A number of brave tough Gauteng paddlers with good river experience, hopefully anyway, took on the Stihl Umkomaas Canoe Marathon.  The race starts with the more manageable section of the river at Josephine’s Bridge, to Riverside on the first day, a distance of some 35 km.

Not only are Lifejackets compulsory – so are helmets – the mighty river flows strongly and fast through the gorges and valleys of the Umkomaas river area towards the sea and provides superb challenges for white water rafters, let alone our fibreglass racing boats!

On the tougher day which sees the most boat breaks, hence now on the 2nd day so as not to start with a depleted field, the race starts at Hella Hella to end at Josephine’s bridge and the prizegiving as well as camping and most tasty meals are available at the Richmond Country Club.

From my sketchy personal experience, I am only able to warn the seconds about the steep hills and downhills when driving to the finish – thats scary enough for some of us!

So hats off to the finishers and well done to those who didnt make it through the whole race – the feedback is always about how exciting the river was anyway and its a superb experience for all who take on the challenge – finishers or non!

The top Gauteng finishers, were 3rd place Dabs K2 Dave Hamilton-Brown with Wayne Jacobs (DABS) as first Sub Vets as well, double podium positions, in a time of 3 hours 44 over the two strenuous challenging days!  only 4 minutes behind the winners – Hank McGregor and Andy Birkett – those legends of river racing, with Jacques Theron and Thulani Mbanjwa finished in 2nd, one minute ahead of our Gauties.

Finishing in 7th, 8th, and 9th position overall, Gauties with WP partners were Ernest Van Riet with Etienne Rawlinson, Nick Longley and Brian Longley, and the next pure GCU team were  Marco Magni with Anton Fatti,  all Dabs paddlers, who finished in 3:57:28, 3:57:33 and 3:59:49 respectively with the last two also being Sub Veteran podium positions 2 and 3!

The 3rd Veteran podium place was taken up by Andrew Hall, 14th position overall, partnered with Paul Hatfield, (Dabs/Natal) in 4:09, while the top Master finishers were John Barrow and Kevin Middleton (Dabs) in 15th place,  4;10.

Chad Andrews and Jason Brown (Dabs) finished as the 16th K2, and 7th senior boat in 4:13, while ERK’s Michael Stewart and Tommy Booth were 18th Finishers in 4:14.

Another podium finisher was Jim Davies with Lloyde Hanson, (Dabs) who finished up as 2nd SGM, 34th K2, in a time of 4:28, while Meyer Steyn and Bryan Slater – also Dabs, were the 3rd Master finishers, in 4:39, as the 43rd K2.


Pete O Connor (Dabs) also brought in a podium finish in 4:49 as the 11th K1, and 2nd Grand Master.  111 boats in total did finish both days, with 36 K1’s, and 73 K2’s crossing the finish line, as the sweeps brought in the stragglers in 10h33 hours over the two days.


A mighty feat indeed – well done all Gauties!


Jennie Dallas

for GCU PR