Even with the predicted rain and wind setting in, it did not deter more than 100 canoeists from around the Eastern Cape taking part in the NFB Kowie Challenge last Saturday.
The race is an annual rivalry between the Border Canoe Club in East London and the Blue Water Canoe Club in Port Elizabeth, who field the most paddlers, but it also features a Country Districts category for entrants from Cradock, Port Alfred and elsewhere in the Eastern Cape.
Organiser Dave Puttergill from the Border Canoe Club was pleased with how the race turned out.
“It went off very well with over 100 paddlers entering despite the predicted cold, wet and windy conditions,” he said.
Usually a 21km race comprised of three laps of 7km each along part of the Kowie River and through the marina canals (the short course option being one lap), the race was shortened to three laps of 6km each.
Only three people opted for the one-lap short course.
“While the rain stayed away during the race, the wind still provided a challenge, particularly the ‘into the wind’ section.” Puttergill said.
“At the sharp end, it ended up as a three-boat tussle. After winning the Kowie Challenge last year with partner Matthew Tebbutt, Border Canoe Club’s Bevan Manson this year partnered with Matthew’s father, Richard. They produced a strong finish to beat off the challenge from Blue Water Canoe Club of Port Elizabeth’s crew of Howard Loftus and Andrew Stone.
“Third place with a very impressive race, was 15-year-old Stirling schoolboy, Jordy Malherbe, in a K1 single, who stayed with the front group all the way before being out-muscled in the last two kilometres.”
Malherbe recently came back from the ICF Junior and Under 23 Canoe Sprint World Championships in Bulgaria, where racing as an U18, he came third in the B final
Puttergill said the intercity trophy proved a tight finish between Border and Blue Water. Racing through all the age categories was tight and after collating all points for positions in the categories, Port Elizabeth was slightly ahead. However, a superior number of paddlers finishing the race saw East London finish with 138.5 points compared to Port Elizabeth’s 133 points, thus ensuring the intercity trophy travelled back to East London after Blue Water won it last year.
“Sponsors NFB were on hand during the whole event to lend their support and were instrumental in ensuring the smooth running of the event,” Puttergill said.
“Paddlers once again enjoyed the hospitality of Port Alfred and the Ski-boat Club, which always adds to the spectator and paddler enjoyment. Paddlers pass the start/finish line six times during the three-lap course, which gives the spectators more involvement than they would be used to in a canoe race which is usually raced point to point. It adds to the uniqueness of the Kowie.”