Swellendam - Stu Maclaren set an unusual record by winning the 50th anniversary edition of the Breede River Canoe Marathon on Sunday, taking the title for three successive years with three different partners.
Taking on a desperately low Breede River, MacLaren teamed up with surfski ace Kenny Rice and used his knowledge of the river to outwit and outsmart the rest of the challengers to repeat the wins he achieved with Jasper Mocké last year and Graeme Solomon in 2015.
But the race was not without its stresses for MacLaren and Rice as the shortened 16km final stage saw them plagued by problems, many of them picked up on the first stage.
"It was a comedy of errors today," said MacLaren. "The pumps didn't work, and the patches we put on the boat overnight came off, which made it pretty frustrating."
The pair had built up enough of a buffer on the 33,5km first stage to keep off the charging Craig Flanagan and Dom Notten and wrap up MacLaren's unique hat-trick of wins.
"Kenny kept me from losing my sense of humour today when he advised me that I had managed to win it three years in a row, and on each occasion it was with a better looking partner!" said MacLaren.
Local junior rising stars Bartho Visser and Chris Prinsloo excelled in coming third, with another young crew, KZN scholars Hamish Mackenzie and Cara Waud in fourth, and the first mixed double home.
"The juniors did so well, maybe helped by the fact that they are lighter and at a distinct advantage in such a low river," said MacLaren. "But it was really encouraging to see them excel in such tough conditions."
MacLaren said that the decision to halve the distance on the final stage had been the right one.
"It was the only call, actually," he said. "I felt sorry for the boats that couldn't start the final stage because they had taken a hammering on the river on Day One."
Despite the frustrations of the final day, the outing was part of the base training for both MacLaren and Rice, with MacLaren prioritising his challenge at the upcoming Fish River Canoe Marathon that will double as the SA K2 River Champs, while Rice has his sets on the ICF Surfski World Champs in Hong Kong.
The women's title fell to local stalwart Kirsten Penderis, who teamed up with visiting Irish international Aisling Smith, cantering away with the women's honours ahead of schoolgirls Keegan Kieser and Cait Mackenzie.
Veterans Kim Peek and Marion Young, fresh from their medal winning exploits at the Masters up that preceded the ICF Canoe Marathon World Champs, raced to the last step on the overall women's podium.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
1.Stuart MacLaren/Kenny Rice 4:26:15
2.Craig Flanagan/Dom Notten 4:31:23
3.Bartho Visser/Chris Prinsloo (1st U18) 4:33:30
4.Hamish Mackenzie/Cara Waud (U18, 1st MD) 4:33:32
5.Jermaine Pietersen/Freddie Kirsten 4:40:16
6.Melanie van Niekerk/Scheepers Schoeman 4:42:59
7.Heinrich Schloms/John de Villiers 4:43:46
8.Simon van Gysen 4:48:08
9.Angelo Smith/Melvino Klaasen 4:53:22
10.Daan du Toit/Hennie du Plooy 4:54:08
1.Kirsten Penderis/Aisling Smith 5:04:11
2.Keegan Kieser/Caitlin Mackenzie 5:19:08
3.Kim Peek/Marion Young 5:34:02