Ozzie Gladwin 2014 doubles up as KZN K1 champs
Pietermaritzburg – With the completion of the Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon the river paddling focus shifted firmly back to KwaZulu-Natal waters where the 2014 Ozzie Gladwin Canoe Marathon, presented by Parklane SuperSpar, on Sunday 9 November has extra status after being awarded the 2014 KZN K1 championships.
The Ozzie Gladwin is one of the biggest and most prestigious one day canoe races in the country which always attracts a high quality field, and the addition of provincial K1 river titles will reinforce the strength of the K1 entry for the 26km race from Albert Falls dam to Thornvale Farm, with the key long portage around the Albert Falls Dam wall designed to play into the hands of the Dusi contenders.
The race heralds the start of a three month window that leads to the three day Dusi Canoe Marathon and for many social paddlers the Ozzie Gladwin is the first essential river outing in preparation for the three-day spectacle from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.
Historically some of the serious Dusi title hopefuls have taken part in the Ozzie Gladwin as a training exercise but kept their cards close to their chests by not allowing themselves to be drawn into the heated scrap at the front of the race. The injection of the KZN River Championships titles however may offset that, and see all the top river racers involved in the title duel.
The Ozzie Gladwin will also be the second seeding race for the 2015 Dusi which provides another incentive for paddlers to get out onto the Albert Falls Dam and the upper uMngeni River for the race.
The 26km route sees paddlers start in front of the slipway at Albert Falls, complete a short flatwater stretch across the dam before taking out and completing a portage around the dam wall.
Having put their boats back into the uMngeni River just above the Albert Falls Weir – the first major paddling obstacle of the day – paddlers then make their way through a series of rapids, weirs and flatwater sections as they tackle the final 22km of the event.
2012’s K1 clash saw ‘Fisher King’ Len Jenkins rack up a record tenth Ozzie Gladwin victory as he narrowly outsprinted 2013 Dusi top contenders Andy Birkett and Thulani Mbanjwa to claim the spoils after a tightly contested three-way tussle.
The hit out will be invaluable for both the top paddlers as well as those who will be making up the numbers at the 2015 Dusi however the focus will be on the sharp end of the race as the top contenders want to feel out their opponents as well as assess where their form is.
The Hansa Fish 2014 was an exciting affair with five time World Marathon Champion Hank McGregor (Team Jeep/Kayak Centre) edging out EuroSteel’s Andy Birkett in an end sprint that would only have whet the appetites of the spectators awaiting the Dusi in 2015.
With a K1 and K2 World Championship medal under his belt in 2014 as well as a Non-Stop Dusi and Hansa Fish winners medal Hank McGregor is arguably the form paddler at the moment but with Birkett’s pedigree on the uMsundusi and uMngeni rivers he is always a significant threat when Dusi season arrives.
The Ozzie Gladwin is not only about the river paddlers there is also an opportunity for parents to give their children a chance to race with a 2,5km Ozzie Gladwin Guppy Race. The course runs around a series of buoys making for the perfect environment for some of the sport’s youth to enjoy their slice of the action.
More info can be found at www.ozziegladwin.co.za