Birkett in fine mettle
As the hot favourite going into this weekend's 27th edition of the N3TC Drak Challenge, East London's Euro Steel sponsored Andy Birkett did not disappoint as he paddled to a runaway victory.
In so doing, the Pietermaritzburg born and Maritzburg College old boy set a new record as the race's seventh time winner. Prior to the 2020 race he had equalled the record with Ant Stott on six titles each. Held on the Mzimkhulu River in Kwazulu Natal over 75 km's and two days, Birkett lead the first day's paddling of 26 km's by almost two minutes ahead of the world renowned Hank McGregor.
With the river at a low water level contributing to a congested start, it was after the first 10 km's when he broke away from the bunch in a small rapid. There was no holding back from Birkett on the second and final day as he stretched his lead to over seven minutes in a winning time of 4H 24M 46S ahead of McGregor while Hamish Lovemore was third, a minute adrift.
Birkett's partner in this month end's prestigious Dusi Canoe Marathon, Khumbulani Nzimande, was ten minutes off the leader in fifth place. On his new record Birkett said, "I am not really one for records at all, every race is different and each race you start is a totally new challenge." In the women's race, Jenna Ward triumphed over Christie Mackenzie and Bridgitte Hartley was third.