around tree blockages.

Double Trouble at the start of the river is challenging but exciting and generally a swim is not too serious as the pool at the bottom usually provides opportunity for paddlers to gather themselves, but the very fast current on race day does wash paddlers downstream and the help of the lifesavers catching paddlers and boats as they flushed past was greatly appreciated!

Toast Rack is an enjoyable and should be safe enough although it also produces swimmers and hopefully not too many bashed heads from ducking too late or not low enough – especially among the K3’s!

As always Keiths leaves its mark with floating bits of boats down river, while Soutpans always has its share of victims…..there are certainly numerous swimmers on various other no name white water trains and sharp corners while the thorn bushes are a challenge of their own!  The various weirs and drops also claim swimmers although portage options at Gauging, Marlow and Cradock are available to those less experienced.


The TOP Gauteng finishers were the Centurion based K3 paddlers Theo Smith, Pierre van der Merwe, and Wally Fisher, finishing in 17th overall, a time of 5 hours 22 minutes, as the 3rd K3 and 1st Sub Masters.

The top finishing Gauteng K1’s were Loveday Zondi, (SOW), Mark Smith (LCC) and Alex Roberts (DABS), finishing 25th, 26th, and 27th overall, as 21st, 22nd and 23rd K1 in times of 5:25, 5:27:05 and 5:27:23 respectively.

Gustav Smook (LCC) achieved a podium position in the Sub Master category finishing 2nd as 31st K1 in 5:34, and the next K3 finishers were also LCC’s Veteran team finishing 10th in that category in 5:39, Andreas van Tonder, Wihan Venter and Wikus Loots.

Gerhard Steyn from Lowveld also took a podium position as 2nd Sub Grand Master finishing as 74th K1 in 5:57, while the JCC K3 managed to clinch us a victory as 2nd Grand Master K3 finishers, 43rd in the category, in a time of 6:42 – Anthony Phelps, Andre van der Merwe and Bernie Krone.

Liam and Michael Stewart (ERK) also won a podium position finishing as the first Father and Son winners, finishing as the 5th K2, 76th overall, in a time of 5:52.

Jane Swarbreck (Dabs) finished as the 19th lady, and 212nd K1, in a time of 7 hours 18, while missing podium position by far, she was one of the few brave Gauteng ladies willing to take on the challenge and we salute them – Monique Steven and Shelley Robertson (FLCC) finished as the 21st ladies, and 144th K2, while Janet Bartlet (DABS) was 218th K1 finisher and 22nd lady overall and I believe 2nd Sub Veteran lady!


I struggled to find a decent Mixed boat finish to congratulate, and came up with Chad Andrews who partnered with Dad Clifford, and Sally  (DABS) to finish as the 4th Mixed double, although they were a K3 team, in a time of 6 hours 6 minutes, as the 23rd K3’s, and it would seem that the first finishing Mixed Double team from Gauteng was Ryan Simonato with Louise Pieterse (JCC) as 13th in that category in a time of 6:33, as the 42nd K2, however with it being a K1 year, one assumes that some of the top Mixed double contenders split up into K1’s…!

Bill Sears (LCC) finished as the 2nd Great Grand master – K1 226 in 7 hours 39 – well done !

While struggling to find more podium positions that Gautengers may have clinched, it would seem that Andy Leith (DABS) partnered up with other provinces, Colin Simpkins and Herman Chalupsk to clinch  the 1st Master K3 in 5:24, although the Gauteng top finishing MASTER K3 was DABS’ Tony Purchase, Bryan Slater and Nigel Harvey, 5th in that category, as 25th K3.

Siseko Ntondini (SOW) managed 9th Under 23, K1 28, in 5:31 and Siyabonga Tyiki (SOW) was our top junior finisher, 4th Under 18 in 5:39, K1 39 while Marco Magni (Dabs) managed a 6th K1 SubVeteran finish, K1 54, in 5h50.

Alex Masina (JCC) could have been our youngest Gauteng junior finishing as 8th Under 16, in 6h15, K1 116, with Neil Barrow (DABS) being our top K1 veteran finisher in 9th place for that category, K1 125 in 6H20.

The top Sub Veteran K3 Gauteng finishers from FLCC, as the 50th K3, were Craig Smith, Warren Mackenzie and Patrick Thomas, in 6:50, although Anthony Wald was represented in 35th K3 with paddlers out of the province, and our top K1 master finisher was 28th in that category, in a time of 7:06…..Clive Evans (DABS), well done ! –  but my eyes and mind are becoming blurred looking for top Gauteng finishers in K1 and K3 age categories –  way down the line!

I hope I haven’t missed someone with a good finish while scouring the results to find them, and congratulate all for finishing a tough, higher water level than usual, and challenging exciting Hansa Fish 2014.


Jennie Dallas