Thrills, spills in nationals

WORLD CLASS: Well-known boat builder, Murray Elliott, pilot of modified boat, M14, with supporter Kevin Ackermann at the Royal St Andrews Hotel Amanzi Festival rubber duck national race at East Beach, Port Alfred on Saturday, March 31 Picture: LOUISE KNOWLES
SKY HIGH: Shooting over the waves is the boat M14, piloted by Murray Elliott and co-piloted by Zane Schonknecht, seen balancing the front of the boat at the rubber duck national race on East Beach, Port Alfred on Saturday, March 31. Picture: Jaco van Rensburg, Railtime Photography

THE Royal St Andrews Hotel Amanzi Festival rubber duck national race which took place on Saturday and Sunday at East Beach, attracting about 12 stock class and six modified rubber ducks, also drew world class competition like world number 3 in 2009, Murray Elliott.

Elliott is known throughout the country and the world and has been to the US and China, even building boats for the US Navy.  He usually spends a few months overseas, and returns to Cintsa where he has a boat-building business, Ocean Extreme, and surfs, said his brother-in-law Kevin Ackermann.

Elliott was hoping to make a “comeback”, but his modified engine seized and he was out of the race in the second round.

Engine problems are common especially in the modified class where engines are tweaked and things can be overlooked.

“Pro-stock and modified boats can be compared to superbikes and MotoGP bikes,” said referee Mike Hatting.

Pro-stock rubber ducks have regulation 570CC engines.  The pro-stock class means that the engine is out-of-the-box standard 50 horsepower, but the modified class can tweaked to obtain maximum horsepower and tends to break down more often.

Thrills and spills during the event included a boat hitting a rock in the beginning of the practice lap in the first heat. As the rubber duck is full of compressed air, if it lands on a rock it pops “like a bomb”.

“Capsized boats are common especially when the boats go out over the waves as the waves shoot you sky high and then the wind catches you,” said Elliott.

After a boat flips, normally the engine takes on water and the spark plugs need to be taken out.  Most of the pilots can strip an engine on the beach and put it together in time for the next heat.

If there is an accidental flip, the race stops to allow the safety boat to help the crew turn the boat over lengthwise in the surf and clear the course.  The red flag goes up and the race continues when the boat has been cleared.

The boats are scored at the end of each round of six laps. Flag holders raise flags at the end of each lap to show what position the boat is in.

Points from the surf event on Saturday were combined with points from the long-haul Barnacles Challenge on Sunday when the boats travelled along the river and out to sea along West Beach in a hot, easterly wind and choppy conditions.

The pro-stock results were

1st Ryno Verster and Nico Parr; 2nd  Kyle Kolby and Ross Templeman; 3rd Riegan Rous and Swan Botha; 4th Kyle Kriel and Darren Beying; 5th Josh Myburg and SC Colombo.

The modified results were surprising as in the end, Elliott and co-pilot Zane Schonknecht came fifth in the rubber duck modified class.

“Their combined points from the first day were sufficient to put them in fifth place,” Hatting said. “There were also lots of drop outs in the modified class. We only had six out of 18 modified boats and there were only three out of six left at the end of the day.”

In fourth place was boat N20, with pilot Elandré Human and co-pilot Tristan Wille from Grahamstown. Wille is a 17-year-old Kingswood pupil who said he practised in Kenton, Kasouga, Port Elizabeth, and Port Alfred, and this was his first boat race

In third place, was boat M46, Rowan Nortje and Yurie van Gendt.  Tying for first place were Mark Gleen and Willis Lenar in boat M17 and boat Chad Romans and Candice Hatting in M79.

Most of the contestants are from East London or Port Elizabeth but some are from Cape Town and there are locals like the 43 Air School duo Seok Jung and Dawid Appelgryn.

Rubber duck racing is very rough and it is necessary to hold on tight to the rudder and side ropes, and there are footholds for the pilot’s feet, West Coast pilot Josh Myburgh told TotT.  If the boat capsizes, it is therefore possible to get out from underneath the boat.

The co-pilot sits in front of the boat when it goes out to sea to prevent it from flipping over backwards when it planes over the waves, and is constantly moving about to balance the boat.

Development rubber duck riders from Nemato Change a Life reported frequently falling out of the boat when it ramped over the waves and that it was very scary when they started training in October last year.

Pumlani Kamanaare was co-pilot and George Bester who trained him was pilot on Saturday and Sunday.  Unfortunately, Lifa Nxobo trained by Kyle Kriel was a no-show. Kamanaare reported feeling bruised and battered, and there was a wound on his leg rubbed raw from the footholds.

Kamanaare received a standing ovation at the prize giving for the rubber duck races which was held at the Royal St Andrews Hotel on Sunday night.

He was rewarded for his efforts and broke into tears when Amanzi Festival main sponsor, Martin Bekker, informed him how much money had been deposited into his bank account.

The winning duo were Candice Hatting and Chad Romans. As a woman co-pilot, Candice is a rarity in the world of rubber duck racing, something she has been doing for the past 16 years. She has been a co-pilot with Romans for four years.

FASTEST ON WATER: At the prize giving for the Royal St Andrews Hotel Amanzi Festival rubber duck national race, from left, Rowan Nortje and Jurie van Gendt came third, and Candice Hatting and Chad Romans tied for first place with Mark Gleen and Willis Lenar Picture: LOUISE KNOWLES




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