Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Len Jenkins Jr. remains unbeaten at Fish River Marathon after his 6th K1 title. Michele Eray takes her first in Women.

The Natal Canoe Club paddler, Len Jenkins Jr., claimed this weekend his sixth consecutive K1 title at the Fish River Marathon, held at Cradock (Eastern Cape, South Africa), getting that way the SA K1 title. At the same time, Michele Eray  keeps getting titles this season 2012 and claimed victory in the Senior Women category with a good superiority on her rivals.

The 1,416 paddlers who took the start crossed Grassridge Dam facing a long first stage for 47 km. down to Knutsford. Two and a half kilometres further, they portaged the dam wall and strated paddling the river itself.

Jenkins and McGregor entering Keith's Flyover, with Grant van der Walt 50 metres behind. Foto: Jetline Action Photo

From the first strokes, Len Jenkins took the lead with a wide group following his wash, up to twenty paddlers with Jacques Theron and Hank McGregor at Jenkins' first wash. But the portage was not wide enough for so many people, so it made a first selection. Theron lost the good pace and Brandon van der Walt joined a three paddlers group on the lead along with McGregor and Jenkins. Just 5 minutes later, shooting Double Trouble at Collet's Weir, Jenkins got trapped facing upstream at the second jump and lost some precious seconds. He had then to make an extra effort to overpass Greg Louw, Lance Kime and Cam Schoeman to arrive at feared Keith's Flyover rapid leading the race again.

Eray, at Double Trouble (Collet's Weir). Photo: Jetline Action Photo
Far behind, in the Women's batch, Robyn Kime started taking the lead after a capsize from Miche Eray at Double Trouble, but the brave paddler from Plettenberg Bay managed to catch again the young Kime and both seized the swim of Abby Adie at the same point to start setting a gap that slowly grew up to two minutes. Kime and Eray collaborated for the next 30 kilometres. They didn't want taking extra risks and both portaged Keith's Flyover.

There was no major change in the top ten going through Soutpan's rapids. So the three K1 leaders reached Kaptok Weir portage and it was there where van der Walt started to feel ran out of fuel. He couldn't keep the pace and lost two minutes at Knutsford Bridge finish line. Meanwhile, something similar happened to Robyn Kime more or less at the same point and Michele Eray, who was pretty conservative for the first part of the stage, as she hadn't paddled more than 25 km. for more than one year, boosted her rythm trying to get as much time as possible to face Day 2 with a comfortable gap. She finally got three minutes, which was a great result.

Going for the race at Cradock Weir. Photo: Mike Nell Jetline Action Photo
At the beginning of Day 2, Jenkins and McGregor knew that van der Walt would try to chase them as quickly as possible closing the two minutes gap, so maybe it wasn't worth trying to avoid it by pushing too much at the first kilometres of the stage and then get more tired than the direct rival. So they set their own pace and Grant van der Walt closed the gap 20 km. down the river, before reaching Gauging Weir, with still 15 km. to go. No problems for them at Gauging and Marlow Chute and all was going to be decided at Cradock Weir. Despite its danger, the top 50 paddlers can shoot it at their own risk, knowing that if they fall on another kayak will be disqualified. Jenkins arrived setting the pace of the group, but McGregor didn't want to let him go and risked shooting the weir at the same time. Jenkins (as you can see in this video at 00:35) tried to push McGregor out with his paddle just before the fall and, luckily, they didn't crash. With Jenkins having the good place, he faced down the river before McGregor, who had to turn much more his kayak to keep on paddling.

At the Golf Course rapids, McGregor pushed very hard to try surpassing Jenkins and enter the final sprint ahead, but a bad line made him splash against a couple of waves who made him lose speed and it was Jenkins the one sprinting in front. McGregor couldn't make it and Jenkins won once again at "his" race, the one that has won for the sixth time in a row in K1, as well as he has done since his U16 years.

Talking about the women, Michele Eray had some comfortable gap over Robyn Kime, but it wouldn't be the first time that she was leading and a capsize takes her victory away. And she was right being aware of it, as she feel at Gauging Weir. Wisely, she had chosen to shoot it on the very left, near the bank and where the river is shallower. That allowed her to get on the kayak again rather quickly and keep going to her first Fish title. Trying not to get innecesary risks, she portaged Cradock Weir and finally entered the finish line claiming gold, two minutes ahead of Robyn Kime, while Abby Adie took the third place, five minutes behind.

A very happy Michele dedicated her victory to her younger years trainer and mentor Daniel Conradie, now that she has repeated his awesome double win Sella & Fish fifteen years later.

Jenkins and McGregor shooting Marlow Chute, on Day 2. Photo: Tobi Ginsberg Jetline Action Photo

At this link you can check the full overall results.

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