Some of the world’s best marathon paddlers will gather in the shadow of the Langeberg mountains this weekend for the two-day Breede River Canoe Marathon, that will decide the Western Cape K2 River titles for 2022 and provide some of the elite stars with a last dress rehearsal before the marathon world championships at the end of the month.
After a wet start to the end of winter that plays host to the K2 paddling season on the Breede River, the rains have stopped and the level of the river subsided steadily, forcing the host club to make some changes to the first stage, and adding on a sample of the kind of racing expected at the ICF world marathon championships in Ponte de Lima in Portugal in a few weeks’ time.
The new start at the picturesque Viljoensdrift Wine Estate allows the race to get under way on the flat water dammed by the Sliding Weir, and take on laps of marathon paddling and portaging that will provide a spectacle-friendly start to the race, before heading downriver for the rest of the first stage to Riggton Farm in Bonnievale.
The second stage of the race from Riggton Farm to Kam’Bati Resort remains unchanged.
The best of the local K2 crews will be on the start-line, including the winners of the last pre-Breede race Kenny Rice and Uli Hart, former winner Greg Louw and Matt Fenn, the powerhouse crew of Graeme Solomon and Anders Hart, Murray Starr and Dan Jacobs and Heinrich Schloms and Ernest van Riet, with Clint Cook and Tom Lovemore adding an ominous threat.
All them will be anxious to ensure that they remain in contact with the 2017 world championships crew of Hank McGregor and Jasper Mocké, who have unashamedly entered the race to fine tune their racing ahead of the world championships K2 race in Portugal.
In what could end up being a notable slice of Breede history, McGregor’s wife Pippa has also entered with her world champs K2 partner Jenna Nisbet, and a victory in the women’s division could see the rare feat of a husband-and-wife Breede victory.
McGregor and Nisbet will not have it all their own way as a strong field of women’s K2 crews has assembled for the event, including Candice Murray and last year’s winner Kira Bester, Dusi winner Jordy Peek with her partner Christy Shrimpton, and the junior crew of Neriyah Dill and Holly Smith that turned into one of the female pacesetters during this Breede season.
With the potent women’s race potentially stealing the limelight, there is also an intriguing race for the mixed doubles podium brewing, as some of the country’s top female paddlers team up with male partners for the two day challenge on the technical Breede River.
Team Euro Steel’s new signing Melanie van Niekerk will partner Scheepers Schoeman, Bianca Beavitt has her partner Crispin Thompson lined up for the race, and the strong Maties paddler Tracey Oellerman, who finished second in last year’s womens K2 race, has co-opted Dom Leslie for a shot at the mixed doubles podium.
The weekend has been dedicated to the memory of well-known paddler Giel van Deventer who died on the Breede River on 20 August. Every paddler will get a special cap commemorating the life of the Berg marathon icon, and the race medal that each finisher receives will also commemorate the impact that he had on the sport.
The host club Milnerton Canoe Club will also sponsor each entrant a bottle of wine to take home ands enjoy in Van Deventer’s memory.