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South Coast rookies savour successful Dusi debuts

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Craig Rhodes and Donovan Currie.

Quintin van Jaarsveld

Two new South Coasters added their names to the esteemed list of paddlers to have conquered the Dusi Canoe Marathon as the 65th edition of the iconic 120km, three-day event came to a close at Blue Lagoon in Durban on Saturday.

The South Coast Canoe Club contingent all enjoyed successful showings, however, the highlight of this year’s race was rookies Denzil Nicholas and Donovan Currie completed their maiden Dusis.

Nicholas teamed up with his uncle and Dusi veteran Rudi Bense, while Currie collaborated with Craig Rhodes.

Nicholas and Bense gelled well and finished an impressive 185th overall (in a 1300-strong field) and 69th in the senior division in a time of 12:12:28.

Finishing, though, was the only thing on novice Nicholas’ mind, and he savoured the accomplishment.

“It went rather swimmingly. Being my first one, my goal was just to finish and we did just that,” he told eHowzit.

“I was very fortunate to have paddled with my uncle; having done the Dusi 14 times, he has vast knowledge of the river.”

An early error threatened to spoil Nicholas’ debut but the pair were able to recover and never looked back.

“We fell out of our canoe just after Ernie Pearce weir [500m into the race] on the first day, which was admittedly my fault. Otherwise, we would have won,” he joked.

“Day Two was definitely the toughest and a long haul on the Shongweni dam for the last 10km.

“Day Three was difficult as I had sun stroke and wasn’t able to hold food down, but having friends and family push me, we got to the finish.”

Rudi Bense and Denzil Nicholas.
Rudi Bense and Denzil Nicholas.

Currie and Dusi stalwart Rhodes finished 416th overall and 36th in the sub veterans division in 14:34:27.

“It was an extremely exciting three days,” Currie told eHowzit. Thanks to my partner for guiding me down my first Dusi – he was extremely patient, although his driving was a bit suspect at times,” he joked.

The duo had a major scare on Day Two but were able to tough it out.

“The first day started off extremely well for us; we got through all the major rapids and weirs without any mishaps or damage to the canoe. The day got extremely tough for us when we got to Campbells Farm portage about 14km into the race.

“We were definitely under prepared for the running and on the first day there’s plenty of it, with two major portages, which we battled through. The rest of the day was pretty uneventful and we managed a respectable time.

“The second day also started off well as we made our way down the river through all the major rapids until Nqumeni Hill portage, which is also quite a tough one.

“We made it through all the difficult rapids after Nqumeni Hill but lost a bit of concentration, took a silly swim at a small rapid and nearly broke our boat, which cost us a lot of time and energy.

“The day finished with a final slog of 10km on Inanda dam which is mentally very tough after a long day on the river and in the heat. We were extremely excited to cross the finish line on Day Two, which was physically and mentally the most difficult day.

“Day Three was by far our best day; we made it through all the major rapids without any difficulties. We did take a small swim at a small rapid trying to avoid a collision with another boat, but we got back in with not too much fuss and were absolutely delighted to finish.

“I’ll definitely be back again for some more excitement and pain,” Currie concluded.

Craig Rhodes and Donovan Currie.
Craig Rhodes and Donovan Currie.

The best performance by a South Coast Canoe Club pairing came from Dylan Bense and Daniel Muller-Nedebock, who renewed their successful 2014 partnership, when they finished 111th.

Despite having just one training session together heading into the event, they achieved their goal of finishing in the top 100, placing 81st overall and 41st in the senior division in 10:36:58.

Simon Heaver and Patrick McNeill, meanwhile, improved 71 places on their 2015 result as they finished 196th overall and 10th in the masters division in 12:19:30.

South Coast Canoe Club chairman Willie Kunz and fellow local Dusi veteran Shadrack Mkhize missed this year’s race.

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