DUSI BRIDGE, KwaZulu-Natal - With perfect conditions, and a promise of good water throughout the race, the Dust Canoe Marathon set off from Camps Drift, in Pietermaritzburg.
At the sound of the shotgun the top contenders set off for their three-day journey to Durban. Through the first choke point, Andy Birkett and Hank McGregor began setting the pace as they shot Ernie Pearce Weir first.
Going under Commercial Road Bridge, the pair of Birkett and McGregor still led as the field began to settle. However, the Houston brothers, Andrew and Alan, got caught in the brushes and lost places.
Moving onto the first portage, at Pine Tree, The leaders remained ahead but were being chased by Carl Folscher and Hungarian Adrian Boros. Behind them was Sbonelo Khwela and Siseko Ntondini with the Houstons in Fourth recovering well from their earlier incident.
At Campbell's the lead was recorded at 27 seconds as the top four remained in place heading to Geoff’s Road. However, it was here that the running prowess of Khwela and Ntondi came into play.
At the bottom of Geoff’s road, Khwela and Ntondini had taken second and closed the gap on Birkett and McGregor to 23 seconds with the Houstons and Boros and Folscher getting in the water almost simultaneously.
Back on the river through, and things changed again as the powerhouse leading duo managed to stretch their lead to 1:11, but this time over the Houstons who were now in second with Khwela and Ntondini dropping just behind them while Boros and Folscher had fallen off the pace in fourth.
The next portage, Cabbage Tree, saw some more to-ing and fro-ing behind the leaders who had now pushed their lead to 1:30. However, it was the strong running team of Khwela and Ntondini that were chasing them, clearing upping their pace in making ground.
The Houstons were behind them, by 40 seconds as Folscher and Boros kept up their chase in fourth.
Unsurprisingly, McGregor and Birkett took Day One, in a time of 2:41:11, but much more surprising was the movement of Folscher and Boros who came in third, barely a second behind second place Khwela and Ntondini. The gap going into Day two set at 1:57 for the leaders.
Day Two kicks off from the end of Day One, at Dusi Bridge with the race poised. The leaders on Day One have a good lead, but know that they are not untouchable. The race between second to fifth is extremely close as those boats keep switching places with reckless abandon.