King of the Bay

12 hours ago

King of the Bay

Burn and Hockly eye women's laurels at King of the Bay.

With the national double surfski title at stake, seasoned Durban ocean racing ace Michelle Burn has scooped the services of teenage rising star Saskia Hockly for the Bay Union King of the Bay surfski race on Sunday, throwing down the gauntlet to the elite women’s crews planning to be on the startline on Durban Harbour.

Burn is a multiple former winner of the King of the Bay women’s title at the popular 22km race that starts at the Durban harbour Bayhead and crosses the harbour before heading out on an out-and-back ocean leg to the Mngeni River mouth while schoolgirl Hockly is putting her hand up as one of the province’s leading junior female paddlers.

“Saskia and I are both Umhlanga Surf Lifesaving Club members, and when we heard that the King of the Bay was going to be a doubles race, we decided to paddle together,” said Burn after the pair had completed a double ski training session together this week.

“The boat is going really nicely and Saskia is strong. She is not scared of hard work and puts in the effort,” she added.

Hockly, who turns 17 in February, turned heads at the KZN flatwater marathon champs at Camps Drift last weekend where she romped to victory in the junior category and went toe-to-toe with established elite stars Jenna Ward and Bridgitte Hartley for almost the entire senior race, and then went on to claim the overall K2 gold with Ward on the Sunday.

“I paddle at Blue Lagoon sometimes and see Saskia training with Lee McGregor’s MacSquad, and it always strikes me how good her technique is and how well she is going,” said Burn.

Burn has found a rich vein of form as the lockdown eases and is excited to test herself against what she hopes is a strong field of women’s S2 crews on Sunday.

“It has been great to train and feel no pressure because there weren’t any events during the lockdown. I am feeling good and looking forward to racing again,” she said.

“This race has a bit of everything with the flatwater on the harbour for the first half, but what tends to happen is that we paddle in bunches across the harbour and the racing only starts once we get out of the harbour,” said Burn, who is widely respected as a skilled downwind paddler.

With Jenna Ward opting to sit out the Bay Union King of the Bay and defending champion Hayley Nixon in the late stages of pregnancy, pressure will come from a number of women’s crews, notably lifesavers Paige Horn and Kyeta Purchase.
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6 days ago

King of the Bay

McGregor and Lovemore team up for King of the Bay

Defending champion Hamish Lovemore has scooped eleven times marathon world champion Hank McGregor - Athlete for the Bay Union King of the Bay surfski race on 4 October with the same combination heading for the national flatwater SA Canoe Marathon championships in St Francis the following weekend.

Lovemore enjoyed a stellar 2019, winning the Berg Marathon team event with Tyron Maher before he teamed up with McGregor for the first time to win a highly competitive Ozzie Gladwin Canoe Marathon K2 title with McGregor.

“That was an incredible experience,” he recalls. “It was a shock for me with the two kilometre portage, and we had to come back from behind. But with Hank being so calm and so tenacious we pulled back and managed to win it.”

Lovemore is part of the Blue Lagoon MacSquad training group coached by Hank McGregor’s father Lee McGregor, and shares daily training sessions with the elite group that has been built around Hank McGregor over the years.

Lovemore had developed a deep respect and friendship with McGregor. “I feel like his little brother but not a day goes by without me feeling privileged to be paddling with an athlete of Hank’s calibre.

“As a partner he is so calm, but you know that Hank start every race to win it, which brings all sorts of pressure with it, because if you fall short of that, it is your fault. For me that’s is just extra motivation,” says Lovemore.

Scooping the spot to partner McGregor for the surfski and marathon double title deciders thrills Lovemore as it signals a shift in the national paddling landscape as McGregor has enjoyed thoroughly successful world title-winning partnerships with Jasper Mocké and then Andy Birkett.

“I am so pumped!” enthused Lovemore. “I get goosebumps from start to finish paddling with Hank, and we seem to be going well together, which is exciting for the month ahead,” he said.

He added that the Bay Union King of the Bay was the ideal dress rehearsal before the road trip down to the Eastern Cape for the national flatwater marathon champs on the estuary at St Francis the following weekend.

“There is a bit of the unknown,” he said. “No-one is really sure of who will be paddling together for the doubles race, and lockdown has meant that no-one has been racing or training together apart from the early zoom sessions on the ergos.”

Under the rejigged canoeing calendar the Bay Union King of the Bay will double as a the SA and KZN double ski title decider.
Photo:Graham Daniel
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2 weeks ago

King of the Bay

2017 champ Van Der Walt eager to make amends at King of the BayAfter a bizarre mishap ended his 2019 Bay Union King of the Bay attempt, Brandon van der Walt is hungry to make amends with a solid showing on 4 October and has scooped the services of rising star Dave Evans for the SA double ski title decider.

Van der Walt, who was involved in an exciting tussle at the front of the race, ended his competitive charge last year in a collision with rocks at the harbour exit that left him with a damaged rudder and crashing into the harbour wall.

“I was dicing with Stew Little, who is going to be the next Dusi King, and he was finding the tiger line through all the rocks,” he recalls. “I was caught on the inside and spent the rest of the race pulling barnacles and my rudder out of the bottom of my boat. I’m not exactly proud of my record being the only person to crash into the harbour wall!”

With the Bay Union King of the Bay awarded the rights to decide the national double ski titles, the entire competitive focus has shifted to doubles, and Van der Walt was happy to secure teenager Dave Evans as his partner for the event after successfully coaching him through his last two years at high school

“I never coached him for his first silver medal at worlds, but it was special being part of the journey to his podiums on the next two marathon worlds,” said the Maritzburg College teacher and canoeing master.

“I know that with Dave in the back seat I will have a proper engine from start to finish,” he added.

Van der Walt said that after a frustrating start to the lockdown, he has found solid form ahead of the weekend, which starts a period of eight days in which four national titles will be decided between Durban harbour and St. Francis in the Eastern Cape.

“I feel like I am going better now than I have at any stage since moving to Pietermaritzburg. I am really ready to put my hand up,” he said.

He showed that form at the recent Pirates Umhlanga Pirates surfski race where he took off on a solo charge at the front of the race that shook the rest of the elite field.

“I am really looking forward to the race,” he added. “The King of the Bay always pulls a big entry because it is so accessible to everyday paddlers. It will be the first big paddling event in Durban after the lockdown, so I expect everyone who owns a surfski to show just how keen people are to get back onto the water again.”

“The organisers of the Bay Union King of the Bay always put on one of the most incredible shows, so half the reason people come back year after year is to enjoy the whole race experience.

“It will be special having it as SA S2 Champs and the first mainstream race in Durban back after the lockdown. I am sure everyone will play their part with the Covid regulations.

“The lightee is frothing. I am frothing. I am sure everyone else is feeling the same way too,” he concluded.

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