Race Report: Sasol Dam-to-Dam

19 July 2014

Gauteng paddlers, as well as a few out of province visitors, thoroughly enjoyed the exciting challenging experience of the raging Trichardspruit torrent, the Sasol Dam to Dam river race on Saturday 19 July.

The wind was icy fresh and very strong as the paddlers gathered to enjoy the hot drinks provided by the local Secunda based canoe club, as well as the delicious hot pancakes, while waiting for paddlers to return on the shuttle lifts provided by the local Sasol Mining Middlebult,  during which time they were enjoying investigating the interesting goodie bags provided to all entrants, which included fresh fruit from Fruit and Veg City Secunda, and ground coffee from SACEDPA, beanies, lanyards, and interesting bits and pieces from Sasol and the Syferfontein Colliery.

The paddlers eventually  braved the huge dam lap at 10am, which was a surfski type experience as they rode the waves towards the far end of the dam to do the 7km lap and a bit, while after the turn around buoy, the side on waves were just as exciting (or scary) as surf would be and it was a relief for many to find calm waters after rounding the final bottom corner buoy to head back to the relative shelter near the clubhouse past rows of fishermen.

The steep dam wall portage provided excellent training for the upcoming Fish river marathon and the B grade 10km spruit which was in good flood, thanks to water release from Trichardspruit dam to Tweedraaidam,  did not disappoint with its  numerous challenges, sharp tight corners, the side washes into undercut banks or around outside corners into tree branches, as well as a Toastrack like very low level bridge to duck under and exciting drops with turbulent waves and Sbend type turbulent rapids weaving around rocks to safety -and raising the adrenalin levels and uplifting the paddlers river standards!  Most who finished the race confirmed they learned a LOT on this fast flowing exciting piece of river which was well worth the drive.

Certainly the directional marshalls advising paddlers to head left or right through some rapids were a great help as hidden rocks under turbulent waves were an everpresent possible saboteur and choosing the right line was a tremendous help to secure successfully maneuvering through the tricky sections.

All who finished the race can consider themselves somewhat improved river canoeists and were exhilarated victors, while three boats did not survive the tricky fast flowing obstacles –  boats sideways on river will always be a high risk in a fast current with rocks and bridge pillars or sharp tight corners where K2’s nose and tail both wedge into banks, and decisive paddling between pillars of the rapids is vital to avoid being washed sideways and wrapping around the pillars.  One determined K2 crew managed to run through the shallows and mud at the finish dam pulling their half of a boat across the finish line proving their worthiness to receive the point for effort!

It is well known that the boat that crests the dam wall and puts in successfully into the river FIRST will most likely be the race winner as passing on the narrow windy river is not feasible in most sections.

The leaders winning K1’s were Sowetan paddlers led by Nkosi Mzolo in 1 hour 25 minutes with Simnikiwe Ntondini 2nd as first under 18 half a minute later, and Zonele Nzuza just over a minute afterwards, while the first veteran was Lowvelds Wihan Venter in 1:28 and fourth place.

The highly experienced (sounds better than older / more mature hey?) Steyn brothers competed for the Sub Grand Master title finishing 5th and 6th with Lowvelds Gerhard finishing in 1:28 and Dabulamanzi’s Meyer in 1:32 – pipped to the post by his older brother with his very valuable Lowveld Croc experience as a weekly tripping opportunity.

The first double across the finish line was 7th place Dean Conrad (ERK) partnered with young Donald Moncho from FLCC who has been helping to teach Conrad river skills and boost confidence obviously successfully, while Conrad has been supporting the unemployed youth from low socio economic backgrounds, and they finished in 1 hour 34 minutes. FLCC was in fact the largest represented club at the race, river rapid junkies for sure, while others from Gauteng were straining down the flat river Berg race!

The first mixed double crossed the finish line as 2nd K2 nearly half a minute later – Raymond Rorich has been enjoying mixed double podium positions regularly since partnered up with his wife Linda (Centurion).

Sowetan Mzwenkosi Thinta took the first Under 23 category prize in 1:34.33, and the first Sub Master was also from Lowveld – Eric Dixon in 15th position.

While the first Sub Veterans to finish were the FLCC double in 1:42, 19th overall – Vaughn Steven and Gordon Bridger, the SV K1 finisher was Herculaas du Preez from Centurion in 24th position.   The VLC/DABS Master combination finishing 20th overall were also the first Master finishers in 1:42.33, however the Master K1 winner was Craig Smith (FLCC) in 1:52, 25th overall.

Apart from the category / age/ K1 and K2 Sasol sponsored cash prizes, there were also lucky draw prizes and a number of paddlers who were lucky rather than fast, who enjoyed receiving a variety of spot prizes ranging from Camping chairs and cooler backpacks to hardware vouchers sponsored by Mica Secunda, and Sasol Mining – including Bosjesspruit, Brandspruit, Environmental Management, Central workshop (EOS)  Twistdraai Export Plantand Sasol Coal Supply!

So ended another wild exciting ride on the spruit near the small town of Trichardt, hosted hospitably by the Sasol Canoe Club and we have to wait another whole year to enjoy this bouncy buckin’ bronco river again!!!

Jennie Dallas
for GCU PR