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Single Digits, Hard Falls and a Sprint Finish

Single Digits, Hard Falls and a Sprint Finish

Jul 2014

Words Dawid Mocke, pics Terence Vrugtman |

World Marathon Champion Hank McGregor claimed his eighth South African Marathon K1 title in a 3 way sprint against Jasper Mocké and under-23 World Champion Andy Birkett. The triple World Marathon Champion was up against a tough field and his tactics were going to have to be spot-on to beat the new wave of young, star-studded paddlers.

“It was a really high quality field and so I knew tactically I had to be on point.  I think I managed to outsmart the others which gave me the edge. “I felt comfortable throughout the race and it was a case of everyone gunning for positions with World Champs places up for grabs!” a satisfied McGregor added.

A early strong six man group was whittled down to three with some assertive portaging from Jasper Mocke and Andy Birkett in the first portage.  Louw van Riet and Ben Biggs two of the casualties, and significantly also Grant van der Walt.  Grant showed his class by powering back up to the front bunch.


It was however the second portage of the day that provided most of the drama.  Mocke, taking out first and eager to capitalise, took a very hard fall, splitting the seam of his boat and cracking one of his paddle blades.  Birkett immediatley took advantage of the fall and broke away, but McGregor and van der Walt hung back to lend a hand to Mocke, who after a quick assesment, decided to continue.

“I saw that the crack in my boat was mostly above the waterline, and that the crack in the blade was in a non-critical power zone; so decided to not waste time and loose the front bunch, but rather take my chances.”  And take his chances he did when it came down to a 3 man final sprint at the end of the race.

Birkett, who had opened up 40m on the group, opted to wait, and the four man group continued the race together.

A very strong final portage saw McGregor put the group under intense pressure dropping all three of them and sprinting ahead.   But an intense pull by Birkett to catch up to Mcgregor saw van der Walt dropping off the pace and Mocke hanging on.  

Of Mcgregor’s break Mocke has this to say:  “Ja, Hank properly dropped us.  We were all obviously thinking of the final sprint, but Hank has more experience than that and caught us off guard.  I decided to let Hank go and take my chances against Andy, but when Andy decided to go for it I had no choice but to hang in there.”


The women’s K1 title was won by Olympic bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley, who powered her way to the win on the back of a solid Sprint World Cup campaign in Europe. She dominated proceedings with a mammoth four minute gap between her and second place finisher Nikki Russell, who in turn, had another 7 minutes on third placed Hayley Arthur.


McGregor paired up with his Dusi Canoe Marathon partner Jasper Mocké in the K2 event which they won with the Van der Walt brothers Grant and Brandon coming a close second.  Here it was the second last portage of the day that proved conclusive as the strong combination of Andy Birkett/Greg Louw and Stu Mclaren/Clint Cook were caught off guard.  McGregor/Mocke and the Van der Walt brothers then ensured a series of hard intervals kept the final sprint down to 2 boats, eventually won by McGregor and Mocke.


The 2013 World Marathon Champs silver medalist Brandon van der Walt proved too strong in the under-23 category came in ahead of fellow Western Province paddler Stuart Maclaren.  Jenna Ward won the girls under-23 category from Brittany Petersen.

The Under-18 division was a tightly contested affair with Kwazulu-Natal pair of Louis Hattingh and Bryan Leroux fighting it out for the K1 title; Hattingh sneaking it from Leroux by four seconds.  The girl’s race was not as close as Julia Trodd raced away from the chasing bunch to win by two minutes over Bronwyn Martin from Australia.


The huge field of 441 entries included a large field of veteran and masters age group paddlers, contesting the places in the national team that precedes the marathon world championships every year.

The event, held at Homestead dam and superbly hosted East Rank Kayak Club and the Gauteng Canoe Union underscored the strength and interest in the discipline of flatwater marathon racing, given the consistent success enjoyed by South African paddlers internationally over the past decade.

The 2014 edition of the SA Marathon Champs was one of the largest in the history with hundreds of paddlers braving the single digit degrees to show their worth against the best paddlers in the country with dreams of being on the plane to Oklahoma in September.   It’s great to see so many people getting involved in such a well-run event, and not just the senior categories but there were a number of junior paddlers that were involved and that is exciting to see with a World Marathon Champs in South Africa in 2017.


South African Marathon Championships



1. Hank McGregor (KZN) 2:17.28
2. Jasper Mocké (WP) 2:17.29
3. Andy Birkett (KZN) 2:17.29
4. Grant van der Walt (KZN) 2:18.05
5. Ben Biggs (WP) 2:21.30


1. Bridgitte Hartley (KZN) 2:11.44
2. Nikki Russell (KZN) 2:15.25
3. Hayley Arthur (KZN) 2:21.16

Men Under-23

1. Brandon van der Walt (WP) 2:01.35
2. Stuart Maclaren (WP) 2:01.36
3. Ivan Kruger (WP) 2:01.46

Women Under-23

1. Jenna Ward (KZN) 1:56.14
2. Brittany Petersen (KZN) 2:01.21

Boys Under-18

1. Louis Hattingh (KZN) 1:47.30
2. Bryan Leroux (KZN) 1:47.34
3. Stuart Bristow (WP) 1:48.28

Girls Under-18

1. Julia Trodd (KZN) 1:41.42
2. Bronwyn Martin (AUS) 1:43.52
3. Martine Beukes (WP) 1:45.20


Senior Men

1. Hank McGregor/Jasper Mocké 2:09.25
2. Brandon vander Walt/Grant van der Walt 2:09.27
3. Andy Birkett/Greg Louw 2:09.43
4. Stuart Maclaren/Clinton Cook 2:09.45
5. Travis Wilson/Tyler Wilson 2:17.29

Senior Women

1. Abby Adie/Laura O’Donoghue 2:10.44
2. Hayley Arthur/Jenna Ward 2:10.45
3. Melanie van Niekerk/Brittany Petersen 2:13.59

Boys Under-18

1. Stuart Bristow/Bryan Leroux 1:43.23
2. Keagan Kok/Bailey De Fondaumiere 1:45.18
3. Mark Keeling/Anders Hart 1:47.11

Girls Under-18

1. Julia Trodd/Donna Hutton 1:37.16
2. Bronwyn Martin/Matilda Stevenson 1:37.20
3. Sabina Lawrie/Kyeta Purchase 1:40.07

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Source: Mocke Paddling


Mocke Paddling