With many of the big guns holding their entries for the Breede River Canoe Marathon this weekend until the last moment, the powerhouse crew of Andy Birkett and Nicky Notten has been confirmed and is already being chalked up as the race favourites.
Capetonian Notten and East Londoner Birkett were last seen in a boat together at the dramatic SA Marathon Champs at Zandvlei where they were central to the three-boat duel at the front of the thrilling men’s K2 race.
Having committed to racing the Fish Marathon together in early October, which will double as the SA K2 River Marathon Champs for 2021, Birkett felt that they needed quality race time in the boat together, and the two-day Breede outing was an excellent opportunity.
“We need to spend time in the boat together before the Fish and, more importantly, we want to be tested and race really hard, so the Breede is ideal,” said Birkett.
“We haven’t been in a boat since SA Champs, so it is a good chance to race hard, and, if needed, we can make adjustments for the second stage,” he added.
Notten hit the global headlines in July when he grabbed the world surfski crown at the ICF Ocean Racing World Championships on the island of Lanzarote.
Both highly competitive but equally laid-back off the water, Birkett and Notten are looking forward to rekindling their partnership over the 72 kilometres of the Breede River.
“The Breede is always a serious race and very competitive, which is exactly what we are looking for,” said Birkett, who will be steering the K2 in the front cockpit.
“Gee, I am paddling with the surfski world champion! We are both very competitive but good mates as well and we like to have a good laugh together,” he added.
“It is so important to race together on a river, as it is so different to racing on flatwater or in a ski,” added Birkett. “Luckily we are able to just get into the boat comfortably, but we still have to learn to anticipate each other in river racing situations.
“We are both quite loose in the boat together and we both roll the boat a bit. It is only really in a heated racing environment that you learn each others strengths and weaknesses,” said the Euro Steel racer.
Birkett has only done a handful of Breedes, having won it before with Greg Louw, and concedes that he may be light on local river knowledge.
“What I like about the Breede is that it isn’t full of little sneaks and channels. I remember the channels at the end of the second day, because Greg (Louw) and I tripped those and managed to use that to get away from Hank (McGregor) and Jasper (Mocké). For the rest I don’t really have a clue,” said Birkett.
Entries are being taken right up to Friday evening for the popular two-day race from Robertson to Swellendam.