The Sappi memorial race on the Elands River enjoyed its 6th hosting of the event on Saturday 7 February, with a somewhat lower level of water than previous years, although still with fabulous wave trains, sharp Tjunction corner, downhill runway rapids, big drops with stopper waves and tight curves around and between boulders.

The field of participants willing to drive past the Waterval Boven tunnel to find the farm where the race begins, has grown increasingly since the first event on this river, 6 years ago, as word of mouth spreads the news of the exciting narrow fast paced downhill river which attracts new paddlers annually, as does the hospitality of the Lowvelders, good marshalling, and great prizes!

The winner of the race was Roger Mortlock from the Lowveld Club, not surprisingly – a Lowvelder has always won this race as they cut their baby canoeing teeth learning on it and are familiar with every sneak and treacherous corner! Anton Fatti (Dabs) was the 2nd finisher, and first Veteran in 1:47, just over 5 minutes after, while Jarryd Breeds (ERK) was the 3rd finisher less than a minute later.

Brian Longley (Dabs) finished in 4th place as the first Great Grand Master which proves that age and experience are in fact great assets in river racing, while the first Sub Veteran Raymond Rorich (Cen) was 5th half a minute later in 1:50:45.

Gerhard Steyn won the Sub Grand Master title in 8th place, and a time of 1:51, also a Lowvelder while the senior paddlers taking up the 3rd and 4th position finished up 10th and 11th – Cornelis Human (Dabs) and Tommy Booth (ERK), leaving the 12th position to the first Sub Master winner, Wally Fisher in 1:54. (Cen)

Peter O’Connor won the Grand Master age category finishing 17th overall in 1:58, and the first development paddler from Sasol, Fika Mkhwanazi was the top Under 23 finisher, in 1:59, at 20th place.

Chad Andrews with novice Gordon Malcolm (DABS) won the first K2 prize in 2:02, as the 31st boat to finish, and the top junior of the day was Dewiko Loots –another Lowvelder who learned to paddle on this river and has mastered each nook and crannie, who finished in 2:05, in 39th position.

Sonja Bohnsack (Dabs) celebrated her return to rivers by winning the ladies race in 2:08 as the 41st boat to finish.

Paul and Sarah Robinson won the Mixed Doubles category in 2:09 as the 43rd boat to finish, while Janet Barlet (Dabs) was the 2nd lady, with Alexandra Jensen the 3rd in 55h and 58th position respectively and times of 2:17 and 2:19.

While a small amount of drizzle cooled the paddlers as a storm cloud moved over the river, the day was typically warm with lowveld humidity as paddlers cheerily overcame the challenges of the technically lower river level, and enjoyed their refreshments and prizegiving!

Another successful and enjoyable Lowveld Elands river race to add to memories and war stories around the club braai’s……

Jennie Dallas