Gameplan Media
3 minute read
11 Oct 2021

KZN paddlers dominate Fish River Canoe Marathon

Gameplan Media

Reigning Dusi singles champions Andy Birkett and Christie MacKenzie took top honours with their partners in the Fish River Canoe Marathon at the weekend.

Reigning Dusi singles champions Andy Birkett and Christie MacKenzie took top honours with their partners in the Fish River Canoe Marathon at the weekend.

Birkett and Nicky Notten won the men’s race while Mackenzie and Bridgitte Hartley took the women’s competition in what doubled as the SA K2 championships in Cradock, Eastern Cape, on Saturday. Further Dusi stars from KwaZulu-Natal were part of a K3 winning team — Thulani Mbanjwa, Khumbulani Nzimande and Nkosi Mabaso for Team MyLife.

Gameplan Media reports that after overcoming the death of two competitors on a tragic first day of the two-day race on Friday, Pietermaritzburg-born Birkett and teammate Notten from the Western Cape played a last-minute master card to come from behind to win the race from Jasper Mocké and visiting Frenchman Cyrille Carré.



1. Andy Birkett/Nick Notten 4:43:42.23

2. Jasper Mocké/Cyrille Carré (FRA) 4:44:16.30

3. Hank McGregor/Hamish Lovemore 4:49:05.72

4. Clinton Cook/Wayne Jacobs 4:52:31.17

5. Joshua Fenn/Matthew Fenn (U23) 4:53:08.41


1. Christie Mackenzie/Bridgitte Hartley 5:17:43.45

2. Jenna Nisbet/Saskia Hockly 5:20:20.28

3. Jordan Peek/Pippa McGregor 5:38:00.07

4. Candice Murray/Holly Smith 5:55:36.36

5. Tracey Campbell/Kirstin Scott 6:10:10.93

Under-23 Men

1. Joshua Fenn/Matthew Fenn 4:53:08.41

2. Ross Leslie/Hamish Mackenzie 4:56:42.92

3. Sam Butcher/David Evans 4:56:57.51

Under-23 Women

1. Shannon Parker-Dennison/Tracey Oellerman 6:27:43.63

2. Jade Dundas-Starr/Tabitha Hulett 6:30:16.95

Under-18 Men

1. Jack Edmonds/Matthew Millward 4:55:29.26

2. Jordan Fenn/Luke Swinney 5:12:24.31

3. Joshua Simpkins/Matthew Coetzer 5:16:47:24

Under-18 Women

1. Jessica Behn/Rachel van Deventer 6:37:07.57 (U16)

2. Laila Maher/Amy Hulett 6:43:11.01

3. Lizanne Conradie/Sarah Jones 6:51:52.51

Organisers of the Fish River Canoe Marathon have confirmed the deaths of two participants on the first stage of the race on Friday. Pretoria paddler Axel Marggraf (53) died after falling out of his K3 canoe in Soutpansdrift rapid. An Amanzimtoti resident Dean Chiazzari (31) died from a suspected heart attack after withdrawing from the race. The entire paddling community has been shaken by the double tragedy and Fish River Canoe Marathon chairperson Roy Copeman sent his condolences to the families and friends of the two paddlers.

Mocké and Carré were the first to negotiate the big Cradock Weir 20 minutes from the end of the race, and were holding all the cards as Birkett and Notten turned to some detailed local knowledge gleaned from their many days of training on the river.

Earlier in the day an accident in the Coccyx Rapid ended the challenge of joint overnight leaders Hank McGregor and Hamish Lovemore, and almost took Birkett and Notten out with them. They paddled into a submerged rock in Coccyx Rapid and grazed Birkett’s left forearm in the process.

Thrilling duel

The women’s race provided a thriller of a duel between the crew of Durban-born Christie Mackenzie and Bridgitte Hartley from Pietermaritzburg and world marathon championship medallists Jenna Nisbet and 17-year-old Saskia Hockly.

After initially deciding to shadow the experienced Nisbet and her partner Hockly, the pairing of Hartley and Mackenzie shelved their conservative plans midway through the stage and decided to charge away alone.

They capsized in the big Coccyx Rapid, but recovered quickly to remain in control of the race.

Nisbet and Hockly wrapped up the women’s silver medal, with another KZN crew of Jordan Peek and Pippa McGregor making up the balance of the podium. Meanwhile, Michaelhouse speedsters Matt Millward and Jack Edmonds excelled in taking the junior K2 title and the Canoeing SA junior K2 gold medals with a remarkable sixth place finish overall.