Thank you to the VLC organisers / Simon and marshalls who spent hours in the cold wet drizzle on Saturday 14 May to provide Gauteng canoeists with the opportunity to gain 20km mileage improving the stamina of those numerous first year racers…..as well as points….and hopefully seeding improvements!

It was a cold wet winter day as even the photographer’s fingers froze and toes were numb sitting on the side taking pics while the camera battled with focus in the ongoing drizzle and bad light – a lot of pics had to be dumped however a few blurred images were left in the album for reference……all available to view on facebook/GautengCanoeUnion…. and I threw in a few from alternative camera at the end of the album as well in case anyone was missed!

Those paddlers who were not snugly wrapped in their winter thermals and plastic coated tops could not have enjoyed their day much! especially with an 80% or higher swim rate at the first rapid of the day!

Sadly once again Mine Rapid was a complete mass of carnage similar to any major highway pile up as boats crashed into each other, into rocks, and the rapid was strewn with broken boats, swimmers, empty boats finding the perfect line etc!

The first few paddlers (Marshalls / VLC) perfectly lined up between the marshalls on the rocky ledge on the LEFT of mine rapid (as can be seen clearly in the pics)…..but that came to an end when Dave Ivy and Rod Carpenter knocked Franz Fischer right off his boulder to somersault into the river like a backflip….and from there on it was chaos.

Among the reasons for the carnage was that the current in MIDDLE of mine rapid which changes at every water level,  was very strong.  The photos clearly show these situations.

Those who tried to stay left were pulled into the middle by the faster current – victims were either paddling with less powerful or more hesitant strokes while watching the movie unfolding ahead of them………  many spinning out sideways to block the line, as their nose went into the eddy, and the strong current on their rudder turned them into the river bank.

Those who tried for the line on the far RIGHT, were not far right enough, not wide enough and also got pulled into the strong middle current and therefore the rocks/boulders, many barely managing to get past the BOAT WRECK boulder without contact ….(named for easy identification – our sympathies to the paddler who felt trapped in that wreckage and we raise our united voices in gratitude that he managed to swim safely away – guys PLEASE fast reflexes are required in a boat break situation is very important  – get your legs out and swim fast if cockpits are upstream – risk the swim rather than entrapment)…..  that boat is still there and is, and was, an additional danger to any on the river as other boats and swimmers can get caught on it.  (Difficult to remove due to fast current and deep water without access to the boulder and boat).

SOME who planned to stay left, realised the line was blocked and tried to change to the line on the right which wasnt going to work out, they SHOULD have confidently shot the wrong line through the middle with more success…….

There were a number of withdrawals as a result of extensive boat damage after this first rapid which is a pity for those hoping for an enjoyable 20km race training!

I am quite amazed at how long Colin Ledwaba and partner were parked on the middle rock figuring out their options…..

In the end, the last bunch of possible “novices” were forced to portage and avoid the pileup which may have been a much better option on this rainy day!

PS –      THERE is a very viable line in the middle requiring confident paddling around the boulders in an S weave……well done to those who made it through there!  I noted Wayne Saunders cruising comfortably through although it may not have been his plan!  But thats what experienced canoeing teaches…..make the wrong line work right!

We must also welcome Pieter Marais, the HANSA FISH RIVER RACE ORGANISER and his son Herman who trekked all the way from Cradock, across the Vaal River, to check out our little MINI FISH river in Gauteng,  (the Mighty Klip) –  (no doubt to establish why Gautengers are such good Fish paddlers) under the pretext of visiting his son who is now attending varsity in Pretoria…….  Pieter Marais can also show you a perfectly good line through the middle of the carnage and around the boulders on the rapid – follow his bright orange plastic top in future!

So the usual suspects from Watuni who take these things seriously – Kobus Filmalter and Andre Zandbergh were the first two finishers as first and second Veteran, in 1h29, and 1h33, while Dab’s former novices Bruce Dixon and Daryl Dingley were the Sub Veteran winners in 3rd place overall and a time of 1h34 – I guess it is safe to say that those who made it through Mine Rapid without being in the pileup, had a much better chance of getting a good finish!

The ladies K2 team sailed effortlessly through Mine rapid as well as the rest of the river making it look far too easy with Daniela Afonso and Alexis Rich (Parktown Girls / Dabs) finishing as 3rd Under 23 in 1h59 while D. Prinsloo ? – No name, no number, no club yet provided so appears to be a newly registered paddler cruised comfortably through the race to finish 46th as the only Lady K1 to finish in 2h43.

We were also quite surprised at how long paddlers take to recover themselves, boats, empty, get paddles and get back in to get going – ages and ages….getting cold and hypothermic!

Despite the long time spent on the rock in Mine Rapid, Colin Ledwaba and Jaco Esterhuyse (VIC) finished next in 1 h 35 while the first novice crossed the line in 5th place overall – Justin May with Robert Levick (Dabs) in 1:38.

The first Under 18 junior finisher was Sow’s Sinenhlanhla Ludidi in 1h39 as 3rd K1, and 6th overall, and the first Masters Wayne and Karen Saunders (VIC) were also first Mixed Double in 1h41 – second novice to cross the finish line! and first lady!

The experiences achieved by paddling on a low Fish river throughout the year until the annual water release in October ensured that Herman Marais 1 st Under 23 , from Cradock enjoyed his Klip River experience finishing 12th as he sedately cruised down the left line of the infamous rapid thinking nothing of difficulties the rapid COULD create, to finish in 1h41 while his father, the Fish River Race organiser Pieter Marais, paying us a honourary visit in Gauteng before the winter hits finished as 9th K1, 21st overall in 1h46.

Jaydon Hunt was once again the Under 14 top finisher and what an excellent young paddler he is as he weaved around the marshalls and stuck boats to comfortably redirect his boat into the left line he prefers, appearing quite effortless to finish as 10th K1 in 1 h 47.

Vince Buttrick finished as first Great Grand Master (thats over 65 for the unenlightened) despite his unsuccessful attempt to go through the middle line of the rapid backwards, in a time of 1h52, followed by the first Under 16 team including Miss Ayanda Chwayi and a family relative Sibusiso Chwayi (Sow) in 1h53 as third mixed double.

Neil Butcher will be pleased with his result of his race finishing as first Sub Master in 2:04, as a complete novice with only a couple of novice races to his CV!

Despite the cold and carnage, spirits seemed high at the prizegiving as paddlers relished the delicious food and hot drinks on sale and cheerfully regaled each other with stories of their misadventures!

Thanks to VLC for the opportunity and entertainment!

Jennie Dallas

for GCU PR

082 857 857 1