Gauteng paddlers frequently support the Bergville/Winterton river race on Tugela River, for 2 days of 20km ea training to build up stamina and endurance, however one of the main attractions to the race is the simplicity of the rapids which are not serious boat breaking challenges therefore are suitable for the new river paddlers/learners on the river needing river points towards A grade status, for those planning to do Fish later this year.

This year the Tugela race moved two weeks earlier to accommodate the KZN Marathon Champs which was later moved to mid July, and the new Tugela race date clashed with the popular Gauteng 9 Miler – also a superb training race in Gauteng forcing Gautengers to choose flat water or two days of river – for those needing the river points, there was little option.

Despite not being granted a water release for the Bergville stretch of river due to the pressures of the recent drought, the organisers rallied to ensure two days on the river – a decision for which those needing the river points were most grateful!

The weather was superbly pleasant, sunny and warm in the Berg, although the evenings and early mornings were naturally cold in the Berg, and there was very little wind.  The local Spar sponsorship and catering teams provided excellent hospitality while land owners provided opportunities for the starts and finishes of the two days, providing this wonderful opportunity for canoeists to enjoy, as well as the usual Winterton Country Club festivities and party vibe including a lucky draw boat prize!

With few river race point options on the GCU calendar between July and the Fish in October, within an hour drive of the Johannesburg based clubs, the pressure was on the Gauteng paddlers to find river race points.

119 Boats finished both days of the Tugela race,  made up of 76 K2, 40 K1, and 3 K3, – being  201 paddlers  with a quarter of those being Gauteng paddlers.

Thulani Mbanjwa and Khumbulani Nzimande  (LEM) won the 2 day river race in 3 hours 1 minute, with day 1 being just over 19kms and day 2 covering a distance of some 22 kms, including some sweeping bubblies and gentle wave trains, although the low water level resulted in boats sliding over rocks in a number of places,  the resistance training of the shallow sections of river did no harm in strengthening and toughening up the new and less fit paddlers! Joshua Giddings  (KZN) was the first K1 finisher, Under 18 in 3 hours 10 minutes.

The ladies race was won by Kim Peek and Marion Young (Epw/Nat) -Veterans, with Wilma Deysel wining the K1 lady podium, – in 3 hours 55 (SM) (KIN).

The top finishing Gauteng based paddlers were Robert Levick and Justin May (DABS) in 3 hours 17, with Cobus Wagner and Peter Tumiel (ERK / Dabs – St Davids Marist College) next in 3 hours 28 minutes, and Nicholas Warren (DABS) was the third Gauteng finisher, and first K1 in 3 hours 33 minutes.

Philippa Phelp and Daniel Pitman (JCC/DABS) were the first Gauteng Mixed doubles finishers in 3 hours 42, and the first Gauteng lady finisher was Sonja Bohnsack with Natal’s Merril King (Master category)  less than half a minute later. The Gauteng ladies doubles finishers were Shelley Robertson with Hanli Bezuidenhout, a novice river paddler,  in 4 hours 22 (CEN/CRO) – SV.

Jennie Dallas